Getting Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation/reference/evaluation (LOR) are part of nearly all applications to health professions schools, so you will want to cultivate letter writers for your future applications! Many health professions specifically ask for letters from faculty who have taught you, some even more specifically that these LOR come from science faculty--and these seem to be the most difficult LOR to get because it is important that your letter writers know you well. Also, most health professions (although not allopathic medicine) require LOR from clinicians in that field whom you have worked with (e.g. dentists, DOs, pharmacists, optometrists, PTs, OTs, veterinarians) and there is often an expectation that if you have done research, you will have one letter from such an experience. Workshops on Getting Letters of Recommendation are available throughout the academic year (announced on the listserv) where you will hear this information in more detail and also learn how to get to know faculty, how to ask for LOR, and what material to give to letter writers.
Committee Letter/Advisor Letter
Prior to 2013, UC Davis offered a Committee Letter Service (a.k.a. Advisor Letter) for applicants to Dental, Medical and Optometry School, and a Professional Letter Service (PLS) for those applying to other health professions schools. However, due to declining resources, coupled with the recent development of other external online letter services, we no longer offer either service. So although you may see references to a Committee or Advisor Letter being "required", this is only true for those whose undergraduate institution offers such a service. As a UC Davis graduate/alumni, you are not required to have a Committee/Advisor Letter in order to apply to any health professions schools!
Letter Services as Part of Application Services
Most health professions application services include a letter service (at no additional charge) so that your letter writers can submit LOR directly to the application service, usually electronically. This type of letter service is fast and dependable and should be the service of choice if an application service is available for your chosen health profession:
- AACOMAS (osteopathic medical schools) does not currently have a letter service but hopes to launch one in 2014.
- AADSAS (dental school) accepts up to 4 LOR.
- AMCAS (allopathic medical schools) accepts up to 10 LOR (but we recommend that you only send 4-6 to each medical school, depending on what they will allow)
- CASPA (physician assistant programs) accepts 3 LOR* and they must submitted electronically.
- NursingCAS (nursing programs) accepts 3 LOR
- OptomCAS (optometry schools) accepts 4 LOR
- OTCAS (occupational therapyy programs) accepts 3 LOR
- PharmCAS (pharmacy schools) accepts 4 LOR*
- PTCAS (physical therapy programs) accepts 4 LOR*
- SOPHAS (schools of public health) requires 3 LOR, will accept 2 optional LOR
- VMCAS (veterinary medicine schools) accepts 2-6 LOR (most schools require 3)* and they must be submitted electronically
*check with individual schools regarding sending additional LOR outside the service.
Commercial Letter Services
If the schools/programs you are applying to do not have an application service (e.g. international medical schools), you may choose to use a commercial letter service like Interfolio which, for a fee, will keep and send LOR for you. Some applicants will choose to open an Interfolio account to keep LOR until they are ready to apply, or in order to have them on file in case they have to re-apply because you can also use an Interfolio account to have LOR sent to application letter services. However, please keep in mind that:
- your LOR should ideally be dated the year you apply, or possibly the year before you apply;
- if you re-apply, you should submit a combination of new and updated LOR (rather than old letters that you have collected/used before);
- you can ask your letter writers to write your LOR at any time and then keep them for you electronically; when you are ready to apply, you would then ask them to copy and paste them into an electronic submission form for your application letter service--all at no cost to you.