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Recommendation Letters


Almost all health professional schools require recommendation letters as part of the application process, although the specfic letter requirements vary from school to school.

An example of a specific letter requirement would be securing letters from 2 science faculty and 1 other recommender. While the suggestions below can help you to get started, it is important to check with each school you plan to apply to in order to verify specific requirements.

When thinking about who to ask, the most important consideration is who knows you the best and can write you a quality letter! A quality relationship is more important than having made a certain grade in a course or having a letter writer from a prestigious faculty member. It is always important to choose the individuals who know you well and can speak about the competencies you have developed and why you would be a good candidate for your program.

General Guidelines for Types of Letters of Recommendation

  • At least 2 academic letters (strongly suggested)
    • At least 1 of the academic letters should be from a science faculty member (strongly suggested, may be required by SOME programs)
    • Consider a faculty member from your Major/Minor or one who knows you both in and out of the classroom
  • 1-2 letters from individuals who know you "outside of the classroom"
    • Examples: a physician you have shadowed, a supervisor, a Research PI, etc.
    • Someone who can speak to your work ethic, disposition, etc.
    • Some professional schools may require letters from a professional in the field. For example, most Osteopathic medical schools require a letter from a DO.
  • If you have participated in Research, and it was a meaningful experience, you should request a letter from a PI or Mentor (strongly suggested)

Be sure to check with the schools you are planning on applying to regarding the specific types of letters required.

It is important to remember that your letter writer is providing an important favor in your career pursuit. It is a partnership to complete the Letter of Recommendation (LOR); the best etiquette is to always offer your willingness to help in completion and to respect the privacy and preferences of your letter writers.

When asking an individual to provide a LOR, it is important to consider the following:

  • Ask someone you have a strong personal connection or relationship with. If you have not spent some time with this person, consider asking the letter writer to chat with you over coffee or a meal to re-establish your connection.
  • Ask well in advance. Letter writers always need ample time as they are busy with their own responsibilities. A good time to begin asking your letter writer is the fall before you apply for your intended program.
  • Sometimes letter writers do not have the time to write for you, or do not feel like they know you well enough. That is OK! This is why we suggest asking multiple people and asking early. Sometimes hearing "no" is the best favor a writer can give.
  • Some letter writers need more information from you in order to write a letter for you. If a letter writer does not give you explicit instructions for what they need, you may offer to share your personal statement, your motivations and career pursuits, or a resume that outlines your experiences. You should always be willing to answer any questions they may have of you at any point in the letter writing process as promptly as possible. It is important that your letter writer knows why this career pursuit is important to you and that you are willing to do your part to accomplish this pursuit.
  • It is not appropriate to write your own LOR, or even a draft. If a potential writer asks you to do so, you may share the additional information we outline above, and explain that you have waived your rights of access.
  • If your chosen individual confirms they will write a LOR, ask the following questions to establish follow-up protocol:
    • "May I check in with you regarding the status of the LOR?" or "How would you like me to check in with you regarding the status of the LOR?"
    • "Do you want or need follow up from me? If so, how often would you like follow up?"
    • "How do you prefer communication – email, in person, phone, something else?"
    • "What do you think is a reasonable timeline for completion? How can I best assist you with meeting your own timeline and the required timeline?"
  • Write a thank you note to your letter writer.
  • Inform your letter writers of the outcome of your application. They spend a lot of time advocating for you! Let them know how you did (or if you decided to wait to apply).

Composite Letters

Students applying for a Composite Letter from Pre-Health Advising should check Canvas for instructions on sending recommendations to the PHA LOR Hub. Pre-Health Advising will store 3-4 individual letters for students to include in the Composite Letter. Once the Composite Letter is finalized (late June), students will receive instructions on delivering their Composite Letter to the centralized application service(s). Students must pay the service fee before making a request for the Composite Letter to be sent to a centralized application service.

Pre-Health Advising will not store additional recommendation letters outside of the 3-4 that will be included in the Composite Letter packet. If a student wishes to send additional letters, they will have the recommender(s) submit their letter(s) directly to the centralized application service.

If you are applying with a new Composite Letter, a Composite Letter Update, or a Composite Letter on file from a previous cycle, please see the instructions below for entering your Composite Letter information on the centralized application services:

Individual Recommendation Letters and Letter Packets (Medical/Dental)

Medical, dental, optometry, and podiatry school applicants may choose to utilize the PHA LOR Hub for recommendation letter storage and submission even if they are not receiving a Composite Letter. The PHA LOR Hub can be used to store a minimum of three and a maximum of four recommendation letters. These letters will be combined into one PDF Letter Packet and sent to centralized application services upon request. See the instructions for creating an account on the PHA LOR Hub. These instructions also outline how to transfer letters previously on file with the Career Center’s Credentials File over to the PHA LOR Hub.

Instructions for entering Letter Packet info on the centralized applications can be found below:

Students must pay the service fee before making a request for their letter(s) to be sent to a centralized application service.

Alumni Policy

Emory will no longer store and submit letters for alumni more than two years post-graduation (December 2016 and prior for the 2020 matriculation cycle). However, alumni have the option to transfer all of the letters in their Credentials File to Interfolio, an online dossier service. Download instructions to transfer your letters to Interfolio here.

Non-Medical, Dental, Optometry, and Podiatry Applicants

The PHA LOR Hub is used only for the Composite Letter and individual letters to be sent to medical, dental, optometry, and podiatry programs. Students applying to healthcare professional programs other than the four programs mentioned above will need to work with their letter writers to have their letters sent directly to their Centralized Application Service or school, as appropriate. If you have quesitons about how this process works, please contact your pre-health advisor.

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