Letters of Recommendation


Almost every health professional program will require letters of recommendation as a part of the application. Programs typically request letters so they can gain insight into who an applicant is beyond the grades and exam scores. It is important, early on in your college journey, to begin thinking about who could write you a strong letter and who could speak to your various strengths and qualities as an individual. Make an intentional effort to stay connected with those individuals for when you are ready to request a letter prior to applying.

Where to Begin

Before reaching out to potential letter-writers or recommenders, first check the requirements of each program to which you plan to apply. Some programs might require a certain number of letters to come from specific individuals, such as a science professor or a healthcare professional.

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Here is a list of individuals to consider as possible letter writers:

  • Science professors (chemistry, math, physics, biology, etc.) who have taught you in a course
  • Non-science professors (humanities, writing, etc.) who have taught you in a course
  • Research, internship, and volunteer supervisors (faculty and non-faculty)
  • Job supervisors (health-related or non-health related jobs)
  • Healthcare professionals in your profession of interest

Most of the time, a strong letter-writer will be someone who has known you or worked closely with you for at least 1 year.

Upon selecting individuals who you feel can write you a strong letter of recommendation, reach out to them! Assume the individuals you request a letter from are busy – reach out at least 2-3 months prior to when your letter is needed by programs.

Email Request

Email is a great way to request a letter of recommendation. Keep your email concise and to the point, and mention your current request of receiving a letter of recommendation. If it has been a while since you’ve last connected with a potential letter-writer, check in with them to see how they are doing; you can even request to meet with them in-person to chat about how things have been going.

Here are some points you may choose to include in your email request:

  • Introduce yourself and state the context of your relationship with the recommender (ex. student in a course in X semester) and the graduate school to which you will be applying (medical, nursing, dental, etc.)
  • Mention an impactful project or assignment you completed with them to remind them of you (particularly important if you have not connected with them in a while)
  • Provide a due date of completion as well as other required letter elements for your program (i.e. date, signature, letterhead)
  • Include a resumé or curriculum vitae to share more about yourself beyond what that individual may know about you
  • Include a link for submission of your letter. Most application systems will provide you with a link for letter-writers to send letters.

After the Email Request

If the potential letter-writer does not reply within a week, send a follow up email! An individual may choose to decline your request for a specific reason (they may not know you well enough, they may have too many other requests, etc.) – if this is the case, thank them for getting back to you!

For a letter-writer who accepts your request and submits your letter, send them a short thank you reply!

General Tips for Letters of Recommendation

  • Ask for letters EARLY!
  • Stay organized. If you are requesting letters from multiple individuals, use an excel sheet to track letter requirements, requests, and submissions.
  • Request that the letter be submitted at least 1 week prior to your application letter deadline to give yourself some wiggle-room in the case a letter is not submitted on time or in case of a technical difficulty.
  • Follow up with your letter-writers to let them know the outcome of your application!

To meet the letter requirements of most programs, aim to have between 3 and 6 letters. Here is a general list of letter-writers for which you can aim:

  • 1-2 letters from science professors
  • 1-2 letters from non-science professors
  • 1 letter from an individual who has supervised you in a role (i.e. research, volunteer, job)
  • 1 letter from a healthcare professional in your profession of interest

Keep in mind, every school has different requirements! Play it safe by doing research on each school to which you apply to ensure you meet the requirements for each.