The medical school letter of recommendation is a written document written to indicate support for a student’s medical school admission.
The recommender typically writes a medical school recommendation letter describing the student as being a good fit for medical school and possessing all the qualities of good healthcare professional. Due to the highly competitive nature of medicine as a career path, most medical schools look beyond the candidate’s academic record. Hence, a medical school recommendation letter from a reputable individual goes a long way to further the candidate’s cause.
Standards and formats for securing medical school letters of recommendation vary from school to school, so the medical school letter of recommendation should be written in accordance with the standards and format of the medical school to which the candidate is applying. If the applicant is a student, some medical schools would require a certain number of letters from the science faculty while other schools may ask the applicant to provide medical school recommendation letters from supervisors or employers if the candidate is in the workforce.
In most cases, medical schools require at least three medical school letters of recommendation. These letters may be provided by professors of undergraduate classes attended by the candidate.
Do You Need a Recommendation Letter?
Medical schools hold their candidates to the highest standards and as such, medical school recommendation letters are a requirement for the candidate to be considered for enrollment. A strong description of the candidate as nothing less than an outstanding and excellent prospective healthcare provider is essential. The recommender must be able to describe the candidate’s best skills as well as good character traits and accomplishments.
It is better to not write a letter of recommendation at all than to write a weak or an unenthusiastic medical school recommendation letter as any uncertainty about the student’s credibility or lack of enthusiasm in showing honest support by the recommender may cost the candidate their enrollment in medical school. Therefore, it is important to note that the recommender should be fully willing and eager to recommend the candidate for medical school.
It is a norm in medical school screening for applicants to present high GPA and MCAT scores in addition to an impressive personal statement. A medical school recommendation letter helps the candidate to stand out and build upon the good impression already created with the academic achievements. The role of the medical school recommendation letter is to emphasize the exceptionality of the candidates and make a lasting impression on the screening official.
Types of Medical School Recommendation Letter
Medical school letters of recommendation can be classified into three:
Individual medical school recommendation letters are sent by the individual recommenders by mail, fax, or email. Each recommender would be required to send their letters to the admissions committee directly, recommending the candidate for enrolment in the medical school.
The most widely accepted type of medical school letter of recommendation in the United States is the committee letter. A committee letter is typically written by the candidate’s university’s pre-med advising committee, a representation of the school’s evaluation of the candidates. However, not all schools offer this kind of letter.
Some schools prefer the letter packet option. The letter pocket involves assembling the letters from all recommenders and sending the packet through the school’s career center. There is however no letter from the school’s pre-med advisor or committee in a letter packet. Letter packets are a common practice for many schools and it only contains individual letters from individual recommenders.
For candidates that have served in the military, the requirements may be completely different from other candidates. It is therefore the best practice to confirm the recommendation letters required by the individual medical school before attempting to write a recommendation letter.
When a recommender is preparing to write the medical school recommendation letter it is important that they involve the candidate in the writing process. The recommender may request an outline or a list of bullet points along with credible documents as proof to cover the letter from the candidate to better articulate the candidate’s strong points.
The candidate may provide the outline, prose draft, or bullet points to cover via email or in person. Hence, the candidate should be involved in the writing process of the medical school recommendation letter. The recommender is required to write the medical school recommendation letter based on information provided by the candidate so as not to defeat the purpose of writing the medical school recommendation letter.
While the recommender is writing the medical school recommendation letter, the recommender should consider the personal characteristics and qualities that make the candidate suited for enrollment in medical school. The best way to highlight these characteristics and qualities is to provide examples and electives that demonstrate these qualities.
It is not enough to simply state the candidate’s strong characteristics. However, if the recommender describes a situation where the candidate demonstrated these characteristics, it paints a better picture in the mind of the screening official. A strong recommendation letter must address the candidate’s characteristics and qualities and provide anecdotal examples of instances that the candidate has demonstrated these qualities.
The recommender must give a clear and concise account of these anecdotal examples. The recommender must also cite examples of anecdotes where the candidate has exhibited these strong characteristics in an official capacity be it the office lab or classroom. Hence, the most powerful tool a recommender can use in a medical school recommendation letter is the anecdotal account of the candidate’s outstanding characteristics and achievements.
