Medical School Letter of Recommendation Requirements
Every medical school has its own letter of recommendation requirements. It is essential that you are prepared to meet these requirements – otherwise a school will simply refuse to consider your application. Luckily most schools have similar requirements and becoming familiar with them can help you ensure that you are able to apply to all programs at which you have a good chance of acceptance.
If your school has a pre-health committee, medical and dental schools will prefer to receive a letter packet from this committee. This means your letter writers will send their letters to the committee office where they will be reviewed and compiled. Sometimes the committee also writes their own letter after an interview with you. At other schools this letter is used as a way to rank applicants against one another. Either way, this letter is very important so be sure to remain on the good side of members the committee. If for some reason your committee informs you they do not have time to write your letter (yes this has happened!) this does not mean you cannot apply to medical school. It means you will ask your letter writers to send in their letters to AMCAS or AADSAS on their own independently. Never let a bad committee or premed adviser stand in your way. That’s half the reason why we created Admit2Med – to help students whose advisers just don’t have the time for them.
Many schools, including large public universities, do not have pre-health committees. At these institutions students must make sure that their letter writers send in their letters to the designated letter collection agency – AMCAS, TMDSAS, AADSAS, or even to the individual school admissions offices – on their own. You cannot see the letters – they must go directly from the writer, otherwise they will be considered invalid.
Types of Letters:
It is important to have a range of letters as some schools want letters from different types of people. As a rule of thumb try to get 2 science professors, 1-2 non-science professors, and 1-2 letters from someone outside the classroom like a supervisor form research or volunteering. Anyone who has done research should get letters from their supervisor – while a postdoc may co-sign the letter, the head of the lab should also have signed the letter.
What if I don’t Meet Requirements?
This is a common question, especially from people who have been out of school for several years and are now being asked for 2 letters from science professors. The only way to know if a school will allow for substitutions is to call their admissions office. Often you will be pleasantly surprised, but sometimes they will not deviate. In those cases it is better to spend you application fees elsewhere – do not bother applying to a school whose requirements you do not meet. Calling early allows you to weed out these programs from your school selection list.