Last Updated: 03/18/15
On this page we’ll talk about the requirements for medical school recommendation letters and how to get quality recommendation letters.
Medical School Recommendation Letters
All medical schools that we’ve heard of require recommendation letters from applicants. Beside that, the specific requirements vary widely from school to school, although most medical schools prefer to see a committee letter from the student’s undergraduate institution.
A committee letter is actually a package of letters from the student’s institution and includes a cover letter from an official at the school. Most large undergraduate schools have a process in place for students to request a committee letter. See your undergraduate advisor for more details. You may have to submit your personal statement and resume, as well as attend an interview depending on your college. You will also have to submit a certain number of recommendation letters that will be included in the packet to your school’s committee.
What if your school doesn’t offer a committee letter? You’ll need to check with each school you plan on applying to in order to find out their specific requirements. The AMCAS medical school application will allow you print a form to give to your letter writers that has details on how they will upload their letter to the application. In general, you will need at least one letter from an upper level science faculty member, one letter from a non-science faculty member, and one letter from someone outside of school. Some medical schools may also require a letter from a peer.
How to Get Medical School Recommendation Letters
Whether your college offers committee letters or not, you will still need to request letters from your professors. Try to choose professors that you know well and who taught courses that you did well in. Don’t know any professors well? Most professors will not turn you down if you go to their office personally and explain that you did well in their class and need a recommendation for medical school. Research mentors, volunteer coordinators, and club sponsors are also good sources for letters. If you need a peer letter, try to choose someone who you’ve known for a long time and trust. Choose someone who knows you personally and academically so they can speak to your personality as well as your work ethic.
You should provide all of your letter writers with a copy of your personal statement and your resume so they can speak about your personality, your commitment to medicine, and your various activities. You can read more about writing a personal statement for medical school here.
In AMCAS, you will be able to enter information about your letter writers and choose which medical schools receive which letters so you can satisfy each medical school’s requirements. Read more about AMCAS here.
Template Medical School Recommendation Letters
Many professors and volunteer coordinators are inundated by requests for medical school recommendation letters, especially those who teach large classes or work for large organizations. For this reason, they often resort to using template letters for the majority of their students. Medical schools know this and they won’t hold it against you if a couple of your letters read like templates. However, if you want to really make an impression, seek out letter writers who you know personally and have a long relationship with. This makes it more likely that they will write unique and insightful medical school recommendation letters about you.