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Letters of Recommendation for Medical School

The letter of recommendation – sometimes referred to as a letter of reference or a character evaluation – is a significant part of the medical school application process. Recommendations offer the admission committee a chance to get to know your personal side from the perspective of a third-party. Shining letters can often snag you an interview or acceptance at an otherwise out-of-reach institution, while negative letters can often break an application. Consider the following advice to get the best letters possible:

1) Substance over style. It may be tempting to finagle a letter of recommendation from that Nobel-prize nominee in your department, but stay away from flashy temptation in favor of professors who know you the best and can attest to your reliability and academic skills. You want someone who can personally attest to your best qualities, not someone who will write a generic letter.

2) Seminars over lectures. Zero in on small, upper-level classes with a limited number of students. Discussion-based classes typically give more opportunity for one-on-one attention, meaning that your professors can get to know you better, meaning that you can obtain a better recommendation!

3) Make it easy for your professors as possible. Remember that writing references is a personal favor, not a professional obligation. With this in mind, try to make the process as simple as possible for your reference writer. Ensure that they have at least six weeks notice and know exactly the kinds of schools that you will be applying to, make sure that they have a clear idea of the deadlines, and give them a copy of your resume, transcript, and personal statement so that they have all the information necessary to write a good letter.

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