Podcast Episodes

Podcast Episode 32: Letters of Recommendation

We are getting closer and closer to the 2019-2020 application cycle. It’s great to get ready for the cycle early, and Dr. Renee Marinelli has already seen students doing do.

Today, she wants to talk about letters of recommendation. They’re a big part of your application, and you can get ahead of the curve by getting them together now. Renee goes over the requirements for these letters and how to ask for them.

[2:26] The basic requirements of letters of recommendation.

Each school has slightly different requirements but, in general, you’ll cover most of your bases if you have two letters from science professors, one letter from a non-science professor, and one or two letters from somebody else. That is, a physician that you worked with, a volunteer coordinator, a PI, or anything like that. You should definitely try to get a letter of recommendation from a physician as a lot of schools do require that.

If you have a pre-medical committee at your school, then you are required to use them to submit letters of recommendation on your behalf. If for some reason you do not use the pre-medical committee, most schools will require you to write an explanation as to why. It’s recommended to talk to your pre-medical committee now, in February. A lot of them get tons of requests and can get bogged down, causing your application to be delayed. If you do not have a pre-medical committee, still, start collecting letters of recommendation now. Professors can get bogged down with letter requests, too. Try to get a letter from a professor that you have created a relationship with, because otherwise, they will just comment on your grades instead of your personal characteristics.

[5:55] How to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Go talk to the person in question during their office hours and say something like “hey, Dr. Smith, I wanted to let you know I’m applying to medical school this cycle, and I really enjoyed my biochemistry course with you. I was hoping that you could write me a letter of recommendation.”

Then, gauge their response. If Dr. Smith says “absolutely, I would love to write you a letter. You’ve been a fantastic student. It will be a great letter,” that’s somebody you’d really like to get a letter from. However, if Dr. Smith instead responds “well, um, I’d have to look up your grades, and maybe I could write you a letter,” that’s not a very enthusiastic response and it will probably make for an unenthusiastic letter of recommendation.

Try to gauge their responses. If they don’t seem like they’re going to write you a good letter, they probably won’t.

[7:17] How to collect letters of recommendations after asking.

Renee recommends using a dossier service such as Interfolio. You have to pay for it, but the fee is small. The professor will upload the letter to that service, and then you can send it wherever you want from there.

[8:14] For osteopathic schools.

If you’re applying to osteopathic schools, it’s really recommended that you get a letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician. There are schools that require letters from osteopathic physicians, and almost all schools require letters from physicians. It’s best to get this letter of recommendation from a physician that you have worked with, such as volunteering with in the clinic or working with them in the hospital. However, if you’ve had a good relationship while shadowing a physician, that’s sufficient as well.

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