Medical school recommendation letters are an important part of the application process for both DO and MD programs. They are meant to present an external, objective evaluation of your suitability for a career in medicine to admissions committees. This article will teach you how to get stellar recommendation letters from referees, provide you with medical school recommendation letter samples from different types of referees, and answer some questions you may have about this intricate process. Plus, we provide you with email templates you can use to send requests for reference letters, as well as templates for deadline reminders and thank you letters!


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Sample Medical School Recommendation Letter from a Science Professor

Letterhead

Name of writer and contact information if not included in letterhead

Date

Dear Admission Committee Members,

It is a pleasure for me to write this recommendation letter for Scott Johnson, who was my student in the fourth-year seminar "Advanced Embryology and Developmental Biology" in the fall of 2018. Scott is an exceptional person. He is one of the best students I have ever had the chance to teach in my 10 years at X University.

Scott has impressive critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which served him well during my class. I have spoken with his other instructors, and they have also noted his extraordinary analytical abilities. His capacity to observe and develop insightful and reflective conclusions has been noted by me on many occasions, especially during his laboratory work. I noticed that Scott spent a lot of his time diligently working on his laboratory experiments, even outside of the scheduled lab time.

Scott demonstrated outstanding levels of understanding techniques and developments of embryological systems. His insightful questions demonstrated his curiosity into unknowns and his motivation to increase his knowledge base. He is an excellent collaborator who is always ready to help his peers. I have witnessed Scott help his classmates with complex lab experiments inside the classroom, as well as outside of classroom hours as a tutor. He is joyful and kind during his interactions with students, professors, and other faculty. Aside from submitting his assignments on time to the highest quality, completing all lab and tutorial work, he volunteered to organize a student study group before the final lab and exam in my course. He was very generous with his time and energy to make sure that he and his classmates were well prepared. I remember Scott taking extra time to explain material to an international student who was struggling to understand a difficult concept. He listened to the student’s concerns, broke down the concept one step at a time until he was sure the student understood the material. His empathy truly touched me.

Scott also impressed me with his maturity and professionalism. During his time in my class, he formed courteous relationships with everyone: assistants, peers, and myself. He is great in conflict resolution scenarios, as I have had the chance to see that he solves problems quickly and efficiently. During a confrontation with a peer who was experiencing anxiety about his grades, Scott was able to diffuse the tension and offered his help. His peer ended up excelling in the next assignment due to Scott's mentoring.

I wholeheartedly recommend Scott Johnson as a perfect candidate for your medical school program. Over the years of my teaching career, I can think of few students who deserve such high praise and recommendation. Scott is a skilled scientist, a highly intellectual and compassionate individual, who would make a great doctor in the future. His dedication to excellence is inspiring. Please contact me if there is anything else I can add to impress upon the high caliber of character that is Scott Johnson.

Sincerely,

Dr. Name of Writer

What makes this letter strong?

  1. It qualifies the relationship with the applicant right away: a strong letter will mention how the writer knows the applicant in the first paragraph. This is important information that will contextualize the supporting details in the letter.
  2. It gets right to the point: this letter is a great demonstration of the concept of efficient writing. There’s no exposition or unnecessary detail. The topic sentence of the second paragraph introduces the applicant’s important characteristics, such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which help transition into the subsequent paragraphs.
  3. Evidence is provided: all letters of recommendation need evidence of skills. The writer of this letter, who is a science professor, expounds on the list of skills mentioned by connecting them with course concepts that the student excelled at, for example, Scott’s understanding of embryological systems. 

The Importance of a Strong Medical School Recommendation Letter

Your medical school recommendation letters must be exceptional. Because admissions committees must look through hundreds of applicants with high GPAs, high MCAT scores, and impressive medical school personal statements, your recommendation letters will influence the impression you’ve created of yourself and your eligibility as a future physician. In short, these letters need to emphasize your exceptionality to make a lasting impression and make your medical school application stand out.

Do not ask for a letter from anyone who would not describe you as an excellent, outstanding candidate for medical school. Your referees must be able to talk about your best skills, your greatest accomplishments, and your virtuous character. You do not want mediocre or unenthusiastic letters of recommendation. The writer should have no hesitation about providing you with a letter when you approach them. If your chosen referee is unsure, it would be better to ask someone else, as these letters are meant to enhance your application and impress admissions committees.

