The letter of recommendation written by HPA on an applicant’s behalf is often called a composite letter or committee letter. Committee letters are preferred by medical and dental schools, and accepted by some veterinary, optometry and other health professional schools. The letter is often referred to as a "committee" letter because it carries the support of a committee of individuals who work with applicants; it is called a “composite” because it incorporates information from several different sources.
Purpose of the Committee Letter
The committee letter serves many purposes, all of which are valuable to students in the application process:
- To provide a clear narrative of the applicant’s candidacy
- To provide context that may address anomalies in the applicant’s candidacy
- To give admissions committees a clearer understanding of the candidate in the context of other Princeton applicants
- To help HPA advisers learn more about applicants, which may be helpful in guiding them through the application process.
Eligibility for a Committee Letter for New Applicants
In order for a committee letter to be written for a new applicant (i.e., an applicant who has never received a committee letter), the following criteria must be met:
- The applicant must have taken at least half of the prerequisite science courses (e.g., general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics) at Princeton.
- The applicant must have graduated no more than five years prior to expected professional school matriculation (e.g., class of 2017 for 2022 matriculation).
- The applicant must secure at least one letter of recommendation from someone who taught them in a science course at Princeton.
- The applicant must sign up for and participate in a pre-application interview.
- The applicant must meet all paperwork deadlines:
- Seven days prior to pre-application interview: autobiography, essays, activities list, preapplication profile
- April 31: Deadline for HPA pre-application interview scheduling (preferred scheduling is in January)
- August 1: Deadline for letters of recommendation and AMCAS submission (ideal submission is in June)
- The applicant must provide HPA a copy of the verified primary application(s).
Applicants who do not meet the first three criteria might receive a letter of support on a case by case basis but all applicants must meet interview and paperwork deadlines. Please contact HPA to discuss your individual situation.
There are no GPA or MCAT cut-offs to receive a committee letter of recommendation; however, HPA strongly encourages students to engage in the committee letter process when they feel confident that they are competitive applicants. A committee letter will provide an honest evaluation of academic performance and readiness for success in the rigorous professional school curriculum, as well as experiences and understanding of the profession, and motivation for the chosen profession.
For Princeton students and alumni who are ineligible for a committee letter because they have missed deadlines or have "aged out" of the committee letter process, HPA will collect individual letters of recommendation on their behalf, and send a packet of the individual letters out to schools with a brief cover letter. See Letter Collection Service for more details.
Contents of Committee Letters
The committee letter is generally about two single-spaced pages and draws primarily from information gleaned in the materials that candidates submit to HPA, the Preapplication Interview, the letters of evaluation, and our overall work with each candidate over the years. The information is organized into roughly the following structure:
- Candidate Introduction – describes motivation for medicine, childhood experiences, background
- Academic Experiences – discuss intellectual choices, provide context for grades especially if there are anomalous situations, highlight achievements
- Meaningful Activities – highlighting candidate’s engagement in research, service, medically-related experience, and leadership
- Closing comments
Timing of Committee Letters
The committee letters of recommendation are prepared beginning in the spring; preparing them is a time-intensive process for the HPA office, and this is the reason that we ask for much information from applicants well before the application season truly begins with application submission in June.
Submission of Committee Letters
Once the committee letter is written, it is sent, along with other materials, to the applicant’s schools. The materials sent by HPA include:
- Cover sheet with general information
- Committee letter
- Individual letters of recommendation
- Prehealth Course Form
- Letter addressing disciplinary/academic institutional action, if applicable.
- Description of Princeton’s grading policies, independent work requirements, and other highlights of the academic program