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.
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 2018 for 2023 matriculation).
- The applicant must secure at least two letters of recommendation that speak to their readiness for the science curriculum in medical school; at least one of these two letters must be from someone who taught the applicant in a science course at Princeton.
- The applicant must participate in the HPA preapplication process.
- The applicant must meet all paperwork deadlines:
- Seven days prior to preapplication interview: autobiography, essays, activities list, preapplication profile
- June 1: Deadline for completing HPA preapplication materials and scheduling interview (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 (incorporating information from individual letters of recommendation), 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: HPA is happy to provide advising support and access to resources. HPA will also collect individual letters of recommendation on any student or alum's 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 Trajectory & Intellectual Engagement – discusses intellectual choices, provide context for grades especially if there are anomalous situations, highlight achievements and research experiences
- Meaningful Activities – highlights candidate’s engagement in civic engagement, medically related experience, and leadership
- Closing comments
Timing of Committee Letters
The committee letters of recommendation are prepared in the spring and summer; 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