How Many Recommendation Letters Do You Need?

Most medical schools ask for at least three letters of recommendation. Some schools may ask for four or five, so be sure to check this information with the school to which you’re applying. Keep in mind that some medical schools are quite strict with their numbers, so if they ask for exactly 4 letters and let you know that they will not review any more than 4, do not send fewer or more recommendations.

Can you reuse your medical school recommendation letters?

The short answer is yes, you can reuse them, as long as you verify with your referees that this is okay and ask them to change the date on the letterhead before you resubmit an application. If you do decide to resubmit a medical school application, consider updating your letters of recommendation and submitting new ones anyway, since you may have stronger referees now or some letters of recommendation might be outdated.

For applicants applying to a DO program, the College of Osteopathic Medicine requires a minimum of 3 letters of recommendation. The first needs to come from a physician, preferably a DO and not an MD, though both are acceptable. The other two letters must be written by either a pre-professional committee member or physical science faculty member from your university.



Types of Medical School Recommendation Letters

There are three different types of medical school letter of recommendation (LOR): Committee Letter, Letter Packet, and Individual Letter. In the US, Committee Letters are common. A Committee Letter is written by your university’s premed advising committee, which represents your school’s evaluation of you as a candidate. This type of letter is not offered at every school. The Letter Packet is also an option at some schools. The letters from your referees are assembled and sent out by your school’s career center, but there is no letter from your premed advisor or committee. Individual Letters are exactly as they sound and are also quite common.

Do Some Medical Schools Require Different Recommendation Letters?

Medical schools may require a variety of recommendation letters based on your current situation or work history. If you’re a student, some schools may require a certain number of letters from science faculty, and some may ask for letters from employers or supervisors if you are in the workforce. The requirements may be completely different if you served in the military. As previously mentioned, be sure to check with your program as to what kind of recommendation letters you are expected to provide.

How Many Recommendation Letters Is Too Many?

It’s wise to ask for more letters than is required for your application. Essentially, it is good to have back-ups. In case one of your confirmed referees can no longer provide a letter, you will have enough letters to meet the minimum requirements. For example, you can upload up to 10 AMCAS letters of recommendation and up to 6 to the AACOMAS system if you’re working on a DO school application for osteopathic medicine. If you are applying via TMDSAS for medical schools in Texas, you can upload up to 4 recommendation letters. Keep in mind that all schools you apply to via AACOMAS and TMDSAS will receive all the same medical school letters of recommendation you upload, while in the AMCAS system, you can pick and choose which medical schools receive which recommendation letters.

Most common types of medical school recommendation letters:

How to Choose Your Recommendation Writers

Recent Grads

Finding referees to ask for medical school recommendation letters can be a challenge. Some have too many options and aren’t sure who would be the best letter writer. Others don’t think they have any options for recommendation letter writers. Premed students need not worry because there are many different avenues to explore to find strong medical school recommendation letter writers. Chances are your university professors have already written a letter of recommendation before and would be happy to do so again. Note that most recent grads will need letters from science and non-science faculty, in addition to any research supervisors who worked with them.

Non-Traditional Applicants

Non-traditional applicants, such as mature medical school applicants, applicants who have taken a gap year or aren’t in touch with any of their university professors, and international students might have more questions about choosing medical school referees. Non-traditional medical school applicants or medical school applicants who have been out of school for a longer period may not be able to track down a science professor to fulfill the medical school application requirement.

Some medical schools make exceptions for non-traditional applicants, but there are other tricks to get the needed medical school referees. For example, you can ask your work supervisors or mentors to write you a letter of recommendation. Alternatively, you can ask for a committee letter from your undergraduate university and get an overall review of your school performance. Lastly, you can take further post-secondary courses and use the opportunity to network for a fresh letter of recommendation. If you haven’t already, you can complete the prerequisites for medical school and do the same thing.

International Applicants

International students may also wonder who is best to ask for a recommendation letter for a US medical school application. Typically, you will be able to find professors or faculty members to write one to fulfill application requirements, but you can also ask an international student advisor you've worked with, guidance counselors at your undergraduate university, employers, research supervisors, or physicians you have shadowed. It's a good idea to check with the school you're applying to if there are any special requirements for international students.

