Making Remote Requests for Letters of Recommendation

Guidance for Premeds applying in June 2021
 

This is a challenging time to navigate the conversation of asking for letters of recommendation for your medical school application.  Here is some guidance for conducting this ask over email and then online:

  1. Do your homework ahead of time!
  • What did you do in the context of the classroom, lab or work environment?
  • Find samples of your work.
  • Write 1-2 paragraphs reflecting about your experience with the letter writer.  What did you learn?
  • Emphasize CORE ENTRY-LEVEL COMPETENCIES. (This reflection is the start of the PIR questions!)
  • Attach a current resume
  1. Email ask for a Zoom meeting or telephone call:

Sample ask: “I would like to ask you to consider writing me a letter of recommendation for my medical school application. In order to help you with this decision, I have some written reflections about my experiences with you in the classroom (or other) and how they relate to my decision to be a doctor.  I have attached this information to this email for your convenience. Can we schedule a time to talk in a format that is most convenient to you so that we can talk through any questions you might have?”

Other considerations in light of the COVID-19 situation:

  • Wait to ask.  Generally, you don’t want to ask too close to the deadline, but as faculty are moving their courses online it is not prudent to ask until mid-April at the earliest.
  • Accept the situation graciously if people don’t/can’t make time to meet with you or cannot commit to writing a letter right now.
  • Be honest about whether you are likely to have strong letters at this point.  If the answer is no, or not sure, maybe wait a cycle to apply and take courses next year (an evening course if you’re graduating and working full time), and commit to really getting to know the instructor.  Written materials, including letters, may be even more important in the upcoming admission cycle.
  • As we are moving to remote everything, keep in mind that mail services may not operate as usual. Expect delays if letters are mailed to us. Ask recommenders if they are able to submit letters via email to prehealth@wustl.edu. The instructions have been updated on the PIR confidentiality waiver that recommenders should no longer submit paper versions, but you might want to flag this for them. If recommenders have questions, please have them email us.

Resource for Recommenders from the AAMC - Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation for a Medical School Applicant: https://www.aamc.org/system/files?file=2019-09/lettersguidelinesbrochure.pdf