Let Your Letter Writers Know What You Expect
Sending an instructional letter to those writing your letters of recommendation is crucial. If you want something done well, it is important to let the person know what you expect.
Below is the instruction I sent to the people who were writing letters of recommendation for me. The instructional letter gives them an idea of what is expected and how they can best help you. This is one of the items in the packet you should give the writers.
What goes in the packet? See the letters of recommendation section for more information on other items I have included in the packet.
My Instructional Letter
Thank you for your willingness to write a letter of recommendation for my medical school applications. The letters of recommendation are one of the components which the admission committee uses in the admission decision. Hopefully, I had great interactions with you and I hope that the letter will reflect that.
What will really help are descriptions that reflect who I am beyond the numbers: my characteristics, personality, interactions with others (i.e. during lab), attitude in class and towards science, etc. Then connect that to why I would be a great addition to the medical community.
I would like the letter to be a closed file, which means I cannot see it. This can be done by sending the letter directly to the schools or handing me a sealed envelope for me to mail. If you cannot or will not write a positive letter of recommendation, please let me know.
It will be mailed to the schools upon the completion of my secondary application, which is around July or August. I will inform you later as to whom (name) and which schools (address) to send it to.
Let me explain to you my path so far and why I am pursuing the medical field. Upon my graduation from Indiana University, my goal was to learn more about how businesses work, in terms of reporting, efficiency, asset and time allocation, etc. My two year experience in a public accounting firm helped me reach my goal. My most cherished moments as an accountant were the interactions with clients, especially during tax season. Taxes are not particularly interesting but I did enjoy the “1 on 1,” finding out the clients’ annual financial background, and giving them the best service possible, meaning biggest refund they can legally get. Some of our tax clients are not the most financially fortunate so a bigger refund is viewed as a blessing.
However, accounting as a whole was largely unfulfilling; I never intended accounting to be a long-term commitment. Instead, it will add to what I will do later in life: medicine. I wanted to continue with the “1 on 1,” provide meaningful service, and find ultimately fulfillment. Unlike accounting, medicine is more universal; the body works the same in the United States as abroad while financial reporting does not. Medicine is also based upon the tenets of science, including evidence-based applications, properly conducted experiments, and replicability. It is not based upon the whims of politicians and policy makers. I, similar to most people who wishes to enter the medical community, want to make a difference and what better way to do so than curing the sick and serving those who are underserved. I want to be a primary care physician in the underserved rural of America.
Key Points of an Instructional Letter
Looking at the letter above, you can notice some key points that your instructional letter must make.
- appreciation – Always show your gratitude.
- recommendation letter has to be closed file – The writer must send it out; I cannot see it.
- recommendation letters has to be positive – Since I cannot see the letter, it better say good things about me.
- when you want the letter sent – The letters should arrive around the time I finish my secondary applications. I gave my writers about a month or a bit more, which I think is ample time to complete them.
- where you want the letter sent – You want the letter to arrive to the right person and place.
- summary of why I want to pursue medicine – The writer is able to write a more personal and detailed letter that correlates to my personal statement.
If you include the key points in your own instructional letter, the writers cannot help but give you a strong letter of recommendation.
This article is part of the Get into Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about getting accepted into medical school.