Health professions schools typically expect you to submit four to six letters of recommendation in support of your application. Some schools insist on a committee letter from our Committee on the Health Professions. Your personal letters of recommendation should be from individuals who know you well and can comment knowledgably about your suitability for a career in the health professions. Start early in identifying people you plan to ask to write on your behalf. The best choices are usually professors who have had you in one or more classes (be sure to include science courses), your academic advisor, and your internship and research mentors. On behalf of the Committee on the Health Professions, your committee letter writer will write a composite letter of recommendation as part of your file. The committee letter is a comprehensive summary of all aspects of your preparation, including course work, internships, research, entrance exam scores, and comments contained in your individual recommendation letters. The individual letters are appended to the committee letter to make it easier for transmission to the central application service.
Give your recommenders plenty of advance notice (four to six weeks) when you request a reference. Speak personally with the recommender (in person or by phone) when you make your request, and always provide them with enough information that they will find it easy to write a comprehensive letter for you. This information includes:
- An explanation of what kind of program you are applying to, and why you want to pursue this career.
- A list of the schools you are applying to.
- A copy of your resume and your transcript.
- The specific date by which you need their letter.
- It is polite and sometimes helpful to remind professors what class and what semester they had you as a student.
- It is very appropriate to offer a little guidance to your recommender if there is a specific point you wish for him or her to address. For example, “I’d really appreciate it if you would make a point to comment on my abilities handling large animals” or, “I’ve asked you to write for me because you know about the leadership and community service roles I’ve had.”
Mount Holyoke College has partnered with Interfolio, a secure, reliable online credential management system for managing your most important credentials online. Students are strongly encouraged to create an Interfolio account in order to collect, manage, and distribute their letters of recommendation.