When trying to navigate the maze of competitive admissions, you may begin to wonder if there are any medical schools that don’t require letters of recommendation as part of student admissions documents. To apply to a medical program, you often need the written support of professors and doctors that you interact with, but a lot of prospective med students may not know what they entail or how exactly to secure them in time. That is why some people become worried about letters of reference either prior to or while applying to medical school.
This article will answer the question of whether there are medical schools in the US and Canada that don’t require letters of recommendation so that students who may be lacking potential references for whatever reason can benefit. Whether they do not have a scientific research background or they focused solely on their academics, there are a few options for retrieving those coveted medical school recommendation letters when it comes time to submit your applications.
Disclaimer: Please note: Although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa.
>>Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here.<<
Listen to the blog!
Are There Medical Schools That Don’t Require Letters of Recommendation?
If you’re looking for medical schools that do not require some form of reference, you’re in for a bit of a tough journey, as it is very difficult to find medical schools that do not ask for any at all. There are application processing services that can help in this search, such as the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) or the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS). For some schools, these systems will indicate exactly what is needed for letters of recommendation. The exact requirements for references differ depending on the school, as everything does, but almost no institution will completely ignore this standard step of the application process. Common apps such as AMCAS and OMSAS make it easy to know exactly what is expected of you. Test completion and GPA requirements may fluctuate from one school to another, but many schools still require 2–3 letters on average, with some schools even offering a maximum of 5 or 6 possible submissions. Recommendation letters, along with other application documents, such as a personal statement or medical school resume, are often crucial to justifying your candidacy to a medical school’s admissions committee.
Want to learn how to secure strong medical school letters of recommendation? Watch this video:
If you are worried about not having the proper reference letters, you are likely undervaluing your own performance and ability to ask potential referees. While it is very rare to find a school that will not require letters of recommendation, there are ways of working around these requirements based on your past experience or schooling that are sure to suit your interests and get you into a great medical school.
List of Medical Schools That Don’t Require Letters of Recommendation
Medical Schools That Don’t Require a Science-Based Letter
Osteopathic Medicine and DO Schools
- Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine
- Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
- Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
- Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Schools That Don’t Require a Professional Letter
- Georgetown Medical School
- The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
- Memorial University Faculty of Medicine, Newfoundland
Medical Schools That Don’t Require a Science-Based Letter
If you do not necessarily have the premed background or educational history with science, but have more professional experience, there are schools that have very broad descriptions of their recommendation letter requirements. These schools are a bit harder to find than those in the other category we will subsequently discuss, as medical school programs are inherently academic. Letters from professors or faculty members make for excellent references, as they can attest to the academic proficiency of the applicant. They also tend to expect students to have academic references, as most medical programs are at the graduate level, for which you need a previous bachelor’s degree to apply. Nevertheless, there are some loopholes available to you and schools where you have more of a chance to have successful reference letters.
Dalhousie Medical School
If we are simply talking about whether or not reference letters are required, Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine in Halifax, Nova Scotia, does not require any written letters of recommendation. However, they do need a few verifiers for any activities listed on your supplementary application form. They may be contacted to answer similar questions to a traditional reference, but they do not have to be from a scientific field. They still need the same amount of preparation, though.
It is recommended that you choose activities and verifiers that will back up your passion for medicine if need be. Ask your verifiers for permission before officially putting them down as a potential contact. Due to its open-ended nature, Dalhousie’s process for references lends itself to prospective students who may have less traditional academic experience in the sciences or a bachelor’s in a different field, although it is important to note that other applicants will likely have science backgrounds regardless. Their requirements for verifiers are broad and can fit many different categories, making them a potential option for applicants who do not need a science-based letter of recommendation.
Rush Medical College
Like other schools in the United States, Rush Medical College at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is rather specific with its requirements for letters, but it still might be an option for applicants who do not have a science or research-based background. Rush does state that you need an academic letter, professional non-academic letter, and personal letter.
While the academic reference will evaluate your academic strengths and abilities and whether you are prepared for a challenging medical school curriculum, Rush specifies that this does not need to be written by a science faculty member. This could mean that they are encouraging those from other disciplines to apply. Meanwhile, the professional non-academic letter could be written by a physician shadowed, but this is also not required; work supervisors and volunteer coordinators are also eligible to write this letter. Therefore, this school caters to students who may not have the same educational or research experience as other premeds.
Osteopathic Medicine and DO Schools
Students looking toward medical school may not know that there are other options besides an MD program that may reward non-traditional applicants with slightly better chances of acceptance. Becoming a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) can be the right direction for you. Osteopathic schools are still considered medical schools, but when you evaluate MD vs DO, the main difference is the philosophy behind the medicine you will be practicing. Osteopathic medicine focuses on the whole person, rather than a collection of body parts that become injured or diseased. It emphasizes holistic care and preventative treatment. DO schools are often considered some of the easiest medical schools to get into, although acceptance is still rather competitive. Many DO Schools do prefer a letter from an osteopathic doctor, but they are often broad in their letter requirements.
