Almost every program will require letters of recommendation and they are an incredibly valuable part of your application. Here are some things to consider to ensure that your letters are effective:
- Every program will have slightly different requirements, so be sure to do your research. Not only will it vary in the quantity required, but they might be very specific about who they want the letters from.
- Start thinking about who you will approach to write your letters of recommendation. It is important that you've made connections with faculty on your campus and have good relationships with professionals in your chosen field, especially those that you've shadowed. These relationships will serve you well when it's time to ask for letters of recommendation. Also, make sure that you are identifying people that really know you and can speak to who you are as a student, a person, and a future healthcare professional.
- Once you've identified who you want to ask, be sure to ask them with enough lead time. Do not make any last minute requests! You will normally gather letters of recommendation during your junior year in order to meet application deadlines early in your senior year. It is okay to identify these people even earlier in the process, even if you're 2-3 years away from applying.
- Try to set up meetings with the people that you are asking to write letters for you. Treat it like a job interview and bring a cover letter and a resume. Give the potential writer as much information about you as possible. Also, be specific with them about your goals and why you are pursuing this particular field.
- If you are feeling intimidated or uncomfortable by this process, feel free to meet with the pre-health advisor or consult with a career counselor about how to approach potential letter writers. Always remember, the people that you are approaching to write letters of recommendation have been in your shoes! We have all had to ask for letters of recommendations. Just be sure that your approach is respectful (both in timeliness and manner), professional, and appreciative. And always send a thank you note for their support.