The Letter of recommendation for medical school is a key part of the medical school application that many applicants fail to appreciate. Between studying for your MCAT, participating in diverse extracurricular activities and preparing a stellar essay it is easy for letters of recommendation to fall through the cracks. However letters of recommendation have the ability to address weak points in your application, convince an admissions committee that you are mature enough for medical school and provide valuable insight into your personality, making you stand out.

When to Start Thinking About Letters of Recommendation

The best letters come from people who have had sustained interactions with you. Therefore it is never to early to start thinking about building relationships with professors and work supervisors. Not only will this lead to better letters, it will lead to better mentorship and classroom experiences. Don’t be a fly on the wall! If you enjoyed a certain class, consider taking another course offered by the same professor next year.

When to Ask For Letters

You want to give your letter writers ample time to write a thorough letter. You also want to have time to deal with little snafus that can arise including lost letters, family emergencies and the various schedules of letter writers. Asking a professor to give in a letter two weeks before the deadline during finals week when the professor has a major grant due is not only unprofessional it is likely to result in a bad letter – or no letter at all! Start to gather your letters of recommendation for medical school in February of your junior year, allowing extra time for them to be filed away before you want to submit your AMCAS. At the latest, give writers one month before the deadline.

Common Mistakes

The most common mistake students make when requesting letters of recommendation for medical school is thinking that big name writers count for more than quality letters. A letter from a famous researcher stating “so and so took my class. He got an A-. ” does not mean much. A letter form someone who knows you and can talk about your character traits is much more valuable. To assist letter writers it can be helpful to arrange a meeting where you talk to them about your career goals and drop off a copy of your CV or resume.

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