Letters of recommendation are important parts of your application package. These objective evaluations can reveal important aspects of your candidacy, including your character, professional demeanor, commitment to a health profession, and distance traveled.
Health professions programs usually ask for four to six letters of recommendation. The number of letters and requirements for evaluator roles varies among schools, you need to be familiar with the specifics. Oxy does not provide a committee/composite letter or a letter packet, you will be submitting individual letters, and It is your responsibility to monitor letter completion status and to follow-up on missing letters.
Who Should You Ask?
Choose your letter writer strategically. The following combination of letter writers should provide a balanced picture of you as a well-rounded applicant:
- Faculty members who taught you at Oxy and know you well including your academic achievements, your interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, your background, and future goals. Medical school usually asks for two science faculty and one humanity/social science faculty.
- Other members of the Oxy community with whom you have had frequent and positive interactions: athletic, special projects, campus employment, etc.
- A health professional whom you shadowed or worked with (MD, DO, DPM, PA, nurse, etc) who can attest your fit to the profession.
- Others with whom you had professional relationships: director of a community program where you volunteered, a supervisor from any other employment, a lab manager of a research project, etc.
- DO NOT obtain letters from anyone with whom you do not have any working relationships (e.g., your relatives, personal physicians, family friends, etc.).
How do You Ask?
- Ask early. A thoughtful letter takes time to write plus your letter writers may have a busy schedule. Ask before March 1st so that your letters will be ready in early July.
- Provide sufficient material. Email your letter writers your resume, transcript, personal statement, your assignments/research projects, and your applicant profile. These supportive materials will help your letter writers compose a compelling letter with details and examples.
- Schedule to meet with your letter writers. Either virtual or in-person, this meeting provides an opportunity for you to share your narrative, your distance traveled, and your commitment to a health profession.
- Guide your letter writers with the AAMC resources. When communicating with your letter writer, highlight your strengths and core competencies which you hope to be addressed.
- Provide clear instructions. Make sure that your letter writers include an official letterhead and a signature, and specify how many pages are required. Inform your letter writers that your official request will be emailed to them from either the AMCAS Letter Service or Letters by Liaison, depending on the program to which you are applying. Confirm with your recommenders that they received the email notification. They may need to check their junk or spam folders.
- Remind, follow-up, and say thank-you. Gently remind your letter writers about the upcoming deadline, send follow-up emails about recent job changes, updates, research outcomes, etc. Foster relationships with your letter writers, stay in touch, and enclose thank-you notes or a postcard--they’d be happy to learn about your next chapter!
- Use this Recommendation Request Form to guide your letter writer.