Deans letters?

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Dec 11, 2006
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I've done a search but haven't come up with anything. Could anyone explain what exactly a dean's letter is and how exactly I can improve upon mine? Thanks!

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15+ Year Member
Feb 12, 2006
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Try searching under MSPE. It's the new black. Medical Student Perfromance Eval or something.

There are really two sure-fire ways to get a good one.
1) good grades
2) good clinical evals

Having said that, these docs vary greatly between schools, and use nebulous terms to quantify you vs. other students at your school, using vocabulary that is inconsistent amongst all other schools. Basically, the MSPE is #4 or #5 on the list of Most Important Thing to Secure Your Residency.

Get good grades. Get good Step. Get good evals. Don't be a d*ck on the interview trail. Everything else will fall into place.


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Dec 30, 2002
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...and don't be a d*ck in medical school.

A lot (well, really I only know my school) of the MSPEs are cut and paste. So if you blasted so-and-so on one rotation, and then took it easy on the clerkship you didn't want to be at, the attending's subjective comments about your performance may end up in your letter - verbatim.

"Why do some doctors describe you as a lazy as*hole?" is not the question you want to be asked at every residency interview...assuming they even read the frickin' letter.

Oh yeah - the last line always tells your class rank, usually with some sort of polite code. So do well, like Bertelman said.



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Could anyone explain what exactly a dean's letter is and how exactly I can improve upon mine?
The Dean's Letter (aka the MSPE or Medical Student Performance Evaluation) is a long document that summarizes your medical school career. It is prepared during early fall of your 4th year and sent out (traditionally on November 1) to all the residency programs you apply to.

At my school, the Dean's Letter is split into several different parts:
1. Identifying information: this states your year & the name of your school
2. Unique characteristics: this is a summary of your background before entering med school with a brief statement about anything special you accomplished during your med school years.
-there is nothing you can do to change your background & past accomplishments, but while you are in medical school you can get involved in community service, school committees & organizations, leadership positions, research, etc.
3. Academic history: facts about date of graduation, whether you took time off or had disciplinary action taken against you, etc.
4. Academic progress: may discuss your class rank, performance in 1st and 2nd year, and often includes verbatim all the course evaluations from your required clerkships in 3rd year.
-at our school, we are not allowed to change the wording of our course evaluations; they include all statements, even if they are negative or written with poor grammar. If this is the case in your school and you ever get an undeserved less than satisfactory evaluation for a 3rd year clerkship, make sure you contact the clerkship chair right away to find out why & if there is any way to have that eval modified before it goes into the Dean's Letter in your 4th year.
5. Summary: This is an overview about your general character and may include some general descriptive adjective that hints at your class ranking. Some writers of the MSPE will tailor the letter to the specialty you're aiming for and discuss the qualities you possess that fit well with that particular specialty.

Generally in early fall of your 4th year, you have an appointment with the person who will write your Dean's Letter. At this meeting, they will discuss your background, accomplishments, anything you want to emphasize about yourself. It is best to come to this meeting well prepared with a statement about your background, a list of organizations/activities/research you did in med school, etc. Some writers will talk with you, then write the letter afterwards; other writers will actually write the letter while meeting with you. Classmates whose writers were writing during the meeting seem to be happiest with their letters.

The best way to get a good dean's letter is to do very well in medical school, and to address any problems (either academic or social) as they arise. Do not wait until your 4th year to try to fix a bad evaluation from earlier years. At my school, we are allowed to proofread the dean's letter for grammar and spelling errors before it is sent out, but we are not allowed to change it otherwise.