How to Request a Rec Letter

Many premeds undervalue the importance of getting excellent letters of recommendation for their medical school application. As a matter of fact, some students have been told that these letters aren’t all that important. Well, let me tell you right now, that is NOT true. These letters matter a lot. Just think about it, each medical school get’s thousands of applicants, most of whom were great students in college. However, for the most part, the medical schools don’t know the applicants personally, so they must rely on other people’s testimonies of the students to judge their character and work ethic. That’s were the rec letters come in play. In this article, I’ll share 3 “must do’s” for requesting a rec letter.

1) Build a foundation. This should be obvious, but I’ll start with it anyways. If you want great letters, you need to ask people with whom you have a great relationship. Great relationships don’t come overnight. Rather, they come from months to years of building a foundational trust and respect for one another. Your request for a rec letter begins at the time of your first interaction with the individual and continues for the full duration of your relationship. So, step #1 in getting a great letter is to invest in the relationship months to years before you need the letter!

2) Ask for a strong letter. Here’s where many premeds drop the ball. They simply ask for a letter of recommendation rather than asking for a STRONG letter. When you ask for a STRONG letter (you don’t have to capitalize the word strong) your letter writer will understand exactly what you mean. He or she knows you want a letter that will make you stand out above you peers who asked for a plain ol’ rec letter. Strong letters include words such as “excellent”, “best”, “exceptional”, etc. Trust me, when the medical schools read rec letters, they can tell the difference between a strong and regular rec letter. You want yours to be in the memorable pile!

3) Send your Diverse Medicine profile and personal statement. No matter how well someone knows you, you can’t expect them to remember everything about you so it’s important that you send them a nice summary of your accomplishments. This is very simple to do. Go to your DiverseMedicine.com profile page and click on the blue “share” icon in the top right corner. This allows you send an email directly from our site that has a link to your profile page for them to review. I’d go as far as to say that every member on Diverse Medicine should use this feature when requesting a rec letter. Also, if you had a completed or draft form of your personal statement, send that as well.

Getting strong rec letters is a priority when applying to medical school. If you can follow these three simple steps, I’m willing to bet that you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the quality of letters you get!

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Amber Donald

Thank you for the advice!

2 months ago

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Dr. Daniel

Very good points. #2 is very important. I received a phone call from a colleague a few weeks ago who was conflicted. He was asked to write a letter for another colleague but in good conscious knew he couldn’t write a strong letter. He did not know whether to write a negative letter or to decline writing that letter. Getting one bad or even subpar letter can destroy your chances.

2 months ago

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Dr. Daniel

Very good points. #2 is very important. I received a phone call from a colleague a few weeks ago who was conflicted. He was asked to write a letter for another colleague but in good conscious knew he couldn’t write a strong letter. He did not know whether to write a negative letter or to decline writing that letter. Getting one bad or even subpar letter can destroy your chances.

2 months ago