Pre-Med Guide: How to get great recommendation letters for medical school
One thing which is often underrated when it comes to getting accepted to medical school is the recommendation letter. Many pre-meds are too focused on maintaining that good GPA and getting a high MCAT score that they can sometimes forget the other aspects of application. A good recommendation letter can be the difference between you or someone else getting called up for an interview. Between applicants of similar GPA and MCAT, things like recommendation letters can be what make the difference. Just imagine if you are one of the people on the admission’s board for a medical school. You get two applicants who have almost identical GPA and MCAT, but one of them has a powerful recommendation letter that paints you in a great light. You will probably choose the one who has the powerful recommendation letter! In this article, we are going to go into: Who to get a recommendation letter from, how to ensure you get a good one, and how to ask.
What are the recommendation letter requirements for most medical schools?
Each medical school has its own requirements for letter of recommendation. So make sure you learn the specifics when it comes to who your recommendation letters should be from and how many you will need. Typically most medical schools want around 3-5 recommendation letters. These should normally come from a science professor, non-science professor, pre-med committee, and a physician. Make sure you check the requirements of the school you are applying to ahead of time for its recommendation letter requirements!
Who do you want recommendation letters from?
When it comes to recommendation letters, quality and diversity is everything. You have to check for the specifics for your school, but usually they want something like: two recommendation letters from science teachers, one from a non-science teacher, one from your pre-med advisor, and one from a physician. Each school has their own requirements. But in general these are the people you should be asking for a recommendation letter. Each can add something different they can say about you and help paint a better picture overall for the people reviewing your application. You want to make sure those who are going to ask for a letter of recommendation are knowledgeable about: The demands of medical school and the medical profession, and your unique characteristics and credentials that would make you a good fit for being a physician.
People you want recommendation letters from:
- From a manager in a job or volunteer work related to school or medicine
- Teacher(s) (Science teacher ideally)
- Research Professor
- Pre-med advisor (If your school has it)
How to ensure you get a good recommendation letter:
The most important part to getting a good recommendation letter is having a relationship with the person who is writing it. You want them to get to know you well and be able to have a lot to say about you. Let them know your dreams, aspirations, and how much getting into medical school means to you. You should have spent building a relationship with them for atleast a few months before asking for a recommendation letter. It is important that they have had enough time to get to know you and can say many great things about you. Before asking someone for a recommendation letter, ask yourself this. “If I ask them for a recommendation letter, would they be able to speak well about me personally? Do they have any personal examples that showcase well my characteristics and abilities?”
Professor/Teacher: Spend extra time going to their office hours. Talk to them after class. Ask more questions in class. And obviously make good grades.
Physician: Get there early. Be prepared before shadowing. Ask many questions. Show your enthusiasm for learning. Try and get to know them more personally.
Job/Volunteer Manager: Make sure you overperform at your job. Others have good things to say about you. Good feedback from co-workers or customers.
The specific characteristics that most medical schools want to see in an applicant:
- critical thinking
- logical reasoning
- oral communication skills
- personal maturity
- work habits
- cultural competence
- intellectual curiosity
- motivation for medicine
Make sure to consider these characteristics when interacting with your potential letter writers!
The key to a great recommendation letter is finding someone who can speak on behalf of you personally and can emphasize your individual characteristics that make you shine. Start building relationships with those you might want a recommendation letter from now!
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