Please note: UNLV currently does not offer committee letters. Students will need to secure individual letters of recommendation. We will keep you updated as to the status of new committee letters.
When applying to professional school, you will need 3-5 STRONG letters of recommendation from writers with whom you have long-term relationships and who can address multiple competencies, such as those listed on the AAMC website. Although the competencies listed are for “pre-med” students, you will find that a majority of them apply to other pre-professional tracks as well.
The most frequent question we get asked is, “who should write my letters of recommendation?” As advisors, we aren’t here to tell you who to ask; we are here to guide you through the process of securing your letters for your application. Generally speaking, the best recommendation letter writers are those professors, mentors and healthcare professionals that you have shadowed, worked with closely, can speak to your academic abilities or humanistic side, and will write you a STRONG letter. Choose someone who can speak in concrete terms about your passion for professional school and why you will excel as a healthcare professional. The key to finding these letter writers? Start forming your relationships EARLY in your pre-professional career. Far too often, students come to us at the point of application and are still unsure of who to ask to write their letters. Asking a professor, healthcare professional, community service director, etc. “just to ask” will result in a less than stellar letter for your application and this can be detrimental in the admissions process. Remember: start forming relationships EARLY!
Make it as easy as possible for your letter writers. Schedule a meeting to address your goals. Provide your recommender with your resume, personal statement and competencies or strengths that you would like addressed in the letter. Express gratitude for their time and effort.
Respect your recommender and give him or her ample time to write your letters. Your request already imposes on your recommender’s time, and a last-minute request is an even greater imposition. Not only is it rude to ask for a letter close to a deadline, but you will also end up with a rushed letter that is far less thoughtful than is ideal. Don’t assume that it is anyone’s duty to write a letter for you, and realize that these letters take a lot of time out of your recommender’s already busy schedule.
Types of Letters
It is of utmost importance that you do your research into specific letter guidelines for the schools you are applying to, especially in regards to whom the letters should be from. Schools will often require a science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) and/or non-science professor, healthcare professional, or “other”, but requirements can be different from program to program. Please pay attention to the requirements!
- Faculty/Professor Letters
Since many professors have hundreds of students in their classes in a given semester, it is your job to reach out to them first, build a relationship, and then ask for a letter. Letters from professors should not only address your academic capabilities but also your motivation for your chosen career. Since letters do address your academic capabilities, you should be seeking letters from professors in which you received a good grade in the class. Lastly, make sure you understand the necessary requirements regarding “science” professors. “Science” professors are often those from Biology, Chemistry, or Physics areas.
- How to Get Strong Letters from Professors
- Get to know your professors
- Go to class and office hours
- Volunteer for research or to TA
- Take more than one class with the same professor
- Maintain the relationship
- Attend virtual office hours
- Ask meaningful questions to show that you care about the course
- How To Ask
- Be respectful
- Ask 2-3 months in advance
- Request the letter via in-person meeting
- Follow up with a scheduled meeting to review your goals & resume
- Provide your personal statement, resume & AAMC Guidelines & Competencies
- Medical/Healthcare Professionals
Request your letter from a medical professional that you have developed a relationship with through multiple hours of clinical or shadowing. The letter should address your skills as a future healthcare profession.
- Research Letters
Letters from research professors provide another validation of your aptitude for life-long learning and research and could be especially important to programs with a heavy research mission. In projects led by a graduate assistant, you may find that most of your experience is with the Graduate assistant rather than the professor. In this situation, the graduate assistant with whom you have worked most closely may write you a letter and have the lead professor cosign.
- Other types of Letters
Often students will have other letter writers that know them well and can speak strongly to the strengths and attributes. This could be a volunteer supervisor, a liberal arts professor, or family physician, just to name a few. The guidelines are the same. Provide them with the information they will need to write a strong letter. Share your passion and goals.
Who NOT to get Letters From
Yes, there are people you shouldn’t be asking for letters of recommendation. They include family members, “family friends”, patients, and, generally speaking, people who don’t know you well. Letters from family and family friends are considered bias and the admissions committees won’t give them any merit. Those from people who don’t know you well often result in “alive and breathing” letters, meaning they don’t tell the committee much of anything other than you are “alive and breathing”.
Also, many students make the mistake of getting letters from distant acquaintances who have powerful or influential positions. The strategy often backfires. Your family member’s employer may know the governor, but the governor doesn’t know you well enough to write a meaningful letter. This type of celebrity letter will make your application seem superficial.
- More information:
- 10 can be uploaded into applicant’s account
- Students can indicate which letters go to which programs
- Electronic submission of letters is preferred by all professional schools application services. Follow specific instructions in your application on what information to provide to your letter writers to formally ask for the LOR.
- Never physically collect a letter from a letter writer yourself!
- If you need to collect letters early, utilize services such as Interfolio. Be sure to note which of these third-party services your professional school application service integrates with for uploads.
- When asking for a LOR, it is a good idea to give your letter writers:
- copy of your transcripts
- your resume/CV
- copy of your personal statement
- Give your letter writers the general courtesy of information about the letter writing process, including deadlines, how they will upload the letter, and by telling them when you have inputted their contact information so they can keep an eye on their email for instructions.