Here's an overview of the different types of medical school referees.

Science and Non-Science Faculty

Some schools may request two medical school letters of recommendation from your science university professors or mentors and one from a non-science professor. Who qualifies as a science and non-science faculty member? Science professors may include faculty members in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics departments. Non-science references can come from the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

How Should My Science Professors Write About Me?

Your science references should emphasize your skills and abilities that highlight you as an excellent science student and future practitioner. Medical schools want to see examples of your ability to problem-solve, learn independently, and show initiative in group projects and labs. If your referees know you very well, they should outline your participation in and outside of the classroom. Perhaps you attended their office hours, volunteered to lead seminars, or participated in conferences and presentations. They may also comment on your activities and interests related to science, like student science clubs or study groups.

How Should my Non-Science Professors Write About Me?

Your non-science professor can address your critical thinking and comprehension skills. For example, if you are asking for a letter from a professor who has read your writing extensively, they can comment on your clarity of thought and expression. If you have done presentations in their class, they could highlight your verbal communication skills. Strong written and verbal communication skills will advocate your ability to interact with patients. Additionally, non-science coursework can show diversity of experiences and resilience, as you learn more about the people and groups around you, perhaps learn to appreciate barriers that patients can face in health care, and learn to succeed in a subject that may be different from the science ones you have taken.

Should I have Recommendation Letters from Different Disciplines?

Absolutely, yes. Try to get medical school recommendation letters from faculty members of different disciplines to provide a wider impression of your skills and abilities. For example, instead of asking two biology professors, it’s a good idea to ask one biology professor and one physics professor.

Tip #1: Choose Strategically Based on Academic Performance

Choose a professor who can speak to your performance. If you got a C in a class, that professor is probably not the best referee to choose. With that said, you don't necessarily have to pick a professor where you scored an A+. If for example, you got a B+ in chemistry, but you demonstrated significant improvement in the class by regularly getting extra help from your professor or getting a tutor, this can be a great way for admissions committees to see your motivation for self-improvement while also addressing the fact that you achieved a lower grade than you would have liked. Medical school GPA requirements are competitive, but addressing the gap in your application can be the key to how to get into medical school with a low GPA.

Tip #2: Have a Good Relationship with Your Referees

Many undergraduate classes have hundreds of students, and it is difficult to get to know your instructor on a personal level. However, you must have a good relationship with the faculty member who will write your recommendation. Attend their office hours, ask them questions after class, or volunteer to help with their research. Clinical research as a premed or virtual research as a premed can provide not only excellent referees, but also strengthen your application to medical school. By forging good relationships with your professors, you allow for personal interactions and experiences with you that they can draw on when they describe you as a worthy applicant. Keep in mind that if you have a fantastic relationship with a teaching assistant (TA) but you hardly know your professor, it’s best to ask for a recommendation letter from your TA, who will be better suited to discuss your particular strengths and speak to your suitability for a career in medicine.

Other Potential Referee Types

Check out who else can be a perfect reference letter writer for your medical school application:

Check out our video for some more tips on how to secure strong recommendation letters:

How to Ask for Medical School Recommendation Letters

The two most common ways to ask for a recommendation letter are in person and via email. Approaching a referee directly eliminates waiting for a response. To do this, you can visit professors during their office hours or catch your employer during a break. Most likely the person will give you an answer right then and there. If the answer is yes, you should arrange for a second meeting, where you will provide all the necessary information for your recommender: your medical school application timeline and important deadlines, information on how to submit their letter of recommendation, your transcripts, CV, a list of awards or medical school scholarships you’ve won or have applied for, and so on. If you are asking through email, wait for them to respond with a yes before sending them all your supporting documents and submission details.

If it’s been a while since you have taken your professor’s class, it’s a good idea to approach your professor personally. Seeing your face and speaking with you directly will jog their memory of who you are and what your performance was like in their class. Email, on the other hand, could leave them questioning your identity if it's been a while since you interacted. For this reason, try to approach them at the end of the semester or when you are receiving feedback; this is when they will remember you, and they may even begin drafting the letter soon after you ask. Don’t wait until you start your medical school application, which could be months later.

