Professional schools will request letters of recommendation. Depending on the program, you may need from 2-5 letters from people in a variety of settings (e.g. professors, work supervisors, people in the field you hope to enter). Letters 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.
Please share our "guidelines for writers of letters of recommendation" with all of your individual letter writers.
Some professional schools – usually schools of medicine, dentistry, optometry and podiatry – hope to receive a committee letter from your pre-health office in addition to your individual letters of recommendation. A 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 along with committee members’ knowledge of you. The Mount Holyoke Committee on the Health Professions will provide a committee letter for all students and alumnae who request one and who meet the committee’s requirements and deadlines, outlined here.
Applicants expecting to request a committee letter should also be requesting 3-5 individual letters of recommendation, as outlined on this page. For these applicants, we recommend two letters from science faculty and the remainder from internship supervisors, other employers and/or faculty outside the sciences. A letter from someone who works in the profession you hope to enter (i.e. a physician, dentist, optometrist or podiatrist) is strongly recommended and may be required by some schools. The final makeup of your individual letters will be based on your experiences; discuss your choice of letters during your pre-application appointment. You must provide all individual letter writers with the Committee’s ”Guidelines for writing letters of recommendation.”
Individual letters of recommendation
Plan to request your letters at least two months in advance of the deadline by which they should be received. Approach potential letter writers respectfully, asking in person when possible. Email is acceptable if the letter writer is not located near you. Ask if the potential writer can provide you with a “strong letter of recommendation.” Most people you ask will agree readily. Someone who suggests that you might want to “ask someone who knows you better” may be indicating that their letter will not be as strong as you might wish. Take them seriously and seek out someone else.
Once someone agrees to write, be clear what you are applying for, where the letter is to be submitted, and the deadline. Ensure that writers know your letters must be on letterhead, dated, and signed. It may be appropriate to offer guidance to your recommender if there is a specific point you wish to have addressed. For example, “I would be grateful if you could 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.”
Many letter writers will appreciate a copy of your resume and personal statement, if available. Applicants requesting committee letters must provide all individual letter writers with the Committee’s “Guidelines for Writing Letters of Recommendation.” We encourage all applicants to share this with their letter writers, even if you are not requesting a committee letter.
Transmitting letters to professional schools
Applicants receiving committee letters must use Interfolio for storing their letters of recommendation. Applicants to other professions may not need Interfolio, but you may choose to use the service so that the MHC pre-health office can review your letters to ensure that they are on letterhead, signed, and dated. To create an Interfolio account that is linked to the Mount Holyoke pre-health office, click here. You can call Interfolio for help with your account, at 877-997-8807 or 202-738-5322.
Can I see my letters?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 stipulates, among other things, that you have the legal right to view your letters of recommendation. You can waive this right, meaning that you do not see them and the letters remain confidential. Professional schools prefer that you waive your right to view the letters, so that they receive confidential letters of recommendation.
Individual letters in Interfolio: To keep letters confidential in Interfolio, you will select “confidential letter of recommendation” when creating a prompt for a letter writer to upload their letter.
Committee letters: All applicants requesting committee letters will be asked to sign our official waiver and request for a committee letter, indicating whether or not they waive their right to view their letters.