May 16, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Letters of recommendation are a crucial component of any medical school application process and of course, you’d like yours to be outstanding. But how can you ensure that you will get one that is worded exactly the way you want it to be? Unfortunately, there’s no way to do this unless you are planning on getting one from a relative or a close family friend who has some professional standing. But that’s not really going to work, is it?
Like it or not, when it comes to letters of recommendation, this is one aspect of the application process that is not 100% within your control. The only thing you have control over is who to ask. After that, it’s out of your hands.
This is absolutely the most crucial of all factors. Who you approach for this vital document can make all the difference to your acceptance into med school. It would be a mistake to underestimate its importance and approach someone just because they are the most easily available.
The best person to ask would be your pre-health or premedical advisor. This person is likely to be the one who knows you the best and who will be able to write a compelling letter that highlights your strengths. Before you approach them however, take a minute to consider if this is someone who you get along well with, who is unbiased towards you and thinks highly of you and your work. While most faculty members will not intentionally slam you or your credentials, it is unrealistic to expect someone that you do not get along with to write a glowing letter on your behalf. Use your better judgment. If you have any doubts about getting a good letter, trust that feeling and ask someone else.
You know you’re going to need to submit that letter of recommendation along with your other documents so why wait until the last minute to ask? Once you’ve decided who you want to approach, go ahead and get it done. The advantage of getting your letter written early is that it gives that writer enough time to think about what they want to say. If they want to find out some more about you, they have enough time for that too. A late request puts pressure on the writer to pen down whatever they can think of at the spur of the moment and puts even more pressure on you to get it back in time to be submitted. Worse still, it may force you to stalk the person in an effort to get it done as quickly as possible. Sending multiple emails, notes and text messages to ‘please get it done ASAP’ will not help your cause.
Knowing who to approach and approaching them as early as possible are two of the most important factors in obtaining a stellar recommendation letter that can tip the scales in your favour in the med school admission process.