Whenever you’re asking someone to be your referee for medical school, always approach with professionalism and enthusiasm. If they agree to write a letter of recommendation for you, you may choose to share your motivation for applying to medical school, your goals, and any helpful information on writing a letter of recommendation for referees who are new to the task. While medical school recommendation letters are written by someone else, the process requires you to be involved, at least in the beginning.

If you are struggling to compose a compelling and friendly email, here are some email templates you can choose from to address your instructor:

Would you like help with your medical school application? Watch this to learn about one of our success stories:

When to Ask for Recommendation Letters

Be sure to ask your referees to write a recommendation letter well in advance. Aim to ask them at least one month before the application deadline. It is sometimes beneficial to ask for a letter much earlier. For example, if you participate in a research project during summer between sophomore and junior year, and you plan to finish working on it when summer ends, you should approach your research supervisor about a recommendation letter that summer. This will ensure that your accomplishments and strengths are fresh in your supervisor’s mind. The same can be said for letters from your professors. If you do particularly well in a second or third year class during your undergrad and get to know the instructor, don’t hesitate to ask for a letter when the class ends.

To store these early letters, you can ask your writer to send the letters to your school's career center, your career counselor or advisor, or any similar office. Once the application process begins, simply remind your recommender about the letter, where it is stored, and its deadline. Most universities will be happy to store your recommendation letters for you. Alternatively, you can use an online letter storage service or online dossier service to store your letters.

For the above application services, you should request your letters of recommendation no later than 2-3 months before you plan on submitting your application. If you want to submit by May 31, then you should request your letters starting in March. Contact your referees to remind them of the deadline no later than 2 weeks in advance of the date you plan to submit your application.

For OMSAS, it’s best to adhere to the recommendation to send your reference requests by September 15 to ensure your referees have enough time to complete the request before the deadline. Send your reminders a week after this date if you don’t receive confirmation. On the confidential Assessment Form (CAF), your references will be asked the following questions:

  1. Would this applicant make a good physician?
  2. Rate the applicant on each of the following attributes: communication skills; problem-solving skills; professionalism; empathy
  3. Identify and comment on 1 area of improvement for the applicant.
  4. Share any other information you feel may be relevant to a medical school’s admission committee.

Be sure to communicate what’s expected of a reference when you send your requests.

Recommendation Letter Don’ts

As demonstrated, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you’re selecting referees. It’s important to acknowledge that simply having a letter of recommendation isn’t enough. The letter should be an appraisal of your medically relevant abilities, written by people who are committed to writing you a strong letter.

By the same token, there are certain things to avoid when seeking medical school recommendation letters, as follows:

#1 Don’t be afraid to ask for a strong recommendation letter

Take time to explain why a letter from this writer would be valuable and important for your application to medical school. It can be intimidating to ask for recommendation letters, but don’t be shy: professionals, university faculty, and employers know what such letters entail and often consider them part of their job. Most will have written these kinds of letters before. If you don't ask, you won't get! Be confident, but not forceful.

#2 Don’t annoy your writers by constantly asking them how the writing process is going

Once your referees commit to writing you a letter, be sure to provide them with deadlines for submission. It’s perfectly acceptable to send them an email as the deadline approaches to remind them about submission. If they do not respond, you can follow up with a phone call. If you do not hear back from them at all, you should assume this person is no longer your recommender. If you are looking for an email template to remind your recommendation letter writers of an approaching deadline, please use the following:

#3 Don’t forget your plan B

It’s vitally important to have back-ups. It is always better to ask for recommendation letters from more people than is required. In case one of your referees backs out or is no longer available as a reference, you will still have enough references to fulfill medical school requirements. Most medical schools will accept external sections of your application, like recommendation letters late, provided your application package was submitted before the deadline.

#4 Don’t write counterfeit letters

This goes without saying, but no amount of plagiarism is acceptable on your recommendation letters, or for any of your other materials for that matter. You will not get away with fraudulent letters. The admissions committee will detect them easily and automatically disqualify you from admission.

