CASPA recommendation letter samples can be an excellent resource for applicants. Letters of recommendation are one of the most important PA school requirements. If you've been asked to write your own letter of recommendation, the samples can help inspire you. On the other hand, if you will be requesting letters of recommendation, then the samples give you an idea of what information you need to give your chosen writers and what to expect from your letter. In this blog, in addition to sharing some outstanding CASPA recommendation letter samples with you, we will give you some tips for securing the right referees and ensuring that your letter of recommendation is as compelling as possible.
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What exactly are CASPA letters of recommendation?
If you're hoping to become a Physician Assistant (PA), you will most likely need to use the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Your CASPA letters of recommendation are just as important as your PA personal statement and other application components that will be submitted on the platform because they provide program directors with a lot of valuable information about you. As suggested by the name, CASPA letters of recommendation are essentially letters recommending that your application to a PA program be accepted. These letters should speak to your abilities, attitude, and accomplishments in an academic setting or the workplace. CASPA requires at least three letters, but it allows applicants to submit up to five different references. The letters are collected directly and digitally through the CASPA letter of recommendation program.
In addition to the letter that will be uploaded on CASPA, your recommenders will be asked to answer a few short questions about their relationship with you and to evaluate you on the traits listed below. They will need to specify if they think you are excellent, good, average, below average or if they didn’t observe that skill or trait. The words used in the evaluation ratings are subject to change, but currently, these are the traits that your chosen writers will need to evaluate you on:
- Conflict Resolution
- Intellectual Ability
- Interpersonal Relations
- Oral Communication
- Reaction to criticism
- Self awareness
- Team skills
- Written communication
Who should write your CASPA letters of recommendation?
Your CASPA letter of recommendation should be written by someone who knows you well enough to speak about your skills and abilities and what you can contribute to a PA program. They should have worked or taught you long enough to write a detailed letter with concrete examples. There are three primary types of recommendation letters that you can get:
Academic references typically come from a teacher or advisor. This type of recommendation letter is ideal for current students or recent graduates. It usually discusses your intellectual ability and the contributions you can make in a learning environment.
These are the reference letters usually written by supervisors, colleagues, or clients. Essentially, they should be written by a professional who is well-acquainted with a candidate's skills and accomplishments in a work setting. These letters typically include a description of the position held by the candidate, their key responsibilities, their abilities, qualifications, and contributions to the organization during their time there. Professional references are excellent for both traditional and non-traditional applicants because they are a great way for program directors to find out how other professionals view the candidate.
Personal recommendation letters, also known as personal or character references, are letters written by a friend, mentor, neighbor, family member, or anyone who knows the candidate well enough and who can attest to the traits that would make them a good addition to the PA program that they are applying to. These letters should explain how the referee knows the applicant and discuss the qualities and attributes that would make them a good physician's assistant.
We do not recommend including personal references in your application. Unless a specific PA school explicitly requests one, you should steer clear of recommendation letters from relatives, family friends, or public officials. We recommend getting at least one academic reference and two professional references. Ideally, you should have one reference from a former professor or instructor, one from a physician's assistant or someone else who has seen you work with patients, and another letter from a different medical professional. This is the best way to ensure that each of your letters speaks to varying aspects of your background and abilities. Your academic reference will focus on your academic strengths and learning ability, a supervisor or employer can discuss your work ethic and professionalism, and a PA will be able to speak to your performance in a clinical environment.
In other words, you should try to find referees who fit the following description:
- They know you well enough to evaluate you and your skills
- They have supervised or mentored you in some capacity
- They have seen you interact with patients
- They work as a PA or in some other medical field
- They support you as an applicant
Want a visual summary of the key points covered in this blog? Check this out:
The format & content
Some schools may have specific instructions for the recommendation letters, so it is important to verify the school guidelines and follow any provided instructions. It is your responsibility to advise your chosen writers of any formatting guidelines or instructions. Additionally, you should ensure that the letter is grammatically correct, easy to read and follow, and communicates the necessary information clearly and concisely.
