5 Basics of Premed Letters of Recommendation

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1. What kinds of letters of recommendation do I need to apply to medical school? 

  • You need a minimum of three letters of recommendation.
  • 2 letters need to be from a math/science professor, and 1 letter needs to be from a non-science professor.
  • These are your 3 “core letters”. You can get additional letters from other professors or non-professor sources.
2. Where else can I get letters of recommendation?
  • Outside of your three core letters of recommendation, there are a few places to get additional letters of recommendation if you wish to submit more than the minimum 3 letters of recommendation.
  • The obvious choice is from a PI if you’ve done research, especially if you’re applying to a school that places emphasis on research.
  • If you’ve shadowed a physician, there’s another letter of recommendation. If you apply to DO schools, you’re required to shadow and have a letter of rec form a DO physician (don’t worry about this if you’re going for an MD instead of a DO degree). A letter from a physician is valuable when applying to schools that have high primary care reputations and put emphasis on the clinical aspects.
  • If you’ve done sports, letters of recommendation from coaches is a great. Coaches will see you on a regular basis, and they’ve seen you really commit to something. They can talk at length about your determination and desire to succeed.
  • Coordinators for meaningful extracurricular experiences are also great sources for letters of recommendation.
3. What if I’m non-traditional premed? Do I still need the three core letters?
  • If you haven’t been an undergraduate for a while, yes, it’s possible to go around the requirement for 3 letters of recommendation from professors. 
  • Try to get letters of recommendation from meaningful things that you’ve done since being out of school.

4. How do I submit the letters of recommendation to the med schools?

  • You must submit your letters of recommendation to schools physically through the mail. But you have to first create a record for each letter through the AMCAS application.
  • The AMCAS application opens in May. That’s when you can begin submitting the letters (since you need to create a record of each letter on the AMCAS application first).
  • “Creating” a letter in the AMCAS application is basically
    • Notifying AMCAS who is writing your letter
    • Generating an ID number for your letter
  • Once you have an ID for your letter, you can give the AMCAS letter ID to the person that is writing your letter. The person who writes your letter will include this ID number in the letter they write for you.
  • Your letter of rec writer will then submit your letter of rec to AMCAS. AMCAS will upload the letter of rec on to your AMCAS file, and the letter of rec will be electronically available to any med school that you wish to send that letter to.

5. Should I waive my rights to see the letters? 

  • Yes! But if you’re not waiving your rights to see the letter, you probably don’t have enough faith in the person writing your letter. In which case, they probably aren’t the best person to write your letter.
Check out the answer and explanation to this question at PremedHQ.com!
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