Your checklist for securing stellar letters of recommendation

stethoscope

What’s the most stressful part of applying to medical school? You may be surprised that many medical students say it wasn’t securing the MCAT scores or nailing an outstanding transcript—what really made them sweat was getting those precious letters of recommendation.

Why did getting a professor to write a letter of recommendation become, at least for some, a crazy nightmare of missed deadlines and sleepless nights? Because the students didn’t plan ahead. As a result, they risked their application being rejected as incomplete.

You’re already one step closer to your letters of recommendation

By taking the time to read through this checklist, you’re already getting ahead of many other medical school applicants.

This checklist is based on feedback from students, professors and medical schools. While we can’t guarantee that following these steps will secure you a place in the medical school of your choice, you’ll be helping give yourself the best possible chance of achieving that ambition.

  1. Start your planning now

It’s never too early to start thinking about who will write your letters of recommendation and the timetable for getting it done. The best letters are written by professors and others who know you well, so begin nurturing those relationships.

Don’t be afraid to ask your professor how they like to handle requests for letters of recommendation. Showing an interest in their side of the process can win you credit and helps you be better prepared.

  1. Read example letters of recommendation

As part of the application process, you can choose whether to read the letter of recommendation written on your behalf. Best practice is to waive your right to see the letters, because confidentiality encourages honesty, meaning those reading the letters will place more trust in them.

However, taking a look at example letters helps you to understand what yours might contain and can give clues as to how you can make a better impression on those likely to be writing your letters.

  1. Consider who you will ask to write a letter of recommendation

The most effective letters of recommendation come from people who know you well and can provide an objective perspective on your suitability for medical school. Your professors and other teachers won’t be surprised to be asked to write a letter on your behalf, unless they barely know you.

university professor

From the moment you start at university or college, or decide you want to go on to medical school, start thinking about who you will ask to write these all-important letters, and what you can do to make it easier for them to create a great impression.

  1. Know your deadlines

Acquiring letters of recommendation often creates stress because it becomes a last-minute task. You might think requesting a letter six weeks ahead of your application deadline is plenty of time, but what if your professor has been asked to write over a hundred of these letters?

Each letter takes up precious time and with all their other commitments, there’s only time to write so many in a week. Do everyone a favor—know the deadlines for your letter submission and let the writer know what the deadline is. By having these dates firmly in your diary, and that of the letter writer, you put yourself in a place where you can avoid the frustration of last-minute or late letters.

  1. Know how many letters are required

Medical schools will usually tell you they want three letters of recommendation, two from a science faculty and one from a non-science. Take the time to research the school’s requirements because some want even more letters, for example, if you have considerable post-graduate experience.

Consider three to be the minimum, although many medical schools will advise that having more letters will not give you any advantage.

medical student

  1. Ask in good time

It’s never too early to ask for a letter of recommendation. From the moment you decide to apply to medical school, be thinking about who will write those letters and raise the subject with them early, even if the deadline is many, many months away.

By showing that you’re planning ahead, you’ll impress on your letter writers some of those qualities you want them to highlight on your behalf—commitment, initiative, enthusiasm.

  1. Provide information

Don’t be afraid to remind the people writing your letters of recommendation about your achievements, ambitions and the times you have worked together. You’re just one of the many students whose application they will be supporting, meaning it won’t be so easy for them to distinguish you from the others.

Give them a helping hand by prompting their memories. Giving them a short email or a list of bullet points on a piece of paper could make the difference between a good and an outstanding letter.

  1. Let them know how to submit

The easier you can make it for your letter writer to create and submit their document, the more likely that it will be delivered on time. It can also give you extra credit as an excellent planner and communicator.

  1. Pursue politely

Those final days running up to the deadline can be nerve wracking, as you wait for confirmation that the letters of recommendation have been posted on your behalf. It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending hours online, continuously looking out for the acknowledgement of submission.

A more effective approach is one of gentle reminders. While sending an email every day to your letter writers may be over the top (it has been done!), a consistent approach can help give you peace of mind. But keep it varied and, where possible, make the effort to deliver some reminders in person.

  1. Be grateful

Once your letters of recommendation are written and submitted, the job is done. But taking a moment to say ‘thank you’ to your writers is a professional etiquette that it’s wise to adopt. Not only is it good manners, it also helps you to stand out from the crowd, and you’ll never know when making a good impression on someone could be to your credit in the future.

You may also like:
7 top tips for your first day at medical school
Best nursing programs for supernurses

5 Unusual Christmas Accidents Тhat Found Тheir Way to the ER

                       Up Next: Is your Christmas tree secretly trying to kill you?

The holiday season, which we’ve all been looking forward to for weeks, is finally here. But with it inevitably follow a string of events that you wish never happened! From food fiascos to forgetting the names of relatives who always remember yours, the holidays definitely have their misgivings, which will give you something to laugh about for years to come.