Unless otherwise stated, you can follow these formatting guidelines:
To make this process easier on your chosen writers and to ensure that they include all the necessary information for a strong letter of recommendation, we recommend providing them with supporting materials and guidelines for the letter. Remind them that your letter should mention your eligibility for PA school, how they know you and for how long, their willingness to recommend you for PA school, and reasons for finding that you are a suitable candidate.
CASPA letter of recommendation samples
Bonus tips for your CASPA letter of recommendation
Secure your letters early
You should secure your letters of recommendation as early as possible. We recommend asking for one at least four to six weeks before you plan on submitting your application. Depending on the reference type, you may even be able to ask for it earlier and then simply remind your chosen writer when you are about six weeks away from your application date. This is enough time for them to confirm their willingness to endorse your application, get any additional information from you, and write and edit the letter.
Additionally, applying to a physician's assistant program involves many moving parts. Between having to write your personal statement, secure other application components, prepare for the PA school interview, and daily life, you will be busy enough. It is, therefore, best to request your letters of recommendation well in advance so that you have time to focus on preparing your other application requirements.
Give your recommenders additional information
CASPA letters of recommendation are written and finalized by your recommenders. Still, it is your responsibility to ensure they have everything they need to write a compelling letter. It would be best if you also tried to set the tone for what you want to be communicated in the letter and give them supporting documents to help them understand your profile better and write a stronger letter. For example, you can provide them with a copy of your updated resume, school transcripts, or even a copy of your personal statement.
Working on your personal statement too? Check out the examples and tips in this video:
Prepare your chosen writers for the process
It’s important that your writers have all the information they need to write and submit your letter of recommendation on time. When you add their name and email address to your CASPA profile, they will receive an email with some instructions, but we recommend that you walk them through the process as well. So, in addition to your resume, transcript, and personal statement, we suggest sending a document that includes all the details that they need to submit the document. Include the submission deadline, the format that the letter needs to be in, the size of the file, etc.
Follow up with your recommenders
We highly recommend following up with your recommenders a few weeks before the reference submission deadline. You can send them a short and polite email to remind them of the deadline and ask if they require any additional information. This is an excellent way to check in and find out if your references have already been submitted and make sure they will be submitted on time.
We also recommend that you thank your chosen writers when they confirm that the letter has been submitted. It does not need to be long or elaborate. It can be a simple email or a handwritten card for a more personal touch. The aim is to let the referees know that you appreciate their support and the time they took to endorse your candidacy.
1. What is CASPA?
CASPA stands for Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants, it is a system that allows applicants to send applications to multiple PA programs simultaneously.
2. How many recommendation letters do I need for CASPA?
CASPA requires at least three letters but allows students to submit up to five of them.
3. Who should write my CASPA letter of recommendation?
Your letters of recommendation should be written by a professional who knows you well enough to discuss your skills and abilities by giving specific examples. Ideally, you should have at least one letter from a PA or someone who has seen you interact with patients.
4. How important are CASPA recommendation letters?
Recommendation letters are very important. They tell the admissions board what other professionals think about you, and the opinion of a credible professional can go a very long way in swaying the admissions board.
5. How do you submit the letter of recommendation to CASPA?
Your letters of recommendation need to be submitted electronically by your chosen writers. You will be asked to put their name and email address on CASPA, and they will receive an email with a link asking them to register on the site, where they will be able to provide their recommendation.
6. Does my letter of recommendation for PA school need to be academic?
Not necessarily. We recommend having one academic reference, and at least two professional ones. Ideally, your professional letters should be written by a PA or a different medical professional.
7. How long should CASPA letters of recommendation be?
Your letter of recommendation should be about one page long and have four to six paragraphs. This is the ideal length to provide substantial information without losing your audience.
8. How hard is it to get into PA school?
Competition to enroll in PA programs can be quite competitive, so you need a compelling application if you want to get an offer of admission.
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