Blog / 6 Things You Need To Know About Medical School Recommendation Letters

6 Things You Need to Know About Medical School Recommendation Letters

Written by Keenan on May 8, 2023

6 Things You Need to Know About Medical School Recommendation Letters

A convincing letter of recommendation typically includes information about your skills, experience, and achievements to illustrate why they would make a valuable medical student. Knowing how long a medical school recommendation letter should be can help you become informative and impactful. This article details everything you need to know about your medical school letter of recommendation, it’s length, what to include, and why it’s important.


Why Are Recommendation Letters So Important for Medical Schools?

Your medical school recommendation letter should be exceptional. Don’t ask for a letter from someone who doesn’t describe you as an excellent candidate for medical school. Your
referral should be able to talk about your best skills, your most outstanding achievements, and your virtuous character. 

You don’t want mediocre or unmotivated letters of recommendation. The writer should not hesitate to provide you with a letter when you contact them. If your chosen
referral is unsure, it is better to ask someone else, as these letters enhance your application and stand you up to admissions committees. 

After looking at hundreds of applicants with high GPAs, MCAT scores, and impressive personal statements, these letters will make the impression you make with all of your other application materials. In short, these letters need to emphasize your exceptionalism to make a lasting impression.


How Long Should The Recommendation Letter Be?


For the most up-to-date letter of recommendation guidelines, it’s important to refer back to the AAMC Guidelines.

Although the length of each letter varies depending on the content, letters of recommendation should be three to five paragraphs. Typically, the first paragraph introduces the applicant, states their name and the position they are applying for. It also identifies the person writing the letter. The middle paragraphs provide information about the applicant’s qualifications, skills, and achievements. The last paragraph explains why the applicant can be a valuable asset to the


6 Things You Need to Know about Medical School Recommendation Letters

How Many Recommendation Letters Do You Need?

How many letters of recommendation are needed for medical school is a common question.

Medical schools usually require at least three recommendation letters from applicants. Some may ask for four or five, so check this information with the school you apply to. Don’t forget that some medical schools are very strict about their numbers. So if they ask for precisely four letters and tell you they won’t review more than four, don’t send fewer or more recommendations.

Generally, there are three types of recommendation letters for medical schools:


  • Committee Letters
  • Letter Packets
  • Individual Letters.

Committee letters are also common in the US medical schools, written by your university’s pre-medical advisory committee. This letter represents your school’s evaluation of you as a candidate. This type of letter is not given in every school. Letter packets are also an option in some schools. Your referee’s letters are collected and sent by the Career Center at your school. But there is no letter from your pre-medical advisor or committee. Individual letters are what they sound like and are quite common.

Medical schools may require different letters of recommendation depending on your current position or work history. 

For example, some schools may require a certain number of letters from the science faculty. Some may ask for letters from employers or supervisors if you are in the workforce. The requirements may be completely different if you have served in the military. As mentioned earlier, check what types of recommendation letters you are expected to provide with your program.

Don’t forget to ask for more letters than is necessary for your application. Essentially, it’s good to have a backup. Suppose one of your confirmed
referrals is unable to provide a letter. In that case, you will have enough letters to cover the minimum requirements. Medical school candidates can upload up to 10 references to AMCAS and up to 6 to the AACOMAS, but if you are applying through TMDSAS, you can upload a maximum of four recommendation letters. 

Keep in mind that schools that you apply through AACOMAS and TMDSAS will receive all letters you upload, whereas, in AMCAS, you can pick and choose which schools receive which letters.

You are not required to provide a letter of recommendation to verify your application. That is because letters will be sent to schools on a rolling basis if you did not include them in your first submission. But some medical schools will not call you for an interview until your letters of recommendation(s) are submitted, so make sure you ask them to submit them on time.


How Long Should a Letter of Recommendation Be?

How To Ask For A Recommendation Letter

You can ask for a recommendation letter by email or in person. By directly contacting the
referral, you get your answer much faster. You can meet with professors during office hours or catch up with your employer during breaks. Most likely, that person will answer you instantly. If they agree, you should arrange a second meeting where you will provide all the necessary information for your recommender: application deadline, how to submit your letter, your transcripts, CV (resume), list of awards, and so on. . If you ask via email, wait for them to answer yes before sending all of your supporting documents and submitting the details.

If it’s been a while since you took your professor’s class, it’s a good idea to contact your professor in person. Seeing your face and talking directly to you will remind them of who you are and your performance in their class. On the other hand, email can leave them questioning your identity if it’s been a while since you’ve interacted. For this reason, try to contact them at the end of the semester or when you’re getting feedback, and don’t wait until you’ve applied to medical school, which could be months later. This will be when they remember you and your skills, and they can start drafting the letter soon after you ask.


When To Ask For A Recommendation Letter

Be sure to ask your referee to write a recommendation letter in advance. Aim to ask them at least a month before the application deadline. Sometimes asking for a letter very early is beneficial. For example, let’s say you participate in a research project between sophomore and junior year during the summer and plan to finish working on it at the end of the summer. In that case, you should contact your research supervisor about a letter of recommendation that summer.


