Letters of Recommendation and the Committee Letter
The committee letter is a concise summary of your undergraduate years at Southwestern University. The Pre-Medical Advisory Committee consists of faculty members in the natural sciences and a staff member from Student Affairs. As a group, we can comment on your achievements, experiences, special interests, personal qualities, and any challenges you may have encountered.
How to request a committee letter from the Pre-Medical Advisory Committee
We will create what is known as the health professionals evaluation (HPE) committee packet. It consists of the committee letter and the individual letters of recommendation that we have received.
To request a committee letter, you need to fill out the Intent to Apply form and complete the Review My Application (RMA) form. You are also required to attend the two informational meetings that are offered in the fall and spring semesters and complete a 30-minute interview with members of the committee.
After you have submitted all your information to the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS), please forward the email you receive from the TMDSAS stating that your application has been transmitted to schools, and attach a PDF of your application to this email.
After submitting your application to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), email Dr. Maria Cuevas a PDF of your verified application. You will know that your application is verified because it will have a date in the upper right corner in the Processed Date field.
Only after we have received the verification will we write and upload your committee letter to the application service within 10 business days. The application service will release your committee letter to all the schools to which you are applying.
The deadline to request a committee letter for the fall 2021 cycle is November 1, 2019.
Etiquette for requesting recommendation letters
These tips were adapted from the “Seeking Recommendation Letters” document drafted by the Psychology Department at Southwestern University.
General tips for students seeking recommendation letters
- Identify individuals who will be able to write the strongest letters.
- Give your referees plenty of advance notice.
- Provide a single organized, detailed information email (or packet) that will streamline the process for the writer and result in a stronger letter.
Tips for identifying good referees
Remember that you want the strongest letter of recommendation, one that states both your academic and personal potential. Therefore, approach individuals who think most highly of you. If you have any doubts about whether the person can write you a strong letter of recommendation, ask them (e.g., “Would you be able to write me a strong recommendation?”); most will be honest in telling you they can or that you should explore other possibilities.
- Approach professors who know you best (e.g., those you’ve conducted research with or taken several courses from, your academic advisor, or any professor who knows you well in or outside of class). It is recommended you ask a faculty member who taught you in one of the required science courses as well as one who taught you in the humanities or social sciences.
- Approach the supervisor of an internship, work-related experience, or significant extracurricular activity (e.g., your athletics coach or the advisor of a club).
- Approach a physician or health professional with whom you have worked or whom you have shadowed if you are applying to osteopathic schools.
- Always ask for a letter in advance, preferably face to face (email is OK if you already graduated and live out of town). It is completely unacceptable to leave recommendation forms under an office door before you ask, or worse, let a faculty member receive an email request from a school before you’ve asked the professor—it is presumptuous and makes a bad impression, something you don’t want to do with a letter writer!
- Always waive your right to see the letters; they are more credible that way. Faculty won’t write letters without this.
- When asking the faculty member to write a letter of recommendation, please give them at least three weeks’ advance notice.
What to give your referees
Everything should either be in (a) one email or (b) one well-organized, bundled, and labeled folder at the time of your request. It is much easier for the person who is writing a letter of recommendation if you give them one email or packet rather than dropping off or emailing multiple additional materials, which are hard to keep track of.
- Your curriculum vitae or academic r´esumé (clean and professional)
- Your personal statement (a polished version, not an early draft) indicating your interest in medical, osteopathic, veterinary, or dental school
- A cover page and a checklist for the faculty member that contains, in chronological order by due date, all the programs to which you are applying, including the type of program; the deadline; whether there is an online form, no form, or a printed recommendation form; the address; and any special information the faculty member might want to incorporate into their letter (e.g., your interests in that particular program)
- Supplemental information that will help the faculty member write a strong letter (e.g., MCAT, DAT, or GRE scores and percentiles; your science and overall GPAs; courses you took from the professor, including semester, year, and grade for each; your future goals and plans; and strengths you would like the letter writer to emphasize). Also feel free to ask a referee to help explain away a limitation in your application, such as low MCAT scores or low grades before you got interested in medicine (i.e., and “found your true calling”).
Note that failure to (1) give enough advance notice, (2) provide all the needed information, and (3) send online requests with ample time before the deadline will result in the individual’s inability to write and submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf. Some of the characteristics usually commented on are organization and time-management skills. If you don’t follow these tips, what do you want the the person writing the letter to say?
- Check whether your letters have been submitted to Dr. Cuevas. If not, send a gentle reminder to your referees.
- It is professional courtesy to either write an email or a handwritten note thanking the individual for taking the time to write a letter in support of your application.
- Keep the the people who wrote letters of recommendation updated on the status of your application; they always want to know.