August 10, 2015
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Applying to dental school can be overwhelming. You have to work hard at volunteering, obtaining the necessary work experience, writing a compelling personal statement, studying for the UKCAT and putting together all of your transcripts. With so many things that need your personal attention, getting a letter of evaluation seems like a breeze. You simply ask somebody qualified to write out the letter for you, give them a few details and your role ends there.
Not quite. The truth is, while you could get a recommendation letter by taking the easy way out, you would not get the letter you deserve. What you would in fact get is a lacklustre, generic letter that is not likely to impress any reader. When you have worked so hard to achieve the required high grades and spent time volunteering, obtaining work experience and working on your personal statement, it would be shame to short change yourself when it comes to your letter of recommendation.
You may not have the final say on the exact contents of the recommendation letter but there’s plenty you can do to make sure that you get the best letter possible.
This cannot be emphasised enough. Someone who knows you only fleetingly is never going to be able to write a genuinely persuasive letter about your attributes. Only someone who knows you well can do justice to this. According to the experts, it is far better to approach someone who knows you well and can demonstrate this depth of understanding in the letter rather than approach someone who may be of a higher standing but does not know you well enough.
Choosing the right letter-writer is the first step towards obtaining a winning letter of recommendation.
You know you are going to need that letter of recommendation to complete your application for submission so why wait till the last minute? Everybody is busy and has their own personal and professional commitments. If you wait for last minute and try and then need the letter to be written in the shortest time possible, your first choice of letter writer may not be able to comply, forcing you to choose from your list of second and third best. Not an ideal situation when you are looking for a letter highlighting your best attributes and your achievements.
Asking early also gives the author ample time to reflect over what they know about you and what is the best way to put it across without sounding patronising.
In fact, be over-generous. Provide the letter writer with your complete CV, which they can use as a reference, an exhaustive list of your goals and your academic and non-academic accomplishments, a copy of your personal statement (even if it is still in draft form) and a copy of your grades. If you have worked with the individual, jog their memory by providing a small write-up of the work you completed under their guidance. The more information you provide, the better your chances of getting a letter that demonstrates that the author truly knows you well and genuinely supports your application.
Soliciting letters in a smart strategic fashion by applying the three tips stated above can make the difference between a standout letter and one that is totally forgettable.