The Pro Guide To Great Medical School Recommendation Letter

October 28, 2020

A medical school recommendation letter is one of the endless papers you have to provide to enter the medical school of your dream. It is a letter written by someone else who knows you from the academic or professional side and so can attest to your skills and knowledge of the matter. 

There are many questions related to recommendation letters, and the point is that every med school has its own answers. But some rules are the same across the field: 

  • the number of letters can be from 2 to 4 or 5;
  • people writing it should be your professors teaching science and non-science and supervisors of your internship;
  • you should allocate enough time for them to write and for yourself to submit such letters;
  • you should be prepared that not every person you ask will be eager to spend time and effort on such a task (because it is demanding and time-consuming). 

So, ask as many eligible people as you can to provide you with letters. Then, if someone tells you with an apology that they were unable to find time on their schedule for writing right before the submission deadline, you do not lose your only letter writer and your only chance. Stock up good recommendation letters, and if the necessity arises, submit them additionally. 

I Am Asked To Write My Recommendation Letter: Yes Or A Big No?

Now let us imagine the following situation. You reach out to a person (preferably in person or via phone call, because it is harder to ignore), get a positive response, but then this person adds: ‘Well, I will gladly help you with this letter, just write what you think necessary to include and I will read, maybe add something and sign it.’ Yes, you are literally expected to write your own letter, and the person will legitimize it. Is OK? 

Yes, it is perfectly OK. Often, professors are drowning in the sea of requests for recommendations. In order not to dismiss worthy students, they ask the applicants to write their letters (the ready draft will also remind the prof who exactly this student is and how academically successful he/she was). Then the recommenders read such drafts and usually sign them happily without bringing in any changes. 

For sure, it is a good idea to ask this person in advance about the format of writing they expect from you. We mean, if you should provide a complete letter ready for placing on a company letterform and signing, or if you can draft everything you want to say in bullet points and the person will write the actual text. So, when you have the exact answer, you are ready to start writing. 

Writing Process: Tips And Tricks

But how do you right this responsible document without exaggerating your skills or diminishing them? Let us decide on what steps to take before and during the writing process to create a truly complimentary but truthful recommendation. 

Collecting Ideas And Drafting

The letter aims to describe your professional persona and its accomplishments (from the viewpoint of a separate observer), so think about ideas and messages that you would like to convey. Jot them down while pondering and recollecting on the following: 

  • your careful selection of courses with a future career in mind;
  • your hard work in these courses;
  • your additional work, including volunteering, internships, tutoring for other students, leading classes for younger students, participating in co-teaching, conducting individual experiments or investigations, etc.;
  • how you got to know the person who recommends you;
  • what particular cases of your dedication and aspiration in work you can list;
  • how it all characterizes you in a positive light. 
  • So, you should have the following information at hand when you start drafting: 
  • what you wanted to accomplish;
  • how you went about it in class and beyond classes;
  • how it made you special;
  • how the recommender may see you;
  • how it will benefit you in the future (if applicable). 

Writing The Final Version

When you set to writing, remember that you write from the perspective of another person, namely, the recommender. To begin with listing credentials and address of this person and put his/her name at the closing lines. Yes, even before writing the text, leave some empty space, and below writes the name of the recommender. There were cases (not so funny, though) when the committee received nice letters beginning with the credential of the professor but signed by the student. It happens mechanically when you are already tired of writing, and your attention is diffused, but definitely, such letters are discarded as invalid. So keep an eye for such flops. 

The letter will contain the following sections: 

  • Address and credentials of a recommender;
  • Introduction mentioning when the reviewer got to know the student;
  • Details of classes, student’s work, accomplishments, particular interests, and skills;
  • How a student acted in given circumstances, faced obstacles or contributed;
  • Closing statement describing the student in superlatives, compliments, and positive evaluation that means that this student is the best fit for a given facility or class;
  • The recommender’s signature. 

The best lesson is a particular example, so let us consider the following:  

May 23, 2020

Jane Goodly, Ph.D., MD

Professor of Neurology, California State University, practicing surgeon at Sacramento Hospital

32 Meadow Lane 

Sacramento, CA 13457

[email protected] 

Recommendation Letter for Lisa So-and-So 

AAMC nu. 34675487

Dear Members of the Admission Committee, 

I am writing to recommend Lisa So-and-So as a gifted and hard-working student who will make a perfect fit for the Neurosurgery department and will make a significant contribution to science if accepted by your department. 

I had an opportunity to observe and know Lisa closely as a persevering student when she joined my General Surgery class and petitioned to do research on the neurosurgery cases for her coursework. She was facing the theoretical and practical assignments, yet she also demonstrated deep interest and understanding of the neurological aspects of certain conditions and the opportunities for using surgical interventions to treat them. While preparing her coursework, she arrived at several interesting insights, and so I invited her to join the clinic under my supervision for summer break. 

Lisa used this chance to the full and accumulated significant experience in small surgical interventions and post-operational care, while also collecting empirical materials for her neurological research. Along with scholarly and practical skills, Lisa demonstrated empathy and the ability to establish rapport with patients, which means she will become a compassionate and involved medical worker. 

After the internship in the clinic, I was sure that Lisa would handle well even more advanced tasks. So, when she applied for the Advanced Surgery and Neurosurgery classes ahead of her annual schedule, I agreed to admit her as an exception. I never regretted the decision since she demonstrated sufficient knowledge, practical skills, and work ethics that everyone would be glad to observe in their students. 

What I want to underscore specifically is her capacity to carry our individual research and involve others in the teamwork. She already has a detailed and plausible plan of large-scale research on the particular case of neurosurgery for the restoration of sensitivity in damaged skin. Joining your department will let her realize and complete the research. From what I have observed, she also has the valuable skills of putting her research into coherent and logical writing, so her insights will be of use to many other professionals in the field. 

From my experience with her and my teaching experience at large, I can say that Lisa is an exceptional student whose skills, interests, and talents work together to move her towards her goals in neuroscience. I am happy to provide my recommendation for her and suggest that you admit her to your department. 

Best regards 

Jane Goodly

Submitting For Reviewing (And Signing)

When you have the letter readied, let it sit for a while, and they do careful proofreading. After you made sure the letter is flawless, send it to the person you ask for a recommendation. No matter how much you have said, there is always room for improvement, so ask for feedback. The tips you will get might be exceptionally valuable. 

Besides, while sending the letter, ask the person to include their unique perspective on you and your work. There are things that you just cannot know about yourself – whether you stood out among others, whether you impressed professors greatly, whether you accomplished something unique that the prof may want to mention specifically. You can say something, but it is much better if other people say how they see it. You may be surprised how highly they appreciate you – and how positively they will describe you for the med school application committee. After all, you only ask to write a couple of sentences at most, and it is a normal request. Just be sure to frame it politely and not as a direct order. 


Now, this is the guide to the responsible and delicate matter of writing your own letter of recommendation. We hope we have provided enough info for you to cope with this task successfully. Yet if you are overburdened with other work just like the person asking you to write your own recommendation, remember that we are always available to you. Our skilled writers have experience in compiling this kind of writing. So, tell us in free form what you need to include in the letter, and leave the rest to us. We will create a perfect text describing you in the best light. Just later, be careful to include the credentials of your prof at the beginning and at the end of the letter, if you prefer to keep this information confidential. We fully understand it. 

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