As fall turns to winter, the ol’ medical school application season starts to ramp up. (I’m already seeing a BIG jump in activity on the website. Whew, you guys are startin’ earrrrly!)
With the app season, comes the normal anxieties that plague everyone applying to medical school:
Are my grades good enough?
How about my experiences?
What about my essay / personal statement for the medical school application?
And then there’s the letters of recommendation. Ah yes, the tried-and-true tradition of groveling in front of someone you don’t know, stuttering and stammering as you squeak out your request with quivering lip, each syllable barely able to escape from your larynx that’s so tight, air can’t pass, “Would you write me a letter of recommendation for medical school?”
Then comes the withering stare from the other side of the desk. The shuffle of papers. The clearing of the throat. And then, “I only write letters for students with a 3.8 or higher in my class.” “What’s your name?” “Were you ever even in one of my classes?” and the old standby, “Why would you ever want to GO to MED-ical school?” said in a disdainful, staccato, spitting style as though you were describing your passion for a most-delicate dog feces souffle.
Sigh. There’s gotta be a better way.
There are four letters of recommendation that I strongly encourage all premeds to get. They are:
- 2 letters of recommendation from faculty who gave you a grade in a hard science class — bio, chem, physics
- 1 letter of recommendation from a faculty member who gave you a grade in a non science class — for this I like English or Humanities or at least something in which you wrote several substantial papers.
- 1 letter of recommendation from someone who worked closely with you in a health care setting. Ideally, someone who saw you interact with patients in some way, and can report on your commitment to medicine, your professionalism with patients, and your compassion toward others.
Ideally you will have built up a strong relationship with each of these rec writers, and that you can make your request for a letter of recommendation from within the context of that relationship. People are much more willing to help you if you have already helped them – the law of reciprocity.
So now that you know who to ask, the real problem to solve is, “How do you build a strong relationship with potential recommenders?” You can learn more about that here.