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Pre-Health Advising
Pre-Health Advising

Letters of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation from a faculty member needs to provide the admission committee an insider look into an applicant's proven academic ability to be successful in medical school. Letters of recommendation are important and the admission committee considers them carefully. One should be honest and supportive in the letter, but also brutally honest - not everyone who asks for a letter will be the best candidate in the world. 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.

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). Be sure your letter has an actual signature on it prior to sending it. If you have questions about the submission process, contact one of the Pre-Health Advisors. 

General Content for Letters of Recommendation

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 one of the Pre-Health Profession Advisors.

The Process

Professional School letters of recommendation are quite similar in content to those you may have written for graduate programs. Furthermore, 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 two to three months to complete the narrative comments. Normally, students should ask for a letter of recommendation in February or March and you will need to upload the letter by the end of  June. 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. An application can be penalized because of a late letter by their application packet being placed lower in the pile and this 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 the following year, should the student applicant be unsuccessful in their first attempt. This is occurring more frequently now and, thus, 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 your letter. Some common threads to a good letter for health professional schools include:

  • An explanation of your relationship to the student 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 insight into the student that grades cannot do
  • Use comparisons of the student to others, not in name but in ability or competencies
  • An overall ranking using the following: enthusiastically recommend, highly recommend, recommend, recommend with reservation (explain), and do not recommend at this time (explain)
  • Omit references to the student's appearance as these are seen as inappropria

When preparing your letter consider including comments on some, not all are necessary, of the following points:

  • Maturity
  • Academic potential
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability to handle stress
  • Adaptability
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to exercise good judgment
  • Self-confidence
  • Resourcefulness
  • Compassion
  • Work ethic
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Capacity for empathy
  • Motivation for learning
  • Understanding of the profession
  • Motivation for the profession
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Integrity

Specifics for Pre-Med Students

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. Your letter should be on an official Butler University letterhead. Your own department’s letterhead is acceptable.
  2. The name of the student and the AMCAS or AACOMAS ID number (if known). The number can be found on the email that you will have received from the application service or from the student.
  3. How long you've known the applicant and in what capacity (lecture, lab, multiple courses, research, mentor).
  4. Description of specific qualities you have noticed in your interaction with the applicant (in class, lab, extracurricular activities).  Be sure they are personal observations and be honest.
  5. Description of attitudes exhibited by the applicant that would serve the applicant well in professional school.  See bullet points above.
  6. A summary paragraph with a percentage ranking (top 10% of undergraduates in biology) and a specific level of recommendation chosen from the five listed below:
    1. Enthusiastically recommend
    2. Highly recommend
    3. Recommend
    4. Recommend with reservations
    5. Do not recommend at this time
  7. It is important that you sign your letter. If you print and sign it, you should scan it to a PDF file using a campus photocopy machine for later electronic submission. Or you can scan your signature and paste it into your letter then save it as a PDF file. There are some schools that will not accept a letter without an actual signature on it. Providing a letter without a signature can significantly delay an application and risk a student’s acceptance.

Guidelines for writing Letters of Recommendation

Further information can be found online by visiting the following websites:

Specifics for Pre-Dental Students

The format for letters of recommendation for dentistry 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. Your letter should be on an official Butler University letterhead. Your own department’s letterhead is acceptable.
  2. The name of the student and the AADSAS ID number (if known). The number can be found on the submission letter that you will have received from the application service or from the student.
  3. How long you've known the applicant and in what capacity (lecture, lab, multiple courses, research, mentor).
  4. Description of specific qualities you have noticed in your interaction with the applicant (in class, lab, extracurricular activities). Be sure they are personal observations and be honest.
  5. Description of attitudes exhibited by the applicant that would serve the applicant well in professional school. See competencies above.
  6. A summary paragraph with a percentage ranking (top 10% of undergraduates in biology) and a specific level of recommendation chosen from the five listed below:
    1. Enthusiastically recommend
    2. Highly recommend
    3. Recommend
    4. Recommend with reservations
    5. Do not recommend at this time
  7. It is important that you sign your letter. If you print and sign it, you should scan it to a PDF file using a campus photocopy machine for later electronic submission. Or you can scan your signature and paste it into your letter then save it as a PDF file. There are some schools that will not accept a letter without an actual signature on it. Providing a letter without a signature can significantly delay an application and risk a student’s acceptance.

