Skip to main content

How to Get Meaningful Letters of Recommendation for Medical School

female mentor advising student
Lauren DiProspero

Written by Lauren DiProsperoon August 1st, 2023

I began my undergraduate admissions career at Stanford University where I helped coordinate diversity events and outreach. This ignited a passion for higher education which led me to Columbia University where, after earning my masters, I began recruiting and reviewing the applications of students applying to Columbia College from all around the country including the northeast, mid-west, Texas and California. I also reviewed the applications of international students from countries across Asia as well as Canada and Mexico. During my time at Columbia, I was Director of Admissions at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons where I oversaw the entire medical school admissions process, including recruitment, application review, interview days, and admitted student events. From there I became the Director of Enrollment Management at the University of San Francisco where I oversaw a team that supported both undergraduate and graduate admissions. In that role I recruited in Southern California and reviewed applications from multiple domestic territories for the undergraduate admissions team. Most recently, I was the senior director at Stanford Medicine, where I again oversaw the entire medical school admissions process.
Learn More About Lauren
by Lauren DiProspero, former admissions officer at Columbia University Throughout the undergraduate years, all future medical school applicants should focus on making connections with professors, supervisors, and others early and often. It’s important to nurture those relationships, primarily because they could develop into wonderful mentorships—and also because medical school admission officers want to hear from people have supported you on your educational journey. That means you will need to identify science faculty, research mentors, and/or clinical supervisors to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. You may be familiar with recommendation letters from other applications but, for medical school, the type of recommendation can vary depending on a few factors. What types of letters should I send? In general, you will need a minimum of three letters, but requirements can vary by medical school. Applicants will likely need at least two from professors who taught them science. These letters provide an understanding of the applicant’s ability to handle the rigors of a medical education. Since two letters are typically from faculty, that means applicants will need at least one more from another source. It is strongly recommended that one is from someone who supervised you during a clinical experience. Beyond that, if you are considering a letter of recommendation from a non-clinical experience, think carefully about how each letter of recommendation can highlight different parts of your journey. That means that extra non-clinical letters may be from an employer, a research supervisor, a coach, or someone else. Focus on people who know your work well. For example, your lab supervisor will know your work better than the Principal Investigator (PI) who may not remember your name. More letters aren’t necessarily better; be strategic and thoughtful in who you ask. How do I ask for letters? Provide at least two months’ notice when you request a letter of recommendation. When possible, request it in person and be prepared to send a follow-up email, to share a resume, and to be able to explain to the letter writer why you want to go into medicine. If the recommender isn’t sure what to write, the AAMC has guidelines to help. Just make sure they write on letterhead from their organization or institution, or some medical schools will not accept it. If you plan to take a gap year or more, request that your professor’s letter of recommendation be stored either in the career development center or the pre-med office for future use. How does my letter get sent to medical schools? The vast majority of recommendations are submitted directly to the application provider by the person writing the recommendation (AMCAS, TMDSAS, or AACOMAS). The remaining applicants will have attended an undergraduate college that provides a committee letter, which is written by a pre-health committee or advisor. It advocates on your behalf and can also include information on challenges you may have faced. To find out if your college provides this, and if you are eligible, ask your pre-health advisor! Are you now worried that your college does not have a committee letter? Don’t be! To be very clear: medical schools do not prefer committee letters. Lastly, don’t forget to say thank you and share updates along the way as you get interviews and decisions back from the school!

Find out what you can expect from our partnership and view our variety of flexible services.


Interested in learning more about how our college admissions counseling services can help your student succeed?

Call 877-402-6224 or complete the form for information on getting your student started with one of our experts.

Inclusion Matters Here Pride Flag