Letters of Recommendation
If you are applying to a professional school, you will be asked to submit one or more letters of recommendation. These letters will be an essential part of your application. These letters should speak to your strengths as a student and a member of your community, your capacity for growth, and your ability to succeed in your prospective career.
It is common for schools to require at least two or three letters minimum and six letters maximum; however, quality is weighed more heavily than quantity. Increasing the amount of recommendation letters in your application does not necessarily increase the strength of your application.
Who To Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Many health professions schools have specific requirements for letters of recommendation. You are encouraged to check the websites of the schools where you are applying to ensure that your letters meet all requirements. Each individual who writes a letter of recommendation for you should be able to speak about your individual strengths, accomplishments, and capabilities in detail.
We recommend seeking letters of recommendation from the following parties:
- One professor who has taught you in a science course
- One professor who has taught you in a humanities or social science course
- One individual of your choosing who can speak to your professional experience or academic experience, or a recommender based on individual school requests.
You may want to consider asking the following parties, either for one of your core letters or for an additional letter of recommendation:
- A research mentor or pre-professional health mentor
- A thesis advisor
- A supervisor from an internship, work experience, or extracurricular activity
- A health professional you have previously shadowed or worked with
How To Ask for a Recommendation Letter
It is best to begin this process as early as possible, and ideally while you are still in class with or working with your potential recommender. You may wish to schedule a meeting with this individual so you may obtain their initial consent to a letter and discuss your future goals. This will also give your recommender ample time to begin recording specific details about your academic or work performance that could be included in a a letter. Even if you plan on taking a gap year before entering a health professions school, it is suggested that you meet with your recommenders before you graduate.
Be prepared to make a formal request with your potential recommenders, even if they have already agreed to write a letter during an informal meeting. Try to make this formal request in person or via email during the spring (or even earlier if you are applying to a program with early deadlines). Make sure to give your recommenders enough time to construct thoughtful and detailed letters. Be aware that if you wait too long to ask for a recommendation, your best recommenders might have to turn down your request if they have too many other recommendation requests already.
Recommendation Letter Guidelines for Specific Schools
Allopathic medical schools – Association of American Medical Colleges, AAMC
Dental Schools – American Dental Education Association, ADEA
Naturopathic Medical Schools – Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, AANMC
Osteopathic Medical Schools – American Association of Colleges of Ostheopathic Medicine, AACOM
Pharmacy Schools – Pharmacy College Application Service, PharmCAS
Physician Assistant Schools – Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants, CASPA
Podiatric Medical Schools – American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine, AACPM
Veterinary Schools – Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, AAVMC
If you are asked to submit a Committee Letter, there is no pre-medical committee at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There are no other “officials” to write letters. Letters are written by faculty who have had a first-hand opportunity to evaluate the student’s skills and abilities. You must get to know some faculty who have taught you so that they can write letters of recommendation when you apply to professional schools.
Please note the resources in the Related Links are for use by both students and faculty.