But as a medical professional, you probably deal with Christmas accidents much more serious than these common blunders remotely compares to the sort of Christmas accidents that the good folks at the ER have to witness every year. If you’ve worked in the ER during the holidays, then you’ll no doubt have a tale or two of your own to tell.

Whether you’re a medical professional, or still training to be one, we want to share with you our 5 favorite holiday accidents from around the world. All of these really sent the doctors in a doozy, so be ready if you have to deal with them this time around. Continue reading

8 Nurse Myths That We Need to Debunk

Nurses carry a huge amount of responsibility on a daily basis in their profession. As highly skilled workers, they deserve a lot of respect for their knowledge, intelligence, and intensive training. But that’s not always the case, since nurses face many stereotyped misconceptions, which MTV’s stars from “Scrubbing In” don’t hesitate to discuss. If you’re an aspiring nurse, watch out as you may have to deal with these in your professional life.

So, it’s time to debunk the top nurse myths and give praise to hard-working nurses everywhere! Continue reading

Shop for the Right Medical Equipment That Gets the Job Done

Medical practice is hard work; the hours can get long and there are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind. In fact, in a system as important as medicine, you need to be absolutely sure that you’re providing the best possible service to your patients. Inconvenient design or limited features can make your work hard, while on the flip side, a few small tweaks and updates can significantly improve your work along with your patients’ experience.

So if you’ve been struggling with dated equipment, maybe it’s time to upgrade. You’ll be surprised to find out how much medical technology has come along in just the past few years. Here are a few equipment features which could make your patients’ visits more fruitful, and even help you do your job better. Continue reading

Why Don’t Doctors Get Sick More Often Than Their Patients?

Often, the most stoic character in any television show is the doctor — they’re resilient until the end, creative and helpful, constantly healing the sick, and in general just making everything right. In real life the image of the doctor is not that different, that is of course if you ask the patients

In fact, they might even wonder, “Is there something mystical about doctors which makes them superhuman and immune to most illness? Surely, since they’re constantly in contact with bacteria, viruses, and god knows what else, they’re somehow shielded against getting sick, right?”

As you know, the reality is that healthcare professionals deal with the same problems as everyone else. All those years of medical experience have simply given you the upperhand — you might just be better prepared than your patients when infectious diseases come your way.

Here are a few tips for staying healthy, which you might already be painfully aware of, but won’t hurt in the eve of the flu season. Continue reading

Doctor’s dilemma: Are Your Patients Lying to You?

Are your patients hiding information from you?

“If a patient says they’ve had 2 drinks, assume they mean 6.” This has long been a rule of thumb for most doctors. In fact, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, told his students in 400 BC that patients often dissemble how regularly they’ve been taking their medicine. Clearly, lying to doctors isn’t a new phenomenon.

Patients can hide all sorts of information to come across as more acceptable to their doctors. After all, hospitals have a social dynamics just like offices, homes, or other everyday social places. Shame, regret, and pride are powerful impulses which can make even the most forthright person misrepresent information that they’re giving their doctors. Continue reading

The History of Stethoscopes

Of all the tools and equipment a doctor uses, the stethoscope may be one of the only tools that is common to all physicians and specialties. Anyone that has sat in a doctor’s office or has been seen by a nurse knows about this seemingly simple diagnostic tool. It’s one of the most common, and yet, one of the most powerful daily tools we use in our field.

But how did it come into existence? The modern Littmann stethoscope many of us use is the result of a decades-long journey of invention and entrepreneurial spirit by Dr. Littmann, Rene Laennec, and many medical professionals in between. So in light of our Black Friday Sale, we thought we’d delve into the interesting history of the invention of the modern stethoscope. Continue reading

8 Ways to Make Your Medical Office More Kid Friendly

All medical practices should have two primary goals in mind. One, provide top notch care and two, build lifelong relationships with your patients.

Of course some of the hardest patients to please are moms. If you want to make a mom a happy customer, you must make your medical office as kid-friendly as possible. You need to be welcoming to children and make being in your office as enjoyable as possible. To create lifelong loyal patients, you must first make them feel comfortable. So, follow these tips to help you create a welcoming environment for kids of all ages. Continue reading

5 Pieces of Medical Equipment You Can Use for Thanksgiving Dinner

Like most medical professionals, you’ve probably invested a lot in your medical equipment. Over the years you’ve discovered your favorite stethoscope, brand of scrubs, etc. Well, have you ever stopped to consider all the ways you can use all of this equipment outside of work?

It turns out there are some everyday medical tools which can come in handy when it comes to preparing the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. So break out your hypodermic needles, clean off your scalpel, and let’s get cooking. Continue reading