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Hi All!

I finally submitted my application to medical school! To be honest, my application was ready to be submitted at the end of May, but I got swept up in my summer program and kept putting it off. I think the idea of submitting finally made it REAL. But in today's post I wanted to discuss letters of recommendation. Did you know, you don't have to wait for LORs before submitting your app, so if you're holding out, there's no need! Letters can be submitted and received before or after your primary application is submitted, but that's not to say procrastinate... early is always best!

Like I said, my primary application was ready to submit at the end of May, letters and all! I made sure ask my letter writers in advance, so all my letters would be received or in the process when my app was ready to go. Before I started the medical school application process, I had always heard tales of how hard it was to get letters of recommendation... my advisor once told me of a student, who had a school offering an interview invite, but couldn't officially because one of her letter writers had yet to submit their letter! Apparently, the student drove all the back to their school and camped outside their professor's office until they agreed to submit the letter ASAP! Fortunately for me, the LORs was the easiest part of my application and I wanted to give you guys some tips!

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How to find Letter Writers:

Freshmen, Sophomore or even Junior Year are the perfect times to find letter writers! Chances are you'll be taking a professor more than once, and if you do, they'll be one of the people you want to write your letter! Since I did a post-bacc, the majority of my letters are from instructors I recently took classes with, but I had a instructor in which I had 3 classes over my four years with my home institution, and even though I had graduated and she moved to another university, she was more than willing to write me a letter! (she even wrote me two!: one for my summer program and med school!)Tip: Don't be afraid to contact old instructors, and ask for a rec! Just shoot an e-mail, reminding them, and offer some background and most should repsond!

How to develop relationships with Instructors: 

Simple, go to office hours...consistently! Honestly, it's that easy! But cautionary tale: make sure you make yourself known when you go to office hours! During my post-bacc I went to office hours, maybe 3-4 that semester for a class, and I thought my professor recognized me enough to write a good letter of rec for my summer program, apparently she did not! When I asked, she told me she didn't know me well, but you write to my good performance in her rigorous class... I said okay (DON'T). Come to find out, she put the wrong name on my letter and only wrote a paragraph! Tip: If you ask a person to write you a STRONG letter and they seem hesitant at all, run! It's not worth your time or theirs. 

How to ask for Letters of Recommendation:

If you found potential letter writers and have good enough relationships that you feel like a STRONG letter can be written on your behalf, it can still feel intimidating to ask! I always felt like I was burdening my instructors or doctors, asking for a favor. DON'T! Tip: It's the job of faculty members to write letters of recommendations... they do it all the time, every year! And remember, someone had to do the same for them, once upon a time. So one day, when you and I are doctors, with our busy lives, let's remember the same when some shy pre-med comes up and asks for an LOR!

When asking for a letter, I would suggest like my advisor suggested to me, have a Letter Writers Packet/ Folder for each of your letter writers. In my Letter Writer Packet, I included the AAMC Letter Writer guidelines to help "guide" my writers in what should be mentioned in my letters. I also included a draft of my personal statement (it can be rough, just a little background so they have more to write about), my CV/ Resume, and a letter of gratitude! They'll probably ask for your CV and Personal Statement anyway, but isn't nice to just have it ready to go before they even ask! And ask early, and when I say early... 2-3 months is usually warning time! (I asked in January, and sent reminders in March and early May when AMCAS opened, but if you haven't asked've still got time!)

Interfolio vs AAMC for Letter Submission:

I personally opted for Interfolio (an online dossier service) to house my letters until submission to the AAMC (a couple of my letter writers preferred to send directly to AAMC). Interfolio's service will hold your letters until you are ready to submit, so you don't have to wait until the AMCAS app opens to ask for letters and if you're worried that your professor will forget you...ask directly at the end of the semester and have them submit to Interfolio. Once all my letters arrived in Interfolio, I submitted them to AMCAS and they were received 24 hours later!

Asking for letters was the simplest part of my app, writing my personal statement was another story! I hope this post was helpful!

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