Further information can be found online by visiting the following websites:

Specifics for Pre-Physical Therapy Students

The format for letters of recommendation for physical therapy 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. Your letter should be on an official Butler University letterhead. Your own department’s letterhead is acceptable.
  2. The name of the student and the PTCAS ID number (if known). The number can be found on the submission letter that you will have received from the application service or from the student.
  3. How long you've known the applicant and in what capacity (lecture, lab, multiple courses, research, mentor).
  4. Description of specific qualities you have noticed in your interaction with the applicant (in class, lab, extracurricular activities). Be sure they are personal observations and be honest.
  5. Description of attitudes exhibited by the applicant that would serve the applicant well in professional school. See bullet points above.
  6. A summary paragraph with a percentage ranking (top 10% of undergraduates in biology) and a specific level of recommendation chosen from the five listed below:
    1. Enthusiastically recommend
    2. Highly recommend
    3. Recommend
    4. Recommend with reservations
    5. Do not recommend at this time
  7. It is important that you sign your letter. If you print and sign it, you should scan it to a PDF file using a campus photocopy machine for later electronic submission. Or you can scan your signature and paste it into your letter then save it as a PDF file. There are some schools that will not accept a letter without an actual signature on it. Providing a letter without a signature can significantly delay an application and risk a student’s acceptance.

Further information can be found online by visiting the following websites:

Specifics for Pre-Optometry Students

The format for letters of recommendation for optometry 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. Your letter should be on an official Butler University letterhead.  Your own department’s letterhead is acceptable.
  2. The name of the student and the OptomCAS ID number (if known). The number can be found on the submission letter that you will have received from the application service or from the student.
  3. How long you've known the applicant and in what capacity (lecture, lab, multiple courses, research, mentor).
  4. Description of specific qualities you have noticed in your interaction with the applicant (in class, lab, extracurricular activities). Be sure they are personal observations and be honest.
  5. Description of attitudes exhibited by the applicant that would serve the applicant well in professional school.  See bullet points above.
  6. A summary paragraph with a percentage ranking (top 10% of undergraduates in biology) and a specific level of recommendation chosen from the five listed below:
    1. Enthusiastically recommend
    2. Highly recommend
    3. Recommend
    4. Recommend with reservations
    5. Do not recommend at this time
  7. It is important that you sign your letter. If you print and sign it, you should scan it to a PDF file using a campus photocopy machine for later electronic submission. Or you can scan your signature and paste it into your letter then save it as a PDF file. There are some schools that will not accept a letter without an actual signature on it. Providing a letter without a signature can significantly delay an application and risk a student’s acceptance.

Further information can be found online by visiting the following websites:

Specifics for Pre-Occupational Therapy Students

The format for letters of recommendation for occupational therapy 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. Your letter should be on an official Butler University letterhead. Your own department’s letterhead is acceptable.
  2. The name of the student and the OTCAS ID number (if known). The number can be found on the submission letter that you will have received from the application service or from the student.
  3. How long you've known the applicant and in what capacity (lecture, lab, multiple courses, research, mentor).
  4. Description of specific qualities you have noticed in your interaction with the applicant (in class, lab, extracurricular activities). Be sure they are personal observations and be honest.
  5. Description of attitudes exhibited by the applicant that would serve the applicant well in professional school. See bullet points above.
  6. A summary paragraph with a percentage ranking (top 10% of undergraduates in biology) and a specific level of recommendation chosen from the five listed below:
    1. Enthusiastically recommend
    2. Highly recommend
    3. Recommend
    4. Recommend with reservations
    5. Do not recommend at this time
  7. It is important that you sign your letter. If you print and sign it, you should scan it to a PDF file using a campus photocopy machine for later electronic submission. Or you can scan your signature and paste it into your letter then save it as a PDF file. There are some schools that will not accept a letter without an actual signature on it. Providing a letter without a signature can significantly delay an application and risk a student’s matriculation.

Further information can be found online by visiting the following websites:

Specifics for Pre-Veterinary Medicine Students

The format for letters of recommendation for vet 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. Your letter should be on an official Butler University letterhead. Your own department’s letterhead is acceptable.
  2. The name of the student and the VMCAS ID number (if known). The number can be found on the submission letter that you will have received from the application service or from the student.
  3. How long you've known the applicant and in what capacity (lecture, lab, multiple courses, research, mentor).
  4. Description of specific qualities you have noticed in your interaction with the applicant (in class, lab, extracurricular activities). Be sure they are personal observations and be honest.
  5. Description of attitudes exhibited by the applicant that would serve the applicant well in professional school. See bullet points above.
  6. A summary paragraph with a percentage ranking (top 10% of undergraduates in biology) and a specific level of recommendation chosen from the five listed below:
    1. Enthusiastically recommend
    2. Highly recommend
    3. Recommend
    4. Recommend with reservations
    5. Do not recommend at this time
  7. It is important that you sign your letter. If you print and sign it, you should scan it to a PDF file using a campus photocopy machine for later electronic submission. Or you can scan your signature and paste it into your letter then save it as a PDF file. There are some schools that will not accept a letter without an actual signature on it. Providing a letter without a signature can significantly delay an application and risk a student’s acceptance.