This will ensure that your achievements and strengths are fresh in your supervisor’s mind. The same can be said for your professors’ letters. Suppose you do particularly well in second or third-year classes during your undergraduate studies and know the instructor. In that case, don’t hesitate to ask for a letter after class is over. Politely ask them to send the letter to your school’s career center, your career counselor or advisor, or any similar office to store these initial letters. Once the application begins, remind your recommender about the letter, where it is stored, and its deadline.



How To Write A Recommendation Letter For Medical School

The best medical school letters of recommendation have the following five components:


1- They Show How Well The Referral Knows You.

The first part of the recommendation letter explains the relationship between you and the referral. For instance, is the recommender your mentor, professor, or supervisor? How long have they known you? By declaring the background of the relationship, the author is in the best position to tell you about the selection committee. The most convincing recommendation letters are from people who have known you for a year or more and who have worked closely with you on successful projects.


2- They Go Into Depth About Your Achievements.

Most recommendation letters focus on what the author noted about the quality of your work and the characteristics you displayed. The longer this section of the letter, the better. 

Here, the referee can help you shine as an applicant. The letter is expected to describe the content and difficulty of the course and demonstrate your performance is stronger than that of many other students. It should tell an admissions committee something important about you.


3- It Is Essential To Avoid Repetition In Your Recommendation Letter.

Just one recommendation letter from each person is a good rule of thumb. Each letter should highlight a different aspect of you and your achievements, ideally presenting you from a different perspective.

If your studies involved reporting to more than one person, don’t ask for a letter from each person. Instead, ask your supervisors to work on one recommendation letter together. Similarly, if you’re a dentistry major, don’t ask for letters from three dentistry professors. Anyone may be able to say a lot about you. But they will all make similar observations from the same reference. It’d be best to mix letters from different experiences and perspectives.


4- They Provide Details About The Results Of Your Work And Your Impact On Others.

Selection committees love facts, numbers, and data. Emphasizing the result of your work will make the letter stand out from the others. Information such as the number of patients you have helped and positive quotes from people you have worked with can provide solid evidence of an exceptional character. Other examples of results include publications, poster presentations, and awards.


5- They Provide Context For Your Achievements.

That makes all your success even more remarkable in such a situation. More details about you, such as how often you speak fluently and your knowledge of other cultures, can support your application for medical school. Talk about your background to elevate a letter of recommendation and make it stand out to the selection committee!


6- They Detail The Reasons Why You Will Be Successful In Medical School.

Try to highlight unique characteristics that have been used to explain why you will be successful in medical school. In addition, assuring selection committees that you are well prepared and will excel at the next stage of your education adds compelling support to your application. Generally, your recommendation letter should assess the qualities below:


  • Teamwork skills 
  • Analytical skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Social skills
  • Adaptability
  • Commitment to your field
  • Academic success
  • Communication skills (oral and written)

How Long Should a Letter of Recommendation Be?

A Good Medical School Letter of Recommendation Sample

Dear Admissions Committee Members,

I am pleased to write this recommendation letter for [Applicant], who was my student in the fourth-year seminar “Name of the University” in the [time]. [Applicant’s name] is an extraordinary person. He/She is one of the best students I have taught in my [number] years at [Name of the University].

[Applicant] has impressive critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which served her/him well during my class. I have spoken with her/his other trainers, and they have also noted her/his exceptional analytical abilities. In addition, I have noted her/his ability to observe and develop insightful and reflective conclusions on several occasions, particularly during her/his laboratory work. I noticed that [Applicant] spent a lot of his time diligently working on her/his laboratory experiments, even outside of the assigned laboratory hours.

[Applicant] demonstrated excellent levels of technique and understanding of the development of embryonic systems. Her/His practical questions displayed his curiosity about the unknown and motivation to increase her/his knowledge base. He/She is an excellent ally who is always ready to help his teammates. I have seen [Applicant] help his classmates with complex lab experiments as a tutor during class hours. He/She is joyful and kind when interacting with students, professors, and other faculty. 

In addition to submitting my assignments on time to the highest quality and completing all lab and tutorial work, her/she volunteered to organize the final lab of my course and a student study group prior to exams. He/She was very generous with his time and energy to ensure that he/she and his classmates were well prepared. I remember [Applicant] taking the extra time to explain the material to an international student struggling to grasp a difficult concept. He/She listened to the student’s concerns, breaking down the concepts step by step until he/she was sure the student understood the material. Her/His empathy touched me.

[Applicant] also impressed me with her/his maturity and professionalism. During his time in my class, he/she made courteous relationships with everyone: supportive, co-workers, and me. He/She is excellent in conflict resolution scenarios, as I have had the chance to see him solve problems quickly and efficiently. For example, during a confrontation with a co-worker experiencing anxiety about his grades, [Applicant] could let go of the tension and offer his help. [Applicant]’s advice helped his partner excel in the next task.

I wholeheartedly recommend [Applicant] as a perfect candidate for your medical school. During the years of my career as a professor, I can think of few students who deserve such high praise and recommendation. [Applicant] is a skilled scientist, highly intellectual, and kind person who would make a great doctor in the future. Her/His dedication to excellence is inspiring. Please feel free to contact me if there is anything else I can add.


At Jack Westin, we know that the medical school admissions process is daunting. From letters of recommendation, to personal essays, we want to help students every step of the way. To see all the details of Jack Westin medical school admissions counseling, click HERE.

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