Letters of recommendation

Discussion in 'Clinical Rotations' started by Stillwell, Apr 14, 2002.

  1. Stillwell

    Stillwell Member

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    First, thanks for all everone's help. This forum is great -

    I am about to start asking for letters of rec from a few docs (based on the med school app process, I think it's better to ask for the letters well in advance).

    So...

    What do you include in the package? stamped envelopes, CV, personal statement I guess is standard - anything else?

    Do I ask for several generically addressed letters, or wait till later and get more personalized letters?

    Can I ask for one for my own files, with them knowing i could read what it says?

    For those of you that get Dean's LEtters sent out as well, should I get one sent to the docs so they can look at that too or is it going overboard?

    Thanks again -
     
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  3. Stillwell

    Stillwell Member

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    Also, how many writers did you get? I guess most residencies ask for 3 letters, but did you get say 4 letters from your doctors and then send them all out anyway?
     
  4. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic!
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    The following is assuming your specialty uses ERAS (which most do):

    most programs that I've seen do not specify the number of letters you can submit; that said however, I wouldn't send more than 3-4 unless they REALLY add something to your application

    the process is that you have letters sent to your Dean's office and they upload them to the ERAS server. When it comes time to apply to residency programs you pick and choose which letters go where (ie, if you are applying to multiple specialties, you might have letter from Dr. X go to Ortho program Y, and letter from Doctor Z go to General Surgery Program Z). Obviously you don't see copies of the letter in most cases and most students, applying to only 1 specialty, submit all letters to every program to which they apply.

    Therefore, given that the letters are submitted to ERAS and NOT individual programs (programs will actually say they don't accept documents outside of computerized ERAS applications) they should be addressed generically (ie, Dear program director).

    if you have a special connection with a certain program (ie, your father is an alumni), it is obviously ok to have that letter addressed personally and submitted through ERAS. In such a situation THAT letter would only go to that program (and none of the others).

    Do not ask your writers to send multiple personalized letters unless you are only applying to very few programs or they offer to do so.

    Your Dean's letter is not released until November 1 (usually) and as such, is not usually available before then either. Therefore, I imagine it would be available too late to be of benefit to your letter writers. Presumably your letter writers know you well enough and when armed with your CV and personal statement should not need additional information. Ask they if they would like such but I imagine they will say no.

    In short, you do not need to provide more than 1 envelope for your letter writers to send the letters back to your Dean's office (check with your Dean's office as to the appropriate place for the letters to be sent). You don't say what stage you are at - don't get letters too far ahead (ie more than 1 year); they will need to be updated. You can ask letter writers to write something now while you are fresh in their minds but tell they you will be asking for an updated letter when it comes time to apply. If you are a first or second year student, remember that clinical letters will be given more weight than those from basic science faculty.

    Hope this helps.

    PS. I would NOT ask for copies of the letters although some writers may offer them to you. It is expected that they are confidential. However, it should be the duty of your Dean's Office to read these and inform you that one (or more) of your letters does not strongly support your candidacy should that be the case. Letters in which you are aware of the contents are seen as less truthful and more suspect than those kept confidential. Ask your Dean's office to let you know if any of them are less than flattering.
     
  5. AJM

    AJM SDN Moderator
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    If you will be applying through the ERAS match (like the majority of programs), you should include an ERAS cover sheet to give to your LOR writer so they can include it with their letter. Go to this page to download the cover sheet:
    <a href="http://www.aamc.org/students/eras/support/start.htm" target="_blank">http://www.aamc.org/students/eras/support/start.htm</a>
    It's got most of the information that your letter writer will need, and it has an area where you can waive your right to see the letter. Like Kimberli, I strongly suggest that you waive your right -- it makes for a much stronger letter. Your LOR writer may still show you the letter if they choose to -- a couple of mine did even though I waived my right to see them. If not, just check with a friendly person in your Dean's office to see whether the letters you have are good.

    You actually don't need as many letters as you might think. Most residency programs require 3 letters -- 1 of them typically has to be a letter from the department chair of the specialty you're applying in, so you really only need 2 letters from attendings you have worked with. Don't worry if you don't know your department chair -- many schools have systems set up where you meet with the chair during the summer for them to get to know you, and then they write the letter shortly after that. Check with your Dean of students or with your department to see how it works for your specialty.

    As far as the letters other than the chair letter, you can send 2 or 3. You can't send more than a total of 4 letters (including your chair letter) per program through ERAS, but if you want to send more then you can mail them directly to the programs. If you have more letters than you need, you can pick and choose which ones to send to different programs. ie: Program 1 gets LORs X, Y, and Z, while Program 2 gets LORs Z, W, and R.

    Hope that helps!
     
  6. Pinky

    Pinky and the Brain

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    At my school, the dean's office will recommend which letters to use if you ask them. last year, I asked 7 people to write LORs for me. The dean's office picked the top 3 and recommended that I use those.

    I eventually did see my letters though. At one program where I interviewed, the interview coordinator gave all the applicants copies of their whole application including dean's letter and LORs. They did this so that we could make sure that our files weren't missing any materials. Interesting huh?
     
  7. patters1111

    patters1111 Junior Member

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    The problem I have is that my school will not show me my letters like several schools will and I am not willing to let the secretary at my school tell me which LOR are good. I have seen problems where the physician does not know how to write a letter worth a damn. My experience with private physicians is that several of them don?t put that much time into it. Maybe I am wrong but do I risk my career on it? If I don?t see the letter one way or another I don?t know if I would feel comfortable sending it. Any suggestions?
     
  8. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic!
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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by patters1111:
    <strong>The problem I have is that my school will not show me my letters like several schools will and I am not willing to let the secretary at my school tell me which LOR are good. I have seen problems where the physician does not know how to write a letter worth a damn. My experience with private physicians is that several of them don?t put that much time into it. Maybe I am wrong but do I risk my career on it? If I don?t see the letter one way or another I don?t know if I would feel comfortable sending it. Any suggestions?</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">It seems obvious to me that your options are to either a) ask the Dean or his representative to look at the letters rather than a secretary; b) ask the letter writers if they are comfortable letting you see them before they are sent (then of course you cannot sign the waiver) or c)take your chances. Option 1 seems the best. "Risk your career" is probably overstating the case a bit - IMHO while great letters can help the marginal candidate, in most cases they do not make a significant difference in an application if they are decent (ie, only if they say you totally suck or are Albert Schweitzer are they likely to change things).
     

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