Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an important factor in the medical school admissions process. This is typically the only area of your application where a medical school will learn about your personal qualities.

It is very important that you choose a letter writer who knows you well and not one who simply knows you because you received an "A" in their course. The letter writers can range from professors and GSI’s (Graduate Student Instructors) to supervisors for voluntary activities, principal investigators in your research lab, your supervisor at work or community members.

It is your responsibility to discuss your qualifications with your letter writer(s) so plan ahead and make an appointment to do so. Arrive prepared with a resume and/or a personal statement that conveys your interests and passions for becoming a physician.

Whoever writes your letter, you should first discuss with them their comfort in writing a letter of recommendation about you and ensure that they have a good idea of what to include in a letter of recommendation for medical school. The Career Center has prepared Guidelines for writing medical school letters of recommendation.

AMCAS has also developed Letters of Evaluation Guidelines to help you and your letter writer strategize the organization of the letter and the key competencies to convey in the letter.

To ensure that all of your letters of recommendation have arrived, make sure you open a file with the Career Center Letter Service.

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Who should I ask for letters? (How many? What type?)

In general, many medical schools need at least three letters of recommendation (2 from science faculty and 1 non-science). You should have more than 3 letters available as some medical schools are open to receiving more than three letters but remember, it is not the quantity of letters that is important but rather, the quality of these letters. 

Note: Note: AMCAS has a Letters of Evaluation/Recommendation Service for participating medical schools. Your letters are included as part of your primary application to medical schools. Once your letters are submitted to AMCAS, you can select which letters to distribute to each medical school you are applying to with your primary application. You should check the participating schools for their requirements.

How Many of What Types Letters: For many medical schools, you will need to submit aminimum of 3 letters of recommendation (2 science and 1 non science letter). Typically, science letters are those from biology, chemistry or physics.  Non science letters would represent letter writers whose discipline is in the social sciences or humanities such as English, Economics, Women’s Studies, etc.  Each medical school ultimately decides whether or not a letter of recommendation from a Nutritional Science or Astronomy faculty for example, will be categorized as a science or non-science letter.

More Than 3 Letters: Always have more than the three basic letters available because some medical schools are open to receiving more than three letters.  Additionally, you may find yourself in a situation where one of your science letters is from your PI (Principal Investigator) in the laboratory where you volunteer and though this letter is a science related letter, it still may not be acceptable to a medical school.  You will then need to submit a letter from a professor from a science course that you have taken and by the time that you need to obtain a letter from a professor, it might be too late and more importantly, too difficult to obtain.

Note: Letters going to AMCAS must include your AMCAS Letter ID found on your Letter Request Form. AACOMAS does not accept letters of recommendations. Letters must be sent directly to your designated colleges following the processes outlined by each college. You may want to provide your letter writer your ACOMAS ID# to include in your letter.

How should I ask for letters?

Letters of Recommendation

Requesting Letters of Recommendation

 

Who To Ask: Always ask individuals who know you well. At Cal, the large class sizes create a challenging environment for you to get to know a professor and vice versa. It is common practice for Cal students to request a GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) to write a letter and to have the GSI ask the professor to either co-sign or co-write the letter of recommendation. Another option is to request letters from professors in an upper division course. Generally, an upper division course has a smaller class size than that of a lower division course.

When To Ask: Letters of recommendation should be requested several months prior to submitting your application or if you trust that the letter writer can provide you with the letter at the time of submission, this would be an acceptable albeit, a risky option.

Note: If you plan to delay your application to medical school for several years, a letter between 3-5yrs. old may not be accepted at a medical school or at the very least, be too old for a medical school to use in their evaluation. If you still want the letter that you obtained to be a part of your application, you should maintain contact with your letter writer(s) so that they can submit a more recent letter, perhaps even including your updated background and experiences.

Find out more about the Letter Service and how to Open a File.

When should I request my letters? When are letters due?

When should I request my letters? When are letters due?

What is the Letter Service? How do I use it?

Cal’s Career Center offers the “Letter Service” that is available to UC Berkeley students and to alumni who are Alumni Advantage members. Opening a Letter Service file will provide you the opportunity to:

  1. Have a letterwriter submit one letter that can support multiple applications;
  2. Know that your letters will remain confidential and mailed promptly;
  3. Keep letters for up to 5 years

Find out more about the Letter Service and how to Open a File.

What are alternatives to the Letter Service?

What are alternatives to the Letter Service?

Does UC Berkeley offer committee letters?

Some undergraduate institutions provide a medical school with a “Committee Packet” or sometimes it is also called a “Committee Letter”. This committee packet is typically a composite letter that is written by the Pre-Med./Pre-Health Advisor on behalf of several faculty members who interview an applicant to medical school. In addition to the composite letter, the undergraduate institution may/will add additional letters of recommendation to this composite letter on behalf of the student or at the request of a student.

For clarification, a committee packet or committee letter IS NOT a packet of letters that is composed when your professors gather together and write the letter about you and then forward to a medical school. For some students, there exists an impression that this constitutes a committee packet.

UC Berkeley does not provide medical schools with a committee packet or committee letter. The cover sheet on every letter packet that you order via the Letter Service clearly states that we do not have a committee which is acceptable by medical schools.