How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for Medical School

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Medical school admissions are highly competitive, with many of the nation's top students applying for places in medical programs. Admissions committees often find that it is hard to compare students based solely on resumes and transcripts, and rely on letters of recommendation to help fully assess an applicant's suitability. If you are asked to write such a letter, it is important to recognize the responsibility you have to both the student and the admissions committee to provide an accurate assessment of the candidate.

1 Consider whether you

Consider whether you are in a position to write a positive letter of recommendation for the applicant. If you are unable to do so, you should be honest with the student and politely decline serving as a recommender. It is to the student's benefit to only have positive letters submitted in support of her application.

2 Request that the student

Request that the student provide you with a current resume, college transcripts, a copy of his application essay, as well as any information on the medical program itself. It is important that you have an idea of what type of candidate the admissions committee desires as well as a full overview of what kind of student the applicant is and what he hopes to gain from attending the program.

3 Be specific when writing your letter

Be specific when writing your letter. While general positive descriptions of the applicant's attributes may sound impressive, the admissions committee will find specific examples that demonstrate these attributes far more helpful. Provide relevant examples that display the reasons why the student is suitable for admission to the medical program, which will also show how familiar you are with her work and character.

4 Compare the student

Compare the student to others you have known, placing them into a broader context for the admissions committee. An applicant who you consider to be among the top 5 percent of students you have taught in the the past 10 years, for example, will stand out more than an applicant whose recommender simply asserts that he is a brilliant student. Medical school admissions committees in particular find these comparisons useful, as many of the candidates they review have similarly impressive resumes and transcripts.

5 Be succinct

Be succinct, including only those details that are relevant to the student's application for admission. Keep in mind the qualities that the admissions committee will be looking for in a medical student and focus your letter in that direction. Aim to keep your letter between one and two pages in order to accomplish this.

Marie Sullivan has been a freelance writer since 2005. She has served as a research contributor for "Seventeen" magazine and regularly edits university publications. Sullivan holds a Master of Education in higher education administration from Boston University.