Getting a letter of recommendation from a professor, lab advisor, or coach for your medical school applications may seem like a daunting task. Students drag their feet with asking for a letter, some afraid they’ll offend the person or cause them more work by asking. You shouldn’t worry, most writers will be more than happy to write you a letter if they know you well.
Having had to ask for letters of recommendation for almost every graduate school application possible at this point(MS, PhD, and MD) I think I have a few tips to share. 😉 Here are a few things to keep in mind when you go to ask for your next application. This shouldn’t be a painful process for either party.
1. Give your letter writer enough time. Most professors and other professionals that will be writing your letters of recommendations are busy people with many demands on their time. They will often take longer to write that letter for you then they say(though this is not always the case). Be sure to give them at least a month to get the letter to you by your deadline. For some professors that you know are habitually late with things, give them more time. You may be surprised at the turn around time. I think I waited about three weeks for the last letter of mine to come in during one application cycle.
2. Follow up with an email after two weeks. If you still haven’t heard anything after two weeks send an email or stop by and see the professor to give them a gentle nudge as a reminder that you’re still waiting on that letter. This was the key for me in reminding my one letter writer. They got me the letter I needed a couple of days later, along with an apology that it had slipped their mind and a thank you for reminding them. Again just remember that your letter writers are most likely busy people and your letter is probably not at the top of their priority list.
3. Make sure you are prepared to ask them in the first place. When you ask for a letter of recommendation be sure that your end of the bargain has been met as well. You should have a packet ready for each of your letter writers. This packet is designed to end the back and forth requests for information. Each packet should include: