Letters of Recommendation 101

  • Mar 23, 2017

Are you confused about letters of recommendation? Who writes them? What does confidentiality mean? Where are these letters sent to? What do my letter writers need?

Letters of Recommendation 101

Asking for and gathering letters of recommendation can seem like a very intimidating process, but with a little guidance and help understanding, you will be able to get a better grasp on the concept!

So what are letters of recommendation? They are letters that your professors, bosses, shadowed professionals, etc. write for you when you apply to professional school specifically. (Letters of recommendation can also be part of applying to a job also but we won't go there) I'm sure you are wondering who to ask and when to ask them for your letter! Medical and dental schools will each have their own list of the kinds of letters they want to receive specifically for each school so make sure you check their websites to inform yourself. However, we recommend you ask two science faculty, one non-science faculty, one from a professional within the field you are pursuing that you have shadowed, and one or two from someone who knows you from work or volunteering. While you do not have to obtain letters from all of the people I listed, this is a general guideline.

What do letter writers need from you and how to ask them? You should ultimately give your letter writers a substantial amount of time to write you a good letter. I have given my letter writers a time of about two months to write their letters. Now is a great time to ask if you have not already. You can do this by meeting in person with your professor during office hours or a scheduled time, and also through a very professional and polite email. To make things easier on you and ultimately your letter writer, make a packet or email folder containing your stuinfo grade transcript, your resume/list of experiences, the schools you are applying to, the MSU waiver here,a due date, and entrance exam scores if available.

Ok, so I asked my letter writers, now what do I do? Create an interfolio.com account, which is around $20/year. These letters need to be confidential, yet you need to be able to send them out so how do you accomplish that? Interfolio.com is a third party website that will safely store your letters of recommendation that are confidential, and you can send them to aamcas/aadsas/acomas/whichever application system when you apply! It is very easy, you simply set up a dossier, and send a letter to your writers which will give them direcions on how to submit your letter. Most professors know how to use interfolio and are aware of the process.

The College of Natural Science website has GREAT information on this topic, which covers basically everything. So if you have any questions, check the website or schedule an appointment with the Pre-professional Peer Advisors on your Student Success Dashboard under "Natural Science", "Preprofessional Advising", "Carolyn Sekedat."

By Samantha