Specific and Focused Content in Individual Letters
There are specific topics to which evaluators should cover in their letters. It is a matter of quality over quantity. That is, the Committee would rather have a few paragraphs addressing two or three qualities with supporting illustrative examples instead of a longer letter containing generic qualities without any specific supporting examples. The Committee would suggest an evaluator frame their letter around a time where you, the candidate:
- showed a strong commitment to becoming a healthcare professional
- demonstrated a unique strength and/or ability
- exhibited a weakness that might interfere with being a good healthcare professional
- showed sensitivity to and/or compassion for the needs of another person
- exhibited good manners, courtesy, politeness, and/or respect toward others
- demonstrated honesty and integrity
- poised and controlled reaction to a difficult or stressful situation
- demonstrated dependability, responsibility, promptness, and/or thoroughness
- showed initiative, strong work ethic, self-discipline, and/or ability to motivate others
- used good critical-thinking and/or problem-solving skills
- exhibited a reasoned and decisive rather than impulsive response to a situation
- used common sense and good judgment in handling a potentially difficult situation
- demonstrated good interpersonal and/or collaboration skills
- used excellent communication skills
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released a pamphlet, Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation for a Medical School Applicant. In it, they provide 6 items that may be of use for evaluators.
- Provide an accurate assessment of the applicant’s suitability for medical school rather than advocate for the student.
- Briefly explain your relationship with the applicant:
- How long you have known the applicant
- In what capacity you have interacted (e.g., faculty, supervisor, etc.)
- Whether you are writing based on direct or indirect observations
- Quality is more important than letter length. Focus on the applicant rather than details about the lab, course, assignment, job or institution.
- Only include information grades, GPA, or MCAT scores if you are providing context to help interpret them. Grades, GPA, and MCAT scores are available within the application.
- Focus on behaviors that you have observed directly when describing applicants’ suitability for medical school. Consider describing:
- The situation or context of the behavior
- The actual behavior(s) you observed
- Any consequences of that behavior
- Admissions committees find comparison information helpful. If you make comparisons, be sure to provide context. Include information about:
- The comparison group (e.g., students in a class you taught, students in your department, co-workers.etc.)
- Your rationale for the final comparison
Clinical vs. Non-Clinical Evaluators
A clinical evaluator is someone who has been through the same schooling to which you are applying. For instance, only a veterinarian may be counted as a clinical evaluator for a student applying to veterinary programs. A veterinary technician or administrative worker at the veterinary office who has not completed veterinary school, would not be a clinical evaluator. Likewise, a Physician’s Assistant with whom you shadowed will not be considered a clinical evaluator for your medical school application. They completed different schooling.
Non-clinical evaluators may be any individual who has not completed the schooling to which you are applying. These may include work-study supervisors, professors (science faculty or otherwise), coaches, or practitioners with whom you shadowed who do not hold the degree which you hope to achieve.
Submitting Letters of Evaluation for an Applicant’s File
We now have an electronic form for all evaluators. You, as the applicant, fill out the form once for each evaluator. It will automatically generate an email, with all necessary instructions and links, to your evaluator. When the evaluator submits their recommendation, it will automatically be delivered to the committee for processing.
You can access the electronic evaluation request form here.