Your letters of recommendation give a view of you that an application or board score can’t so it’s important that you get strong letters to support your candidacy. They are an important part of your application packet and you need to plan early to get appropriate submissions.
Who Do I Get Letters From?
Letters should generally come from faculty who know you well, have worked with you in a clinical setting and are in the specialty you wish to pursue. You want letters from the faculty that know you best and can describe your clinical abilities as well as your personal attributes, such as being a team player or having good problem solving skills. You should get at least two letters from physicians in your chosen specialty. You may need to get a letter from the department chair and/or clerkship director. Make sure you set up a face-to-face meeting so you can make a good impression and supply the necessary information they may need. Generally, you should not solicit letters from residents, preclinical faculty and non-physicians. You should discuss your letter writing selections with the Director of Career Development and/or a representative from Career Services (Student Development) who can help you decide who may be best to ask in your particular field or situation.
How Many Letters Do I Need?
The program will specify the number of letters you need. Most programs will ask for three or four letters. ERAS allows you to store as many letters of recommendation as you wish and designate different letters for each program, but no more than four letters can be sent to an individual program.
How Do I Ask For Letters?
Anticipate who you will ask for letters, get to know them and let them know you beforehand. Decide who your strongest advocates will be. You may be surprised at how willing faculty members are to write letters of recommendation. Keep in mind that they have probably been doing this for quite some time and it’s part of their job to perform this important function. Request a letter of recommendation directly and in person. Ask if the faculty member would feel comfortable writing you a strong letter of recommendation. This gives the potential letter writer an easy out if they are not comfortable and keeps you from getting a negative or neutral letter that will do little to help your candidacy. If the answer is anything other than a strong affirmative, you should probably move on and look elsewhere. If they agree, follow-up with an email confirming so they will remember.
When Should I Ask?
Plan to give your letter writer at least four weeks notice for a letter. Provide a copy of your CV, personal statement (if you have it available), and evaluations. Be as clear and specific as possible about deadlines. Make sure you keep track of those whom you’ve asked and follow-up to make sure your letters are being submitted. Contact Jimmy Renfro for assistance with this. It’s important that you stay in communication with the Career Services Office since they will be assisting you in collecting and submitting your letters of recommendation and other supporting documents.