- Be sure to meet with your CU Denver adivsor to declare a concentration, i.e. pre-medicine, pre-dental, etc.
University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus Links
Letters of Recommendation
The best letters generally come from non-relatives who are well acquainted with you from academic or professional settings (school, work, health-related activities, laboratory performance, volunteer work, etc.). You should select people who know you well enough that they can share anecdotes that demonstrate your potential to become a good healthcare provider.
In general, potential letter writers include:
- A professor whom you come to know well, from science or non-science courses.
- A professor for whom you've worked for.
- An employer.
- A supervisor from volunteer or research activities.
- A healthcare professional with whom you have worked closely, over an extended period of time, in a clinical setting.
- A coach.
- A spiritual advisor who knows you well.
Note: If you have graduated and are currently working, you should obtain a letter from your employer.
Here are a few tips for selecting the perfect recommendation letter writers:
Professors over T.A.'s
Most health programs prefer not to have letters from Graduate Teaching Assistants. If you know a T.A. well, and you feel that the T.A. could write a professional evaluation, a good approach is to ask the professor of the course if he/she would be willing to write a joint letter with the T.A. If possible, it should be signed by both the professor and the T.A.
No Family or Friends.
A number of professional schools explicitly say that they will not accept letters from family members or friends of the family. If you have such a letter, plan to use it only for schools that will accept it; however, you should be aware that, at many schools, a letter from a relative is likely to carry less weight than a letter from someone who can evaluate you from a professional perspective.
You will need to send letters of recommendation/evaluation when you apply to professional schools. Your letters of recommendation are considered to be a part of your secondary application, although you may be given space to list your recommenders on your primary application. Follow these guidelines to ensure you have all your recommendation letters before submitting your applications.
As always, it is recommended to start this process early as great recommendation letters take time to produce.
Make a list of potential writers.
Most professional schools require three to five letters of recommendation; do not exceed their limits. When selecting the three to five people from whom you would like to receive letters, consider selecting individuals who know you in different ways, so that the packet of letters will portray a variety of your strengths. You should ask people to write a letter for you when they know you as well as they are going to know you, by application time.
Carefully select your professors.
Although not all of your letters must be written by faculty, most schools require applicants to have at least two of their letters written by college faculty members. Therefore, you must get to know the faculty with whom you have contact! You can make these essential contacts by making use of office hours, by seeking out courses with small class sizes (honors courses and critical thinking courses are good bets), by doing research in a lab, or by taking an active role in a club or activity that has a faculty advisor.
Ask professionally and politely.
When contacting a person whom you hope will write a letter of recommendation for you, we suggest that you ask the following questions:
"Would you be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me?"
"Do you feel it can be a strong, supportive letter?"
- "May I make an appointment to talk with you and review my preparation?"
If the answer to these questions is not an enthusiastic "yes," you may indicate that you want to do further thinking before proceeding, or you may simply say, "Okay, I appreciate your honesty. I'll try to find another recommender."
Give them time.
Ask far enough in advance that someone has time to write a letter, but not so far that the relationship becomes irrelevant. We recommend at least one month in advance of when you want the letter completed (note: this does not mean the date it is due to the school – give yourself, and your letter writer, a cushion). It is common for people to take longer than expected to write letters. By establishing an agreed-upon date in advance, you can feel comfortable sending a polite reminder if/when the due date passes with no letter yet submitted.
List of items to give your recommendation letter writers
- An updated resume that includes jobs, volunteer positions, presentations, publications, etc.
- Transcript or at least a list of classes you have taken.
- Your personal statement, or other application materials that will help the letter writer If the person is a faculty member, an example from the class (possibly a paper or test).
- The list of schools you are applying to – and the names (or group) to whom the letters should be addressed if different from “To: the Admissions Committee.”
- A clear understanding (written or verbal) of why you want to go into your chosen field Include any and all instructions for where and how to submit the letters.
- Provide a deadline that is in advance of the real deadline.
- Send a thank you to your letter writer after they have completed the letter. This is an important point of closure!
Under the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), you are guaranteed the right of access to the contents of any evaluation letter you request from a recommender unless you specifically waive that right.
In general, professional schools prefer confidential letters (that is, letters for which the applicant has waived his/her right to read the letter), because they assume that confidential evaluations will be more candid. As a result, more weight may be assigned to such letters. However, you should consider the pros and cons of keeping and waiving your right to read your letters of recommendation and make the decision that makes you feel most comfortable. Whatever your decision, you should apply it to ALL of your letters – you should either keep your right to read ALL of your letters or waive your right to read ALL of the letters.
If the recommender will be sending the letter directly to an application service, then you will need to download a separate Waiver of Confidentiality Form from within your online application.
Factors to Consider in Deciding to Retain Access
You will know the information schools have and therefore can prepare for interviews accordingly.
It may relieve stress and anxiety to know exactly what has been said.
Factual mistakes in the letter can be corrected if the writer chooses to make those corrections.
If you conclude that the letter is unfavorable, you can choose not to have it sent out. (Note that you may not withdraw a letter submitted to your Pre-Professional Credentials File, but you can tell us not to send it out.)
By reading a subjective evaluation, you have a chance to benefit from criticism.
Be aware that a potential recommender may choose not to write a letter for you if you retain access.
If you retain access, you need to be prepared to explain your reasons for your choice during interview(s).
If you retain access, a member of an admissions committee at a health professional school receiving the letter might tentatively draw one or more of the following conclusions:
The evaluation may be less candid because the writer knew that the student would see it. As a result, less weight may be assigned to such letters.
The student wanted to discuss the letter with the recommended/evaluator before the final draft was written.
The student feels a moral obligation to exercise his/her civil rights.
Factors to Consider in Deciding to Waive Access
If your recommender knows you well and has said that he/she can write a letter in support of your candidacy, you may feel reassured that the person will not include inaccuracies or unfair statements in the letter.
If you waive access, a member of an admissions committee might tentatively draw one or more of the following conclusions:
The student has nothing to conceal
The student has confidence in her/his ability to choose recommenders and did not feel it was necessary to review the letter before it was sent.
The student does not feel a moral obligation to exercise his/her civil rights in this way.