Health Careers Advisement Office (HCAO)
Location: Biological Sciences 170, 174
Letters of Recommendation
Your letters of recommendation (LORs) are a critical component of your application to health professions schools. Most programs require at least 3 LORs with some programs allowing as many as 6 LORs to be submitted. It is never too early to start thinking about who you want to be your LOR writers. Most health professions schools require that 2 of your LORs be written by faculty who have had you as a student in their science class. Please keep in mind that it is easier for faculty to write a strong letter of recommendation for a student who did well in their class (A or A-) than for a student who performed at the class average or below (C or C-). LORs cannot pass through your (the applicant) hands. The HCAO will only accept letters delivered directly from the writer.
Requesting Letters of Recommendation:
1. Carefully select individuals from whom to request LORs. They should be familiar with your academic record and you personally (i.e., able to write about your academic capability, lab skills, maturity, social characteristics, leadership potential, ability to cope with stress, initiative, etc. – all of which are of interest to an admissions committee). You must give each of them a copy of the sheet titled, “Format for Letters of Recommendation sent to the Health Careers Advisement Office,” which provides guidelines for the format and content of an appropriate recommendation letter.
2. You must have at least three recommendation letters to complete your file. Your file may contain as many letters as you wish, but you may only include a maximum of six letters in your mailing packet (or as per the instructions of the health professions school).
3. Your letter packet should include at least two letters of recommendation from science faculty members (e.g. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math). Other letters to include could be those from individuals who supervised you in a research or volunteer position(s), non-science academic coursework, or an employer.
4. In general, request your letters during your junior year. Do not wait until the last minute to ask your letter writers. You risk that instructors will not remember you from an earlier course, or that the letter will not be written in time if they are gone on sabbatical. If you receive a good grade in a course and have made every effort such that the professor should know you reasonably well, ask them if they can write you a good letter of recommendation and then keep in touch with them. Then, during your junior year request that the letter be sent to the HCAO before the end of the academic year.
Give each letter writer the following items:
a) A signed Buckley Amendment Waiver Form. You have the right to read any recommendation letter written on your behalf or to waive that right. The Buckley form contains places for you to indicate your choice; you may sign either place. Because you give each of your letter writers a signed Buckley waiver form, that person knows whether you will see the letter. Many health professional school admissions personnel believe that waiving your viewing privileges results in a more candid–and thus more credible–letter. We send copies of your Buckley waiver forms to schools that request them and explain the process in our cover letter.
b) The Format for Letters of Recommendation Form. This is a guide for individuals unfamiliar with the process that also includes the instructions for mailing the LOR along with the Buckley Amendment Waiver Form.
NOTE: No one is required to write you a letter of recommendation. Therefore, ask politely and give the individuals plenty of time so you do not have to rush (irritate) them. It will be helpful to also provide them with your personal statement and curriculum vitae or résumé.