#5 Do not ask to read your recommendation letter

You should trust the person you chose to write you a glowing reference and waive your right to review the letter. The general rule of thumb is that letters of recommendation should be confidential. This allows your referee to provide a truthful review about your performance and provides medical schools with confidence in the review. Of course, this doesn't apply if you are writing your own letter of recommendation.

Note: Most Canadian schools do not give students the option to waive or not waive the right to review your letter and require confidentiality, as they want referees to be honest.

#6 Don't forget a thank you letter

Do not forget to send a genuine thank you letter to demonstrate your appreciation for the writer's support, just as you would send a thank you for a medical school interview. It’s a common professional courtesy and it shows you appreciate your recommendation letter writers. Send it right after the letter is received in the application system. If you are looking for an email template for a thank you letter, please see below:



Medical School Recommendation Letter Samples

Medical School Recommendation Letter from a Research Supervisor

Letterhead

Name of writer and contact information if not included in letterhead

Date

Dear Admission Committee Members,

It is a pleasure for me to write this recommendation letter for Cecelia Guantes, who was my research assistant in the Minority Health Disparities Undergraduate Summer Research Program in the summer of 2018. In my 5 years of leading the summer research program, Cecelia has proven to be one of the best research assistants I have had the pleasure of working with.

Cecelia excelled throughout the summer research program, demonstrating impressive problem-solving and analytical skills. She has gone above and beyond in her duties as a research assistant, volunteering to cover additional hours or help with laboratory work. I have noticed her attention to detail, as she frequently asks questions to clarify, double check her facts and figures and asks for feedback on her work. Her work ethic has not gone unnoticed by other supervisors in the program, either, as I have verified with my colleagues.

Throughout her time with the summer research program, Cecilia demonstrated not only a high quality and standard of work, but a high level of compassion and understanding. When a fellow research assistant made a mistake, she took it upon herself to help the other student to correct the mistake, apologize to the affected colleague and reassure the other student. Afterwards, Cecilia worked with the other student to ensure the mistake did not happen again and rebuild her confidence. There was a noticeable difference in the other student after Cecilia’s assistance and coaching, in both her confidence and quality of work. Cecilia handled the situation with compassion and skilled interpersonal abilities, assisting another student without taking over or being overbearing. Her careful and kind treatment of her fellow research assistant made an impression on me.

Cecilia was a pleasure to have in the program and particularly during field work. She acted with the utmost professionalism and courteousness both with her fellows, her superiors and outside consultants when conducting field work. She treated everyone involved in the study with great respect and even formed friendly relationships with some of our colleagues, who mentioned to me their great impressions of Cecilia’s passion and enthusiasm. No matter the situation, she demonstrated excitement and passion for the project.

I wholeheartedly recommend Cecilia Guantes as the best candidate for your medical school program. I can think of no other research assistant who has made such a fantastic impression on me and my colleagues. Cecilia will surely make a superior physician thanks to her strong work ethic, compassionate nature and sharp mind. Please contact me if there is anything else I can add to Cecilia’s candidacy.

Sincerely,

Dr. Name of Writer

What makes this letter strong?

  1. The skills are specific to the candidate’s role as a research assistant: the traits that your referees mention shouldn’t be arbitrary. They need to be specific to you and your role. For this example, the referee mentioned attributes like analytical skills, which directly relate to the candidate’s performance as a research assistant.
  2. It proves the candidate goes above and beyond: the referee remarks on how Cecilia not only performed her duties with professionalism, attention to detail, etc., but how she took the initiative to support her colleagues. An apt example is given, which helps round out Cecilia’s applicant profile.
  3. It employs terse language: recommendation letters with flowery, unnecessary words and structure will debase the quality of the appraisal significantly. In this example, every sentence and word have a purpose. Don’t accept letters that are excessively praising, which typically sound contrived and possibly fraudulent.

Medical School Recommendation Letter from an Extracurricular Supervisor - Athletics Coach

Letterhead

Name of writer and contact information if not included in letterhead

Date

Dear Admission Committee Members,

I am writing this recommendation letter for Kalvin Foster, whom I have had the pleasure of coaching for the last four years as a member of the X University Pandas basketball team. From his first tryouts to his final accomplishments with our team, Kalvin has consistently shown up and demonstrated why he is an excellent athlete and teammate. The other coaches, myself and the team will miss his presence on the court when he graduates this spring.

