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In today’s episode, we’re touching on medical school letters of recommendation—what the admissions committee is looking for, how to get strong ones, and when is the best time to ask for them. Specifically, we’re addressing how to get the best letters of recommendation as a nontraditional student.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
OldPreMeds Question of the Week
As usual on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our question is taken from the Nontrad Premed Forum. Since it is a very long question this week, we will just paraphrase it:
How do you get a good letter of recommendation? Do you need to take more upper-division science coursework to get a good letter of recommendation? And does the letter of recommendation need to come from a professor you interacted with recently?
What You Need for Letters of Recommendation
Medical schools generally require two science professors and one non-science professor to provide letters of recommendation. These letters are supposed to illustrate how you’re participating in academics and classroom settings in recent history. Getting these letters of recommendation can be challenging for nontrads who haven’t taken their science classes recently!Medical schools generally require two science professors and one non-science professor to provide letters of recommendation.Click To Tweet
Ways to Get Good Letters of Recommendation as a Nontrad:
- Take another course or two and make attempts to network and get a letter written.
- Get a committee letter, which takes away the need for individual letters of recommendation. Instead, you get one overall evaluation from your undergraduate school.
- Work supervisors and other options. Some medical schools provide these recommendations for nontraditional students:
- SUNY Upstate Medical School: Students who graduated more than 5 years ago and are currently employed may submit one letter of recommendation from a current supervisor or someone from a science faculty they took a course from a while ago.
- Weill Cornell Medicine (Cornell University): Supervisor at work or research professor; students working in career fields like nursing or other medical fields can get a letter of recommendation from a supervisor from a physician you work with.
Overall, it’s critical that students (especially nontraditional students) think about networking while taking the medical school prerequisite classes. You need to get good letters of recommendation.It's critical that students (especially nontraditional students) think about networking while taking the medical school prereqs.Click To Tweet
When is the Time to Ask for Letters of Recommendation?
Don’t wait until application season to ask for letters of recommendation. You can have your letters sent to Interfolio.com, and they will hold onto the letters until you’re ready to apply to medical school.
If you feel that a person is going to write you a strong letter of recommendation, ask for it now, even if you’re applying next year.Don't wait until application season to ask for letters of recommendation.Click To Tweet
[Related episode: How Soon Can I Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?]
Major Takeaways from this Episode:
Make an effort to network in your premed years, whether you are a traditional or nontraditional premed. Even as you continue into medical school, network early because you will need letters of recommendation again when you apply for residency.
Schools have different specific requirements for letters of recommendation, so check out the MSAR (for MD schools) and the CIB (for DO schools) to find out what each school requires for letters.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: Do LORs from Non-MD “Doctors” Still Count as Physician Letters?
- Related episode: How Soon Should You Ask a Doctor for a Letter of Recommendation?
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!