It is best to ask for a letter of recommendation about two to three months prior to the deadline for your AMCAS application.
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Asking for a letter of recommendation too far in advance might make it difficult for the recommender to remember. Asking too late may not give enough time for the recommender to write a quality letter. Additionally, if a recommender is unable to provide a letter, two to three months out still gives you enough time to ask someone else to provide one. Give a firm deadline to receive the letter, perhaps two weeks after your request. Feel free to politely check-in with your recommender if you are noticing a delay in receiving the letter.
The process to ask for a letter of recommendation will depend on the type of letter.
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For a committee letter, you will likely need to follow a specified process, which may include interviews and meeting course requirements, before you are eligible for the evaluation letter. For individual letters of recommendation, you might ask in person, send an email, call, or even mail a cover letter and packet of information. If it has been a while since you last saw your recommender or were in his class, start with personal greetings and then briefly tell them what you have been up to and the reason for the request.
Specifically note the deadline and if the letter is designated for a specific medical school you are applying to. If they express a willingness, ask if they need any source materials—such as a resume or curriculum vitae—and give them guidance as to the proposed length and format of the letter.
However, on the AMCAS application, you submit a letter entry for each letter you requested and include the contact information for the recommender. During submission, consider waiving your right to see the letter. This will give the medical school application committee confidence that the letter is written honestly. Letters are either mailed in to the AAMC or submitted electronically.
If your recommender plans on mailing the letter, they will need to include a Letter Request Form, which you can download and send to them ahead of time. You can check in periodically to ensure your letters are matched. Once a letter is submitted and matched, the AAMC will send it over to the assigned receiving school. Remember that a good letter of recommendation starts before you ask.
Any professor could be a potential letter writer. Think critically about who you ask. Graduate and professional school admissions people tell us the following make the best letter writers:.
Understand the process of medical school letters of recommendation
Then, set up an appointment to discuss your request in person. Do not make the request via email. Be prepared to articulate your interest and reasons for attending graduate school. Letters of recommendation are written strictly on a voluntary basis. The best approach is to ask potential letter writers if they are willing to write you a strong letter.
If you sense reluctance or the answer is no, ask someone else.
What Does an Excellent Medical School Letter of Recommendation Include?
Professors and supervisors are generally pleased to write on your behalf; however, they are usually involved in many activities. Faculty are especially busy during the months of November and December. Your professors could be on sabbatical, or you may not be fresh in their minds anymore. When you are ready to apply to graduate school, contact professors again, and ask them to update your letters.
A few ways you can do this are to speak up in class, select courses with small class sizes, take more than one class from a professor, do research for a professor, take on optional projects, and regularly attend office hours. The best strategy you can use to get a good letter of recommendation, particularly if a professor hasn't known you long, is to provide your letter writer with ample information about you.
This way, you will get a letter that includes concrete details about you, instead of a letter that contains only your grade, which is of limited value. You can help your letter writers write enlightening letters by giving each of them a portfolio comprised of:.
Yes, you can, but as a general rule, it is better to have letters written by professors rather than GSIs. On the other hand, a letter that is too brief — only one page in length — will hurt your application, as it will be too short to go into much detail. The best letters of recommendation all have the following components:. They explain how well the letter-writer knows the applicant. The first section of the letter explains how the writer knows the applicant — in what capacity, as a professor, mentor, supervisor, etc.
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By establishing the background of the relationship, the writer is in the best position to describe you to the selection committee. The best letters are from people who have known you for a year or longer and who have worked closely with you on successful projects. They go into depth about your accomplishments.
The majority of the letter should focus on covering what the writer has observed about the quality of your work and the characteristics that you have demonstrated. The longer this section of the letter is, the better. It is here that the recommender can help you shine as an applicant. They provide details about the outcomes of your work and the impact you have on others. Selection committees love facts, numbers, and data.
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