From the first day of tryouts in Kalvin’s freshman year, he made an impression on me, not only through his athleticism but his enthusiasm, infectious positivity and tireless commitment to showing up, improving and persevering. Once he had made the team, his energy and tireless optimism never wavered, no matter the final score on the board or the setbacks he experienced from injury, illness, game cancellations or personal troubles in four years of college basketball. He managed to balance his study schedule alongside our practices and games, always bringing a smile to the court.

Kalvin had an undeniable effect on his teammates as well, who looked up to him as a natural leader, mentor and friend. Kalvin is quick to praise, encourage and help, and has never been the type to put anyone down or blame others for mistakes. He is consistently focused on the future and keeping his head up, and this attitude has rubbed off on his teammates.

His most notable accomplishment with the team, however, was due to his medical training. Kalvin is certified in first aid, and this skill became critical when a teammate collapsed on the court during a regular practice. Rushing the to teammate’s side, Kalvin didn’t hesitate to begin first aid, directing other players on what to do and keeping everyone calm and informed on what was happening. Fortunately, the teammate recovered, but Kalvin’s act was inspiring to not only the team but myself. I made the decision to host a series of first aid and sports injury first aid instruction with the team, which Kalvin was instrumental in organizing.

I have no doubt that Kalvin will succeed in becoming an excellent physician. His nature, ambition and enthusiasm are endless, and once he sets his mind to something, he achieves it. Kalvin’s Pandas teammates have nothing but respect and admiration for him, and he will be dearly missed, but we are all excited to see where this next step of his journey takes him. I cannot recommend Kalvin more highly for a spot in your program.

Sincerely,

Name of Writer

What makes this letter strong?

  1. Timeline: in the opening paragraph, an overview of the timeline of the coach’s relationship with Kalvin is provided. This not only establishes context, but it helps demonstrate growth and commitment. The writer goes on to mention an impression made on the first day of tryouts, as well as how he influenced the team once he earned his place.
  2. Stays relevant: this letter keeps the content relevant to medical school, despite the fact that the referee is the candidate’s coach. The anecdote about how Kalvin’s first aid training was critical in an urgent situation, and the exposition about how Kalvin was adept at balancing his studies with his team obligations, shows academic readiness and time management skills – two highly important traits for medical school success.
  3. Reveals attitude: this letter does a good job at revealing the attitude of the applicant, which is where many recommendation letters fall short. In reading about Kalvin’s infectious positivity and how that changed the team atmosphere, the admissions committee reviewing the letter will see that Kalvin has the right attitude to become a physician.

FAQs

1. Who should write my medical school letters of recommendation?

Medical school recommendations are usually written by people from these five categories:

a) Science and non-science faculty

b) Physicians

c) Research supervisors

d) Employers

e) Volunteer or EC supervisors

To write a strong letter of recommendation, your advocates must know you well. A big name in science or a senior faculty member may seem impressive, but not if they do not know you well personally. Try to ask individuals who’ve known you for at least a year. This way, they’ve had a chance to get to know you so they can speak from experience and give a detailed account of your candidacy. Help them write your recommendation by providing the following:

a) A copy of your personal statement. For reference, check out our blog to see some of the best medical school personal statement examples

b) Your transcripts and test scores if they are available

c) CV with a list of important accomplishments

d) Any other information not included in your CV that can strengthen the recommendation (e.g., publications, professional and educational associations, etc.)

e) Be prepared to answer their questions about why and how you are pursuing medicine. This may be explained in your personal statement, but having a brief 15-minute chat with your referee can also be a way of showing them the thought you have put into choosing a career in medicine.

A good letter of recommendation will make you stand out among hundreds of applicants and may directly influence your chances of getting admitted. The content of the letter is of utmost importance, but the overall presentation of the letter is also significant, so try to avoid asking anyone who you know to be a poor writer. Note that clear, concise, and direct language is appreciated by admissions committees, rather than overly creative and complicated language. They read thousands of these letters every year and do not want to put in extra effort to try to decipher complicated language.

