In addition to the personal statement, medical school recommendation letters can really help to highlight an otherwise unexceptional pre-medical student. First, a letter of recommendation will usually give the medical school admissions committees an indication of your impression on others. Second, letters from physicians can allow medical schools to determine how well you will do if offered admissions.
Why to Ask for a Recommendation Letter
It is pretty simple as to why you should ask a physician for a medical school recommendation letter. First, almost every medical school in the U.S. requires that applicants to medical school have at least one recommendation letter, preferably from a physician.
Who to Ask for a Recommendation
We recommend requesting at least three or four recommendation letters. Of the people you asked to write you a letter of recommendation for medical school, at least one of them should be a physician. Hence, the reason why shadowing a physician may provide you with the ability of getting a letter of recommendation from a physician. The physician could be a doctor that was your mentor or a doctor with whom you have spent some time with in a clinical environment. If would be best if you are able to find a physician who is an alumnus of one of the medical schools to which you are applying.
You should also have a letter of recommendation written by your institution’s pre-medical committee. If your school does not have a pre-medical committee, you should be able to receive a letter of recommendation from a science professor who knows you well.
You should also have someone write you a personal letter of recommendation. Examples of this include the minister at the church you attended, a mentor/advisor, an elder who knows you well, etc. This purpose for this is that physicians are expected to be professionals upholding exemplary conduct. Having someone such as this may be able to provide the medical school admissions committees with insight into your character and integrity that cannot be found elsewhere on your application.
How to Ask for a Recommendation
We recommend that you have a few items available for those from who you wish to request a letter of recommendation.
- A resume/CV. View a sample resume for students HERE.
- A letter requesting a recommendation in addition to the reasons you want to attend medical school.
- The mailing address of where the letters should be sent.
- The deadline by which you need the letter of recommendation submitted.
- Any additional data that you wish to be included in you letter of recommendation.
Submit these documents to the person you want to request write you a letter of recommendation. If they reply to you saying that they are able to write one for you, be sure to follow up with a thank you note.
When to Ask for a Recommendation
Give the person writing the letter ample time to submit a letter of recommendation. We recommend that your request for a recommendation be given to a person at least 1-2 months in advance. This will give them an opportunity to reflect and really put forth as much effort as possible when preparing your letter. Furthermore, some professors and physicians may not agree to writing a letter because of short notice.
What to Ask for in a Recommendation
Most importantly, do not simply ask for a letter of recommendation. Be sure to include words like “strong” or “positive” in your request. Keep in mind that a negative or mediocre letter will not offer your medical school application much benefit. In fact, letters of recommendation that lack fervor or sincerity may be an indicator of a substandard pre-med student.