Center for High Achievement & Scholarly Engagement
Pre-Graduate and Pre-Professional Advising

Faculty Information for Pre-Med Recommendation Letters

 

Thank you for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for our pre-health professional student.  Below you will find specific instructions and tips that should make this process run smoothly and efficiently.  If you have questions at any time during the process, please feel free to contact Michael Samide  or Cathy Holland  for clarification on the process.

 The Process

Letters of recommendation for professional school are quite similar to those you have likely written for graduate programs.  The process for submission is also similar, with almost all letters (except for a few programs) uploaded electronically to a centralized application service.

When you agree to write a letter of recommendation, you should have about 2 to 3 months to complete the narrative comments.  Students should ask you in February or March and you will need to upload the letter in June or July.  It is best if you can write the letter before the end of the semester in order to avoid delays in uploading and delays in the student's application packet.  A late letter can place a student packet lower in the pile and could jeopardize a student's chance for successful matriculation.  Once the student submits materials to the centralized application service, you should receive an email with instructions for uploading the letter.  Follow those instructions and uploading should take no more than a few minutes.  When the upload is complete, you are finished! 

We do ask that you save an electronic copy of the letter for resubmission in following years, should the student applicant be unsuccessful in the application process.  This happens quite often and resubmissions are common.

Narrative Comments

As you prepare your letter of recommendation, please consider the following information that professional schools are looking to find in the letters.  You can also use the attached worksheet to generate some numerical rankings to include in the letter.  You can find a formatting guide for a typical recommendation letter below.  Some common threads to a good letter for health professional schools include:

  • An explanation of  your relationship to the students and how long you have known and/or worked with the student
  • Specifics about the student's abilities and achievements both academically and non-academically
  • Personal comments that provide detail about the student
  • Using comparisons
  • An overall ranking using the listing shown on the worksheet above (enthusiastically recommend, highly recommend, etc.)
  • Omit references to the student's appearance (these have appeared in past letters and are inappropriate)

Medical Schools are looking for insight that the letter writer can give about this particular person, especially in the following areas: 

  • Intellectual readiness
  • Motivation for health professions
  • Shadowing, medical missions, clinical exposure
  • Maturity
  • Difficulty of course work or major
  • Special attributes and assets
  • Community service
  • Research and publication or presentation
  • Study Abroad 

     

Example of a Letter of Recommendation

 

The format for letters of recommendation for medical schools can vary based on style and on how well the applicant is known by the recommender.  However, common elements exist that should always be included in the letter, typically in the order shown.  These elements are:

  1. The name of the student and the AMCAS or AACOMAS ID number (if known).
  2.  How long you've known the applicant and in what capacity (lecture, lab, multiple courses, research, mentor).
  3. Description of specific qualities you have noticed in your interaction with the applicant (in class, lab, extracurriculars).  Be sure they are personal observations and be honest.
  4. Description of attitudes exhibited by the applicant that would serve the applicant well in professional school.
  5. Summary of ranking from the table worksheet (option to be a separate section or included in some other paragraph)
  6. A summary paragraph with a %-age ranking (top 10% of undergraduates in biology) and a specific level of recommendation chosen from the five listed below:
    • Enthusiastically recommend
    • Highly recommend
    • Recommend
    • Recommend with reservations
    • Do not recommend at this time

 Further examples can be found online by visiting the following websites.

  http://www.hhmi.org/resources/labmanagement/downloads/letter.pdf

 http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472031887-appendixg.pdf

  http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/Verba-recs.html

 https://career.berkeley.edu/letter/letterguidelines.stm

 The HHMI document is a fantastic resource!!!

 In conclusion, the letter of recommendation is really a letter of support that provides the admission committee an insider look into an applicant's ability to be successful in medical school.  One should be honest and supportive in the letter, but also brutally honest.  At Butler, we want our letters to hold weight.  If all letters from Butler arrive with enthusiastic recommendations, then eventually admission committees will ignore our letters.  If an applicant has issues, then comment on those and justify your concern with examples.  Then provide a level of recommendation appropriate with those concerns.  Not everyone who asks for a letter will be the best candidate in the world.  We should not sell our students, but share what we know.

 Submitting your letter

 The student requesting the letter will enter your contact information into the application service website.  You will receive an email from the application service with instructions on how to electronically submit your letter.  In lieu of electronic submission, letters can also be submitted by US Mail (in some cases).  If you have questions about the submission process, contact the CHASE office.

  If you have other questions or would like to discuss a letter after it is prepared, please feel free to contact Michael Samide  to set up a meeting.