MedEdits | Medical School Admissions Consulting

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Letters Of Recommendation

When applying to medical school, residency and fellowship, you must carefully select your letter writers. The rules are different depending on your stage of medical training. I will outline the basics that apply to all letters and then discuss individually what is important for medical school, residency and fellowship applicants.

The Basics:

1) Your letter writer must know you well to write a strong and convincing letter.
2) If possible, try to have people who are experienced in admissions write your letters. Writing a strong letter of reference is an art and not everyone knows how to write a great letter even if they think you are a fabulous applicant.
3) Your letter should mention your intellectual abilities, motivation and interpersonal strengths.
4) It does not help to have someone with "a big name" write a letter if it is obvious this person doesn't know you.

Medical School Applicants:

1) The titles of your letter writers are less important as medical school applicants. Most people reading your letters know that, especially in large universities, you may not have much contact with your professors. A teaching assistant, for example, may have more insight regarding your intellectual abilities and motivations than your professor.
2) If your school offers a committee letter, submit it. If you don't, this will be seen as a red flag.
3) Submit a minimum of three letters of reference with at least two from scientists. You must convince the admissions committee that you can handle a rigorous science curriculum.
4) Letters should also mention your suitability for a career in medicine at this stage.

Residency and Fellowship Applicants:

1) Titles matter now. You should have at least two letters from attendings in your chosen specialty. It is best to choose attendings with academic titles who are known in the specialty to which you are applying.
2) Letters must also mention your clinical excellence at this stage.

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