A good letter of recommendation highlights your academic or professional achievements.

A great letter gives the admissions committee at your dream med school deeper insight into the person you are and the doctor you may become.

Getting a Great Letter of Recommendation

Here’s a quick overview of how to choose the right people to write your medical school recommnedations and ensure you get the right message across.

Medical School Letter of Recommendation

1. Identify your recommenders

Hopefully, you've built relationships with individuals who would speak well on your behalf. Current professors and doctors with whom you work or volunteer are your best choices. But former professors and doctors with whom you've worked in the past are fine, too. (If you're applying to an osteopathic school, you must have a letter from a DO.)

2. Be professional

It’s natural to feel anxious about approaching prospective recommenders, especially if some time has passed since you've worked with them. But professors and doctors are used to receiving this kind of request, and most will be happy (even flattered) to write a recommendation on your behalf.  Courtesy goes a long way in these interactions—for example, make sure you ask well in advance of the deadline! A sincere thank-you note at the end of the process, not matter what the outcome, is essential.

3. Ensure recommenders have what they need to write you a great letter

Fantastic letters come from recommenders who can write about your specific traits and talents. Furnish them with a copy of your résumé, a personal statement, and any other materials that will remind them about what you've achieved. Also let them know which medical programs you're applying to and why.

4. Understand the process

If you apply directly from undergrad, you likely have access to pre-health or pre-med advising, and your letters will be handled by that office. They will copy and send your recommendations to your list of schools. If you are a returning adult student, you may have to take care of all the requests and letters yourself.

5. Follow the instructions

Don't send more letters than a school asks for. There is one caveat to this rule: if you are placed on hold and work with someone during that time who might be able to contribute additional information, you can consider asking them to send a letter on your behalf. Anything more will be seen as extraneous.