For example, Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine requests three evaluation letters, one of which must be by an academic or medical professional, but none have to be written by an osteopathic professional. That is a big plus for those without any osteopathic clinical or shadowing experience. The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine requires two letters that could by written by natural science faculty who taught you, although osteopathic letters are strongly recommended. Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine are both schools that strongly recommend osteopathic letters but do not require them for admission. If you passionately align with their philosophy on health care, a DO school may be an option that you might not have previously considered.
Medical Schools That Don’t Require a Professional Letter
On the other side of the fence, there are schools that do not require a professional letter and tend to value academic prowess. How could a student find themselves in a position that prevents them from receiving professional letters? Well, studying in the premed track or the sciences is usually very demanding in terms of workload, and some students can get so focused on their academics that they can have less time for professional experience, clinical experience, shadowing, or any extracurricular activities. When medical school GPA requirements are difficult to achieve, some students have to work extra hard to keep their grades high and as a result, have less time to participate in other activities.
Schools with this option are a little easier to find, as medical school programs are more likely to place emphasis on academic performance and reference letters than professional ones. Still, it must be reiterated that most med school programs consider a variety of referees to be the most desirable. If you do not seem to have that opportunity, here are a few schools that are worth checking out:
Georgetown University School of Medicine
Are you interested in studying in the United States capital? Georgetown Medical School in Washington, DC, has recommendation letter requirements that cast a wide net to account for students coming into medical school from different pathways. They require one committee letter or two individual letters, with a maximum total of five. Their website states that it is essentially up to you who you choose, but they recommend a balance of academic, clinical, and service letters. It is clear that these instructions are only recommendations, and there are no strict guidelines to follow concerning where your referees come from. In a nutshell, they are giving you free range to choose but are expecting you to choose wisely. If you have two very strong letters from the same field, there is nothing stopping you from submitting those together to support the rest of your application. You are not forced to use a doctor you shadowed or a work supervisor, but instead could further highlight your academic accomplishments. Without much other experience finding these references, two academic professors that you have built a great relationship with would be suitable for Georgetown’s application.
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan, also caters to students with more of an academic and research background. They do require a minimum of three letters, but who the referees could be is very open-ended. Letter writers for Oakland should be people or professionals who you have a relationship with and can vouch for your qualifications for entering the medical field. At least one faculty member is required, so there are options there for students without a large amount of professional experience. The only restriction is that letters from family members or your friends are not recommended, but that is often obvious already for students submitting reference letters. Taking all of this into consideration, students who focused on their academics could use more than one academic reference to prove their candidature for this medical school.
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Similarly to Oakland, the Faculty of Medicine at Newfoundland and Labrador’s Memorial University only specifies that one of your references must be academic. However, they only require two letters instead of three, so it is even more accessible to students who focused on their academics. There is no specific mention of professional references in the wording used on their website. You can use this language to your advantage when choosing which schools to apply to, depending on which references you want to represent you in your application. Technically, both references could be academic for this school. Since there are only two, these letters of recommendation really need to be as effective and insightful as possible. When there are fewer reference letters involved, there is usually the expectation that you will need to make them count. For any school you apply to, that is one key tip to keep in mind.
Why Medical Schools Ask for Letters of Recommendation
Let’s examine why medical schools want recommendation letters in the first place and what they entail for the student asking for them. First, medical school applications are all about standing out from the crowd. Admissions are extremely competitive, with medical school acceptance rates showing that some schools accept less than 5% of their applicants. There are many ways to approach showing what makes you unique, but one of the best ways to illustrate your individuality is through other people’s perspective of you. Reference letters are designed for people you have worked for or studied under to vouch for your character, personality, passion for medicine, research capability, academic qualifications, and more. They are basically doing the work for you in terms of relaying the reasons you would be a perfect fit for that school’s program.
Having these letters indicates to the admissions committee that other professionals are supporting your career in medicine. There is a level of trust implied when you ask someone to be your reference and they accept. The ideal scenario is that you have established relationships with a variety of professionals through your academics, work experience, and even your personal life. If you have had a positive experience with them and they know you well enough, your references should be delighted to assist you in your applications. It is a small favor to ask of them that carries a lot of weight. Medical schools are searching for the next generation of doctors to provide aid to those in need. It is not a decision they take lightly, which is the reason for the complexity of applications these days.