2. How do I submit my letters of recommendation?

Your recommenders must submit the letters electronically through the AMCAS Letter Writer Application or Interfolio. If a letter is uploaded through the AMCAS Letter Writer Application, it is immediately marked as received. A letter uploaded through Interfolio will take approximately three days to be marked as received.

If your letter was submitted through the AMCAS Letter Writer Application and is not marked as received, contact your letter writer and ask them to submit it again. If you need other options to submit recommendation letters, contact AMCAS. When uploading your letters, the writers must include both the AAMC ID and the AMCAS letter ID found on the Letter Request Form. It is crucial to include these numbers to correctly match the letter to your name. Some medical schools request that letters include your school’s official letterhead and the author’s signature.

Canadian schools have their own application procedures. Each school and the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS) has its own preferred way of submitting LORs. Although most prefer letters to be submitted online through a specific portal, make sure to check with the program and contact the admissions office directly to confirm.

3. How long should the recommendation letter be?

Recommendation letters are usually between one and three pages long. The quality of content should always outweigh the length. See the examples above for effective recommendation letter samples.

4. Can I ask my TA for a recommendation letter?

Absolutely! Due to the high volume of students in most undergraduate classes, you do not always have the opportunity to work directly with your professors. You will, on the other hand, most likely work with and get to know your teaching or lab assistant. It's more important to secure a letter from a TA who knows you best, compared with a professor you've never had a conversation with.

5. It’s been a while since I graduated from college. My professors may not remember me. What should I do?

If you are worried about the quality of your recommendations from old professors, then it's best to ask another suitable individual for a letter. If you must send in a letter from a science faculty member, you'll have to contact the professor or TA you interacted with the most. More often than not, a little refresher will enable them to remember you, plus, you may be more memorable than you think!

Tip: Ask if you can chat on the phone or visit their office briefly. Asking in person may help jog their memory and help them to recall you. Do not just barge in during their office hours, though, as these are intended for current students. Ask and make an appointment beforehand.

6. What if my professor says no?

A professor will usually only refuse to write a letter if they truly feel that they don’t know you and your work well enough to write you the kind of recommendation you need to get into medical school. Don’t be discouraged if this is the case; you’ll simply need to search for someone else, which is better than a poor or ineffective letter of recommendation.

They could also have already committed to other students, which stresses how important it is to ask early (and ideally while you are still working with them, or at a time when they have evaluated your work).

7. Why do medical schools even ask for letters of recommendation?

Medicine is a collaborative environment but also one where you will spend time learning from more senior practitioners for a long time. Medical schools do not just want to hear from you, they want to hear from people in supervisory positions who you have worked with. They want to learn about your potential to become a strong physician from people who you have collaborated with and learned from.

8. How often should I check in with a referee?

Once before the deadline (approximately 1-2 weeks prior) and only check in after that if they have not submitted or are having trouble with the online portal.

9. Should I send a thank-you to my referee?

Send a thank you email once the letter is received. You should also send a card or a handwritten letter by actual mail (not email) once you get accepted to show your appreciation and ensure you maintain a positive relationship with your referee.

10. How can I help my med school recommendation letter writers?

You can help your writers by providing them with a draft of your personal statement, your CV or resume, and even the spreadsheet of your extracurriculars you have prepared to fill out your AMCAS Work and Activities section. Essentially, you want to provide them with any document that can help them write a stronger letter for you.

11. I did not get in last year. Can I reuse my reference letters?

You can reuse the letters, but it's a good idea to ask the writers to update the date of the letter to the year when you are applying. This means that you must resubmit the recommendation letters each time you apply to medical school because application systems do not store recommendation letters. You should also consider whether your letters of recommendation are still the strongest and most up-to-date possible. If not, switch them out with some new letters from new referees.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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1 Comments

Naoma Tow

Hi! I’m requesting a letter of recommendation from the principal of the school that I work at! He has never written a letter of recommendation for medical school before. What should I tell him about what to put in the letter to make it easier for him?

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BeMo Academic Consulting

Hi Naoma. Thanks for your question. You can provide him with a few samples from our blog. Additionally, provide him with the mission statement and values of the schools you are applying to, so he will know what kind of qualities and experiences he should highlight in his praise of you. Then, provide him with your CV, draft of your personal letter, your transcripts, etc., so he can refer back to your achievements when he writes. 

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