Who to ask
When you apply to health professions school, you will request four to six letters of recommendation, which will be included in your committee letter and sent to your schools. At least two letters must be from evaluators who can comment on your ability in the sciences, at least one of whom has taught you in a science class at Princeton.
When considering whom to approach for letters, think about whose letters will provide a balanced picture of you as an applicant. Letters are meant to provide details about any and all aspects of your candidacy, particularly your ability to navigate the rigorous medical school community, ways in which you will contribute to your medical school class, and suitability for a career in the health professions. The AAMC Letter Writer Guidelines outlines information schools are looking for – brainstorm who can provide this kind of information about you. HPA can provide additional guidance around choosing your recommenders.
When to ask
Give your writers at least a month before you want the letter to arrive at our office.
How to ask
When asking for letters of recommendation, try to set yourself and your recommender up for success.
- Ask directly: in person, via online conference, or by phone, not by email. You can set up a meeting time to discuss the letter by email, but an in-person meeting is more professional and more personal.
- Be detailed in how you ask and give the recommender the chance to say no: you want detailed, positive, strong letters of recommendation. If someone does not have the time, or does not know you well enough to provide this kind of letter, then it’s best to know in advance and look for someone who can be more enthusiastic. Ask your potential recommender if they will feel comfortable writing a strong, positive letter for you in the time allotted.
- Be prepared to discuss your candidacy and motivation for medicine in person, and provide additional information to make it easier for them to write:
- HPA Request for a letter of recommendation (pdf) – this HPA form should be given to each recommender to facilitate their submission of letters.
- Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Recommendation for Health Professions Schools – this handout may be useful to your recommender, particularly if they have not written many letters.
- The AAMC Letter Writer Guidelines that provide helpful guidance regarding what medical schools are looking for in letters of recommendation.
- A copy of your resume/CV
- A short autobiography providing background on yourself and your motivation for medicine
- Anything else that they request
- Negotiate deadlines by which the letter should be received in HPA with your recommenders. Follow up from time to time with reminders about the deadline.
- Write a thank you note when the letter has been received.
- Stay in touch with your writers throughout the process, especially once you’ve been accepted and decided where you will attend, to thank them again for their support.
Letter Storage with HPA
In the application year, students who are working with the HPA Committee Letter/preapplication interview process will have access to veCollect, an online letter collection service, and will receive instructions on how to set up an account. Other students and alums should request letters to be sent directly to HPA (by email from on-campus recommenders, paper mail from off campus).
Students may request letters at any point in their Princeton career. HPA will store letters on file on the student's behalf for future applications for six years after graduation.
For more information
See our online FAQ: http://hpa.princeton.edu/faqs/application-process-faq/rec-letters-faq