Letters of recommendation are an important part of your application. Letters can reveal important aspects of your potential that cannot be gleaned from your grades and test scores: in particular, your communication skills, interpersonal skills, and intellectual curiosity. Letters of recommendation should, in effect, augment your personal, professional, and academic record. 

“The purpose of letters of recommendation/evaluation is in part to provide information that is not included elsewhere in the application, such as description of character, professional behavior, and maturity. The letter of recommendation/evaluation will be especially effective if writers use specific examples and instances whenever possible.” -NAAHP

Things to Consider

Most programs will ask for 3-4 recommendations; dual programs such as MD-PhD may require more. Be sure to check individual program and school requirements. Things to consider when compiling a collection of recommendation letters:

  • Ask yourself what you want schools reviewing your application to know about you and who can speak to those skills, characteristics, and/or experiences best
  • Include at least one recommendation from a natural science faculty
  • Other options for faculty letters include major faculty or advisors and faculty from outside the natural sciences
  • Consider one recommendation from a volunteer/community engagement or healthcare experience
  • Letters from significant research supervisors are also encouraged, in some cases required
  • Do not forget coaches and employers (including on-campus supervisors)
  • Most osteopathic medical schools require a letter from a D.O.
  • When possible, ask for the letter in person and with a set time for you to speak to the recommender about your interests, goals, accomplishments, and reasons for applying
  • Share both your resume and a short statement outlining who you are and your professional goals
  • If you are applying to medical school provide each recommender with the AAMC Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation for a Medical School Applicant [pdf]
  • Use our guide on who and how to ask for letters of recommendation