A great way to demonstrate consistency and coherence in the medical school recommendation letter is by examining the candidate’s personal statement and making a list of the key messages that candidates included about themselves. The recommender may advise the candidate to extract the strong points on which they would comment from the personal statement.
The recommender may then phrase a medical school recommendation letter in a way that argues those points But in order for all of that essential information from the documents of the student to be extracted, those same particular documents are essential to be accessible to the writer him or herself too. Therefore, they should also be requested from the student prior to the composition of the letter as mentioned earlier.
These documents could include the student/applicant’s personal mission statement etc. The student should also provide the recommender with specific guidelines that apply to the medical school to which the student is applying. This way, the recommender may tailor their medical school recommendation letter to the medical school’s preferences.
Writing the Letter of Recommendation
A medical school recommendation should follow an official format that makes it formal and concise. Typically, a medical school recommendation letter should fit on a single page. The letter may be between 400 to 600 words long and must consist of an introduction as well as four body paragraphs. Finally, the medical school recommendation letter must end with a proper conclusion.
It should firstly be double-checked as per the guidelines provided by the student/applicant for whom the recommender is writing whether the letter is to be submitted to the medical school by mail delivery or by fax, whichever of the two it is, the recommender should ensure that the following information is provided at the top of the page.
The same applies if the school requires a letterhead:
- Date of writing the recommendation letter for medical school
- Recommender’s full name
- Recommender’s title
- School/business name
- Recommender’s street address
- Recommender’s city state and zip code
- Recommender’s preferred contact
The introduction part of the medical school recommendation letter should contain the name of the applicant as well as other basic information regarding the medical school applicant including the applicant’s registration number and other relevant information. The recommender is required to write a formal salutation before stating their recommendation and introducing themselves and their position.
The introduction to a medical school recommendation letter should be fairly short; a concise introduction of the candidate and the recommender, stating the purpose for the letter should suffice. The recommender briefly introduces the candidates and why they will be recommending them.
The recommender can then proceed to introduce themselves; they however do not need to describe their position in further detail as this information will already be specified in technical terms in the letterhead section of the letter. The recommender should also introduce the candidate in a general manner and include a brief description of how they know the applicant and for how long.
Dear admissions committee:
As the head of physiology at the New York Community college, I seldom find the time to write letters of recommendation. However, when I received a call from Tim Jones to write a letter on his behalf I just could not refuse. In the past 3 years, it has been my utmost pleasure to have him in my physiology courses. I immediately took note of his attention to detail and efficient working skills. I immediately took him under my wing as a paid assistant to help me edit freshman papers, a responsibility which he has carried out efficiently and professionally.
In the example above, the recommender declares their position as the head of the physiology department and states the exact length of time for which they have known the applicant. The recommender also States what class of theirs the applicant took, and under what official capacity they have closely interacted with the applicant. The statement stating that the recommender does not often write letters of recommendation implies that the applicant is truly outstanding.
A concise explanation of the relationship
The medical school recommendation letter should contain a concise explanation of the relationship between the applicant and the recommender. If the recommender taught or supervised the applicant in a project or an official capacity, it should be clearly and concisely stated in the medical school recommendation letter, preferably by tying this description to an anecdotal account of the applicant.
List of the applicant’s accomplishments
While it is easier to list out the applicant’s accomplishments, it is preferable to only use the list as a guide to draft the final medical school recommendation letter. The list can serve as a guide to help the recommender describe instances of the applicant exhibiting or demonstrating their strong characteristics. However, simply stating these accomplishments in a list may not have the desired effect on the screening committee.
Contributions the individual can make to the program
The medical school recommendation letter may also contain a few suggestions about the contributions the applicant can make to the program to which the applicant is applying. The recommender may use past contributions made by the applicant as a guide to identify potential contributions the applicant can make to the program.
The medical school recommendation letter must also contain the recommender’s opinion of reasons for the potential success of the applicant. By doing so, the recommender is communicating their confidence in the competence of the applicant.
Unique characteristics and credentials of the applicant
This part of the medical school recommendation letter should elaborate on the applicant’s unique characteristics and attributes that make the applicant an ideal medical school candidate and also potentially a good healthcare provider. The recommender should utilize both quantitative evidence and qualitative evidence to support these recommendations. The recommender can use traits as well as exceptional performances and the ability to work on uniquely difficult situations as specific examples and anecdotes. The aim is to ensure that the admissions committee or screening officials will be assured that the candidate is capable and prepared to meet the rigorous challenges of medical school.