That being said, these letters are not supposed to be extremely detailed. On average, they are usually one to two pages and are answers to specific questions offered by the school or application system. They are meant to highlight your strengths, weaknesses, and your overall goals as a student in years to come. For some medical schools in Canada, OMSAS asks the following questions for references to answer:
- Would this applicant make a good physician?
- Rate the applicant’s communication skills, problem-solving skills, professionalism, and empathy.
- Identify and comment on one area of improvement for the applicant.
- Share any other information you feel may be relevant to a medical school’s admission committee.
Knowing what questions are typically asked of your referees makes it easier to prepare for them in advance. It is recommended that you tell your reference that they will be contacted for a letter or ask them for permission, so nothing takes them by surprise.
Some institutions may leave the letters of recommendation until after your panel, traditional, or conversational med school interview as a final step before admissions are confirmed. Verifiers could also be contacted to ask about your performance in certain activities, but there is no written component required for them. There are many ways a school can use the reference format to assess your candidacy. It all depends on how the school chooses its future students and what they value. If you are nervous about not having the necessary letter because you lack the relationships or experience needed, you could play around with different schools’ admissions procedures to look for the schools with the most flexible requirements. If you are lacking in a certain area, the schools you apply to generally should not be asking for specific references in those fields.
In addition to the institutions listed here, many medical schools have flexible admissions requirements that may change from year to year. You may believe that without a scientific background or a certain number of clinical hours to your name, there is not a place for you in a field as competitive as medicine, but a little research can go a long way. There are opportunities for you if you prepare yourself and start thinking about potential reference letters early on in the process. As it relates to letters of recommendation, pay attention to the wording of admission requirements. There are options available to you, but at the end of the day, reference letters are still very important. They should come from reputable sources familiar with your passion for medicine.
In addition, advisors at companies such as BeMo Academic Consulting can greatly improve your medical school applications and help you every step of the way. They are dedicated to supporting students in need. If you need medical school application help, BeMo can provide you with the necessary resources and tools for you to succeed.
1. Are there medical schools that do not require letters of recommendation?
These schools are very rare, but they do exist, such as Dalhousie Medical School. Usually, the school would still need references or verifiers to contact, even if no specific written letter of recommendation is required.
2. Why are schools so strict about their requirements for letters of reference?
Admitting students into medical school is a big decision for both the student and the school itself. The study of medicine has lasting consequences on health care proceedings around the world. From the school’s perspective, they have a reputation to uphold, and they want only the best in their institution. Reference letters give them the opportunity to see who established, active professionals are recommending to be the future of medicine, as well as get to know more about who you are and your accomplishments.
3. What should I do about getting letters if I don’t have a background in science?
There are schools that will accept reference letters from academic sources that are not in science or professional letters from a work supervisor. It is all about what the school prefers to receive and how you can deliver reputable reference letters that can passionately attest to your candidacy.
4. What should I do about letters if I don’t have enough professional or clinical experience?
Focus on the relationships you do have with professors, academic advisors, extracurricular activity supervisors, and others. There are also online options that can quickly garner some more acumen to add to your application. For example, BeMo’s DocShadowing program can give you a unique edge while providing some shadowing experience in multiple specialties.
5. How should I ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor or supervisor?
Typically, you could ask either in person or via email. Approaching a professor during office hours or your supervisor while they are on break is probably the best course of option, so that you can have a response as soon as possible. Asking by email is also viable, but you risk having to wait for a response. Always be polite and enthusiastic about your future goals. If you are currently taking a class with the professor you want to ask, waiting until the end of the semester or the beginning of the next is the best time to ask, so they can freshly remember you and your performance in their class. If they accept, provide them with all of the necessary information they need and answer any questions.
6. What is the difference between a DO and an MD program?
DO schools are not as prevalent, as there are only about 38 in the US and none in Canada, according to DO school ranking data. Osteopathic doctors also focus on a different philosophy that prioritizes prevention and the body as a whole, rather than separate parts in allopathic medicine programs. As for letters of recommendation, DO schools tend to focus on references from osteopathic doctors, but as discussed, there are some institutions that have more lenient requirements for letters.
7. Are DO school acceptance rates higher than MD school rates?
Yes. In general, DO schools have lower admission requirements than allopathic medical schools. The overall average GPA as well as MCAT scores for those admitted are, though still high, lower than for MD programs. DO schools also tend to be more interested in matriculants from all walks of life and have cohorts with less traditional backgrounds.
8. Are there other ways to enhance my application besides letters of recommendation?
Yes, absolutely. Many admissions committees also require a medical school personal statement that takes some workshopping to truly perfect. Academic consulting can help with all aspects of your application, including the written documents, choosing the right schools, interview preparation, and standardized testing practice to make you stand out in a diverse pool of applicants.
Like our blog? Write for us! >>
Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!