The only people that abhor dealing with medical school letters of recommendations more than applicants are the professors tasked with writing them. While a medical school applicant generally only has to worry about compiling a single set of letters, a professor is tasked with addressing a multitude of requests at any given time. And where you get the benefit of a glowing letter to the graduate school of your dreams your recommender’s only thanks is another handful of reference requests from other students.
Here are a few steps that can not only make the process easier on your professor, but increase your chances of receiving a strong recommendation letter that can be submitted on time.
As an applicant, you only have to worry about rounding up one set of letters for yourself. But a professor is probably dealing with dozens, even scores, of letter requests at any one time. So give your recommender plenty of lead time.
Don’t ask for a letter of reference any later than six weeks ahead to your application deadline. This means, of course, that you must have your applications near its final form no more so that the letters of reference can be used to tie all of your story themes together.
Tell your recommender, in writing, what programs and schools and programs to intend to apply to, and why you’re doing so. Verbal requests, no matter how adamant, still have the potential of falling through the cracks. If you really what something specific from your academic performance mentioned in your recommendation, put it in writing.
Remind your recommender what classes you took with them and when. Even if your recommender says he or she remembers you, it never hurts to help them in their recollection with specifics of your involvement in a particular class, from providing examples of your participation to providing a copy of a paper you worked on taking the course.
Ask your recommender if they want a copy of your resume or transcripts as well. If so, provide them. Also, be sure to ask for letters to all the programs you are applying to at the same time. And provide your professor with a written checklist with deadline and contact information for each graduate program. Be sure to fill out as much of the letter of recommendation cover sheets as you can before handing it over to your recommender.
If your recommenders are being asked to mail letters directly to the schools, provide them with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes as a courtesy and general time-saver. And make sure you list the professor’s return address and not your own. And, of course, follow this all up with a warm thank-you note including news about your admission outcomes.