Since the recommender is required to have interacted with the applicant under an academic or professional capacity the recommender should be able to provide results of the applicant’s prior work. These results should also be stated as an anecdotal example.
A medical school recommendation letter conclusion should restate the recommender’s recommendation while providing an invitation for further contact by the admissions committee or the screening official. The letter should end with a sign-off and signature.
Submission of letter
Submitting the medical school recommendation letters must be done properly and on time. Ensuring that the letter is submitted on time and in the proper format is of utmost importance. Candidates can visit the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) website where the most recent edition of the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) guide can be found. The guide contains essential information that the candidate needs on submitting the medical school letter of recommendation.
If the candidate is applying to an Osteopathic medicine program, vital information can be found on the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) website, where they can access the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book. For a lot of medical schools, the candidate is required to submit their medical school recommendation letter through the AMCAS website. It is important for candidates to familiarize themselves with the application process, deadlines, and requirements for the program to which they are applying. Doing this will help the candidate meet submission deadlines and secure correctly formatted medical school recommendation letters.
Medical School Letter of Recommendation Samples
Here are a few samples for you:
June 12, 2021
Thomas Wellington, MD, PhD
Professor of Physiology and Medicine, University of Missouri
St Louis, MS 1678
Letter for Leonard Cooper
AAMC number 1234567
Dear Admissions Committee Members,
My first encounter with Leonard Cooper was during his freshman year in my Introduction to Physiology course. Although the lecture was a large lecture class, Leonard showed his zeal and enthusiasm for Medicine by regularly coming to office hours to discuss the weekly topic and gain advice about his lifelong dream of a career in medicine. By the next semester, he had made it undeniable that he is a capable and outstanding student with his perfect grades in the previous semester. I immediately took him on as my TA and he assisted me with grading tests and papers as well as study sessions.
Leonard thrived with the additional responsibilities of being my TA, and still maintained his perfect CGPA. I was impressed to see him maintain academic excellence while balancing extracurricular responsibilities and demonstrating his zeal for medicine by volunteering in the local health center.
In my two decades of teaching, I have met no other student that has exhibited such academic excellence and zeal for medicine. I am confident that he has all it takes to succeed in medical school and become a great physician. I fully recommend Leonard for admission.
Dear admissions committee:
It is with great pleasure that I write to you to recommend Chase Williams now that she has concluded the pre-medicine program at Oklahoma State University. I was Chase’s professor in her freshman year when she took my introductory biology course during which time I also served as her academic advisor. I have remained her academic advisor for the past four years and in that time, I have become familiar with her work ethic and potential as a medical student.
Chase maintained a near-perfect score throughout the first semester as my student and has since then impressed me with her consistent academic excellence and work ethic. Miss Williams maintains a very high standard which is reflected in all of her work. In an assignment meant to demonstrate the relationship between structure and function, Chase showed an uncommon familiarity with the concept and was able to expertly demonstrate what the class had covered regarding genetic variation as well as the relationship with evolution. The true mark of a great science student is an interest in the subject that goes beyond the classroom discussion, and Chase has demonstrated time and time again her efforts to gain more knowledge outside the classroom.
I have come to identify Chase as a focused and organized individual through our several advisory sessions. I have witnessed her ability to plan and remain on schedule allowing her to keep a level head and progress through the pre-med program with great success. I am quite confident that these skills will serve her well in facing the rigorous challenges of medical school.
In my discussions with several of her other professors, I have concluded that she can work efficiently in a group setting as well as individually. Her sincere dedication, as well as her oral and written communication skills, demonstrate a potential for building a strong patient-doctor relationship. During a presentation she gave as a volunteer of the students Red Cross club, she was able to communicate with the audience with the use of visual aids and a very well realized and informative presentation. Her collaboration with the Red Cross demonstrates that she has a strong moral compass and a desire to effect positive change.
It is not uncommon to receive a large number of requests for letters of recommendation each semester due to the sheer number of students that come through our pre-medicine program. However, I only write for a few students each year and I ensure that I only select the most promising candidates. Chase was an obvious choice for me this year as she has demonstrated that she is one of the most qualified students applying for medical school from our institution this year therefore, I wholeheartedly Grant her my highest recommendation.
