Of all the things you do to prepare for getting into medical school, securing great recommendation letters should be at the top of your list.
One strategy you should know about: committee letters.
A medical school committee letter sums up the comments from all of your recommendation letters and is typically written by a faculty member or your pre-med advisor.
It's important that you find out if your school traditionally sends a committee letter. If they do, make sure you submit one with your application. If you don't, it looks bad and medical schools will wonder why you don't have one.
Check your school's committee letter deadlines and make sure you get all your letters submitted well before the school's deadline.
The benefits of committee letters? They force you to secure your recommendation letters early, which then forces you to get in gear earlier than you normally might. They're also good at explaining extenuating circumstances if you have them. Having a faculty member explain otherwise red flags, like a low grade or GPA, can go a long way with medical school admissions committees.
Ready to get started? Great. Use these six strategies to get the best recommendation letters possible:
1. Pick the right person
The person who recommends you is nearly as important as the recommendation itself. You'll want at least one recommendation from a science professor who knows your work, a bit about you, and why you'd make a great medical student. Be sure to include one non-science professor too, preferably one who can speak to your work ethic, creativity, and intelligence.
You should also include any physicians who oversaw a job shadow or internship who can attest to your fitness for the profession.
Of course, see if you can get that medical committee to submit one on your behalf, too.
Make sure your recommenders know what they need to know about you
Your recommenders need to have a command of three things about you: your uniqueness, your credentials, why you're qualified for medical school, and how you can manage the demands of medical school and the profession as a whole.
These are not just professors you randomly had, but those who can speak not just to your abilities and academic accomplishments, but your integrity, honesty, diligence, and creativity.
Early is better than later. Give your professors and other recommenders excess time in crafting your letter.
The spring before you finish undergrad is a good time--it's less busy and your professors will have ample time to finish your letter.
Rule of thumb? Four weeks minimum, preferably double that.
When you ask, be sure to send along your resume and your personal statement.
Select the features you want to see highlighted in your letter
You have more control over this letter than you think.
Consider the skills and attributes that you want your recommenders to highlight and ask those people who can attest to them best. While you'll want someone to speak to your exceptional academic ability, you also may want to feature your volunteer work, or how your fluency in multiple languages will make you a good doctor.
Be strategic here. Find those people who can best speak to the attributes that you want most highlighted.
Provide your writes with reference materials
Give every one of your recommenders a reminder about who you are and what's important to you.
Be ready with your resume and highlight the finer points of your work with a brief summary. Including your personal statement will help give your recommenders a better sense of who you are, what you value, and why medicine in the perfect fit.
Say thank you
Relationships matter. If someone is important enough in your life to help you get into medical school, they're important enough to thank.
This is a no-brainer, but you might be surprised who doesn't remember to do it. Send a personal, handwritten note to each recommender, and maybe even a small gift, too.
It's not only appropriate, it will make you stand out from the pack and seal your relationship as a positive one.
Get out there, get going, and make that list of folks you want rooting for you in the application process.
Learn more about applying to medical school.