Pre-Health Advisement Services

Print this page

How to Obtain Letters of Recommendation (LOR)

The letter of recommendation, a critical component of your health professional school admissions application, is entirely dependent on someone else -- your recommender/evaluator. How you request a letter influences a person’s responses and ultimately the quality of your letter of recommendation.

  • DO:
    • -Consider if the recommedner you are asking is the best person to provide you with a letter of reference. The people you ask need to really know you. They need to be able to write a detailed personal letter of support; not a generic letter that they write for all students.
    • -Arrange an appointment, explaining that you wish to discuss your plans to apply to health professional schools. This gives the professor/recommender a ‘heads up’ -and a chance to think about whether he or she can write a helpful letter on your behalf. Be sure to ASK if he or she would provide you with a supportive letter of recommendation.
    • -Be prepared to discuss the type of degree you seek, programs to which you applying, how you arrived at your choices, goals, future aspirations, and why you believe the faculty member is a good candidate to write a letter of your behalf.
    • -Give your recommenders enough time (6-8 weeks) to consider the request and to write the letter.
    • -Provide a personal statement and a resume or CV so that the individual knows of your background, involvements, and interests.
    • -Place all of your documentation in a folder and neatly label each item. Clip each recommendation form to supporting documentation, relevant admissions essays, and a stamped envelope. Use a sticky note to mark the deadline on each. Neatness counts because it gives faculty the impression that you are organized and it makes their job easier.
    • -Provide information about who the letter should be addressed to.
    • -Take no for an answer. If a faculty member declines to write you a letter, don’t push. He or she is doing you a favor.
    • -Thank the individual regardless of outcome.
  • Do NOT:
    • -Do not ask before or after class, in the hall, or at any other random time.
    • -Do not wait until right before the deadline to ask.
    • -Do not ask, “could you write a letter?” Instead ask, “Do you feel that you are able to write a letter supporting my application to medical or dental school?" Ask whether the faculty member feels that he or she can write a "helpful letter." You don’t need a generic letter – you need a strong letter.
  • How to Follow-Up

    If someone has graciously agreed to write a letter on your behalf and they have yet to submit the letter or form, it is appropriate to follow up with the individual.

    •  -Be polite (remember they are doing you a favor)
    •  -Remind them of the due date

    If  you are extremely close to the deadline it is okay to nicely ask if the individual still has time to write a letter. If they cannot write you a letter, you should notify the appropriate person and find someone else who may be able to write on your behalf.

    Always send a thank you to each of your evaluators. They have taken time to do you a great favor.

    If you can keep the above in mind when asking for a letter of recommendation then not only will you be thoughtful in your request, but you will be headed toward success.