If you require further information regarding Miss Williams’s application, do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached by telephone at: (555) 123 1234 or email at: [email protected]
Thank you very much for your time.
Prof. Jackson Curt
Prof. Of Biology and Academic Advisor
Oklahoma State University
Dear admissions committee:
It is my pleasure to recommend Carl Higgins in his application for medical school. I accepted Carl as a student in my Sociology of health and medicine class this past semester because he demonstrated such enthusiasm for the subject. I have taught him in the past, and I was thrilled to find out he is applying to medical school. I decided to accept him as a student in my course to help him deepen his understanding of the social factors which will help him navigate through health disparities across socially defined groups.
I have taught Carl for two semesters, and I have since then come to know him personally. He never missed my office hours and our discussions have shown me that he is an extremely promising student. His academic performance and coursework rival my best sociology majors. I typically have my students make brainstorming sheets when reading through course materials, as a way of monitoring their preparation. Carl has spent the most time developing his ability to comprehend new concepts through note-taking. The effect of his preparedness showed in class and he offered extremely constructive class participation.
Carl wrote about the difficulty faced by physicians when serving low-income communities for his end-of-term paper in sociology. He was able to investigate the trend of top physicians serving wealthier communities and the lack of incentives for well-trained healthcare workers to work in poor areas through intensive research. He included visual aids which he drew to illustrate the cost of education to become a physician versus the kinds of wages provided by institutions that rely on government funding. I was impressed by his integration of sociological theory in making his analysis as well as his ability to describe multiple problems and unify them into a single argument.
Carl has successfully demonstrated many qualities that make an ideal student. He has shown his capability to skillfully assimilate and use new concepts through independent research and thought. He has expertly handled the demand and stress of academic work and maintained his academic excellence.
I am confident that Carl is more than capable of succeeding in medical school and I ho[pe my recommendation is seriously considered for admitting him into your program. For any questions or information, contact me by email at: [email protected]
Prof. Adam Smith
Department of Sociology
Ohio State University
June 12, 2021
Dr. Gilliam Wayne
77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter to recommend Keith Stevenson for medical school. I was Keith’s Professor during the fall semester in 2019 in Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism, a part of his pre-med coursework. I have always tried to pay special attention to pre-med students out of the over one hundred students who enroll in my class annually. Mr. Donald Sanchez, my Teacher’s assistant who worked more closely with Keith assisted me in completing this letter.
Although it is quite challenging to assess a student based on a single semester of a freshman year course, I use three criteria to determine the most promising students: attendance and participation (most students that think highly of themselves perform poorly in this regard), the quality of submitted work (i know the student has a high level of comprehension and academic ability when their completed works need no revision), and finally, The quality of their written answers on mid-term and final exams (these assessments demonstrate the student’s clarity and comprehension of scientific concepts). I was highly impressed to find out that Keith excelled in all three regards proving that he is a student of exceptional ability.
The most attentive and prepared students quickly become apparent despite the size of the class. I had already been familiar with Keitha as one of my most serious students before I formally met him. I asked Mr. Sanchez to provide his notes regarding Keith’s work and I was even more impressed to see that they were all exceptional. Keith constantly demonstrated his ability to clearly understand the concepts presented in class and expertly apply them to his problem-solving. I am confident that his methodical mindset will aid him to succeed in the challenging academic setting of medical school.
Keith also demonstrates excellence in his lab work with his clarity and organization of notes and writing. I reviewed an experiment he performed to test for the flu virus. I observed that Keith expertly followed the procedure and explained his work concisely. I also have to mention that he handled all equipment exceptionally well, before and after the experiment, dominating all areas of application. This places him easily in the top 5% of my class.
Keith Stevenson will make a fine addition to any medical school program, and for this, I give him my full support and recommendation. Please Don’t hesitate to contact me by mail or email if you have further questions.
Dr. Gilliam Wayne
Download free customizable medical school recommendation letter templates from here:
Writing a medical school letter of recommendation is a chance to help the applicant stand out in the screening process by not only highlighting their academic excellence, but by also emphasizing other attributes and qualities that the candidate possesses that will make them a great candidate for medical school, and subsequently, a great healthcare provider. Hence, the medical school recommendation letter should be well written and concise.