Letters of Recommendation and Committee Packets
Letters of recommendation are an integral portion of your application. Besides your personal statement, is the only other place that is not a black and white score like your GPA or admissions test score. It is a place where recommenders can shine light on what makes you special and unique and why you would be a valuable asset to the graduate health program. However, some letter writers are not well informed on what should comprise letter content. In order to assist your recommenders in writing quality letters, we advise you send your recommenders the PDF on “Guidelines for writing letters of evaluation” from the AAMC. Although this is technically written for medical school applicants, the content is applicable for all health professions letters of recommendation.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How many letters should I solicit and from whom?
Most students have between 3-5 letters of recommendation. One to two recommendations should be a professor who can attest to your abilities in the hard sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math). However, it falls on the applicant to check with their schools of interest for exact letter requirements as this can vary significantly from school to school. In general, you want recommenders who can attest to your academic abilities, your growth and maturation as a student and a person, and other key characteristics noted in the AAMC PDF above, so don’t hesitate to request a letter from a humanities or social science professor who knows you well. You will also want a recommendation from the health care practitioner who you have worked for or shadowed. For some PA schools, you must have a letter from a PA. If you have performed undergraduate research or are involved with volunteering, you can request a letter from your supervisor. Coaches can also write you a letter as they can highlight your abilities as team player and your growth over your 4 years at SHU.
One thing to keep in mind is quality over quantity. Having 7 mediocre letters is not as helpful as having 3 strong letters.
- When should I ask my recommenders for letters?
It depends. The applications sites for the different health professions have varying cycle start dates when the site becomes active and deadlines for the health professions also vary. It is best to communicate with your advisor. Keep in mind that faculty are very busy, letters cannot be written on short notice. Be sure your give your recommender plenty of time, we recommend 6 weeks notice with a hard deadline.
Sometimes students perform internships or research outside of SHU. You can ask for the letter after completion of the experience and have it sent to your advisor where it will be logged until needed.
- What format should my recommenders be using?
Letter writers can craft the recommendation in Word and save the document as a PDF. All letters must be on letterhead and must be signed. If the letters are not correctly formatted, we cannot use them and delays in the application process will occur.
- How should my recommenders send the letters?
Medical, Dental and Optometry Letters
The letters can be emailed directly to your pre-health advisor or can be sent in hard copy in the mail.
Physician Assistant, Pharmacy and Veterinary Letters
Your recommenders can directly upload their letter to the governing site for your graduate health program (CASPA, PA; PharmCAS, Pharmacy; VMCAS, Veterinary). You will enter in your recommenders information to the governing site. You should advise your recommenders to keep an eye on their email for a request from the respective site. They will be given login information to directly upload their letters.
Medical (MD, DO, Podiatry), Dental and Optometry Committee Packets
For those qualified candidates applying to medical, podiatry, dental or optometry school, letters of recommendation are compiled and a committee letter is written by a pre-health advisor. This letter includes individual letters of recommendation from your references, as well as a cover letter from one of the advisors. Only after all letters have been received, after the student’s MCAT, DAT, or OAT score has been reported to the advisor AND after a formal meeting with an advisor will the committee letter be assembled and uploaded to application websites. It is the student’s responsibility to submit all materials in a timely manner.