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Letters of Evaluation


Are you a faculty member whose been asked to write a letter of evaluation for a student applying to a professional school? Click HERE to find some helpful tips!


Students

Strong letters of evaluation that provide professional schools with the sort of information they want can be a major part of a successful application. Poorly written letters or letters that are written by inappropriate evaluators can severely hurt an application. Even after you select appropriate people to write your letters of evaluation, the evaluators may not have had the opportunity to hear what sort of information health profession schools are looking for. Make your evaluators’ task easier by following the guidelines below.


Different professional schools will request slightly different mixtures of letters from faculty, health care professionals and/or employment/volunteer supervisors. Be sure to carefully research all of the schools you are planning to apply to and make sure that the letters submitted fulfill these requests. Professional school application services require letters to be submitted within the application itself. DO NOT WAIT FOR YOUR LETTERS BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION. You don’t want to delay your application for letters. Be assured that submitted letters will catch up with your application.


Ask for letters well in advance of when you’ll need them. Most faculty are not available between May and August and they have many other obligations. You should solicit your letters in the spring of the year prior to the summer of your application. This will give them the time they need to write good letters, and it will give you time for follow up.


Obtaining your letters:

Two key issues to consider in choosing who should write letters of evaluation are:

1) Who can write a strong letter? Letters that comment on attributes that demonstrate your potential to become a good healthcare provider usually are written by people who are:
• well-acquainted with you from school, work, health-related activities, laboratory performance, volunteer work, etc.
• knowledgeable and experienced in assessing prehealth professions students,
• knowledgeable about you in more than one area,
• able to compare you with other UW students, and
• able to write well.


2) Who can help you build a balanced profile of your various endeavors in the college years? One person may not be able to discuss all aspects of your candidacy but, if you choose your recommenders carefully, all aspects should be covered. Generally good sources of letters to achieve this goal might be:
• faculty members, either science or nonscience disciplines,
• a professor for whom you've worked,
• an employer, club advisor, supervisor of a volunteer activity or research experience, camp director, chaplain, coach, etc.

In general, health programs prefer not to have letters from Teaching Assistants. If you know a T.A. well, and you feel that the T.A. could write a professional evaluation, then perhaps one such letter would be appropriate. If possible, it should be signed by both the TA and the professor in charge of the course.


A number of schools explicitly say that they will not accept letters from family members, friends of the family, legislators, etc. If you have such a letter, plan to use it only for schools that will accept it and recognize that at many schools is likely to carry less weight than a letter from someone who can evaluate you from a more professional perspective. Letters from your personal provider, even if you’ve worked with him or her, tend to be less effective with admissions committees.

How to ask for letters:

Four questions asked directly of proposed recommenders (preferably in person or possibly in a personal letter or telephone call) may help them to provide a good evaluation:

• "Would you be willing to write a letter of evaluation for me?"
• "Do you feel it can be a strong, supportive letter?"
• "May I make an appointment to talk with you and review my qualifications?"
• "I'd like you to mention (fill in the blank) in my letter. Do you feel you could do that? (The decision rests with the writer.) (You may not need or want this.)


If the answer to these questions is not an enthusiastic "yes," you may indicate that you want to do further thinking before proceeding, or you may simply say, "No thank you, I'll try to find another recommender."

Material to Provide for Recommenders:

• A resume, transcripts, and a statement including in some detail the development of your interest in health care and your goals (you can use a draft of your admissions essay).
• A Waiver Form, if required. Be sure to fill out the top half, which includes the waiver of confidentiality information. Include your applicant number (e.g., AMCAS #).
• A Helpful Hints for Evaluators sheet. This gives your evaluators some helpful information about writing useful letters. If there are specific areas you want the evaluator to cover, be sure to let her/him know.
• "I'd like you to mention (fill in the blank) in my letter. Do you feel you could do that? (The decision rests with the writer.) (You may not need or want this.)
• If available, a copy of an especially good paper, exam, creative work or project you did under the evaluator’s supervision.
• MD only: AAMC Letter Writer guidelines
• Contact information in case your evaluator has questions.

About a week after your meeting, send your evaluation a quick email message thanking him/her for agreeing to write for you.


Confidentiality: Under the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), you are guaranteed the right of access to the contents of any evaluation letter you request from a recommender unless you specifically waive that right. Letter or application services normally require a FERPA statement where you have the option to waive or retain your rights of confidentiality. You should always waive them. Open letters are not typically taken seriously by your schools. An evaluator may opt to show you a confidential letter, but your letter service or professional school cannot.

How many letters:

Consult the information provided by the schools to which you are applying. Specific schools are likely to have limits on the number (and types) of letters they wish to receive. You need to follow the requirements in order for your application to be considered. Between 3 and 5 is common. Do NOT overwhelm your schools with letters.

Remember that it’s your responsibility to make sure the letters are submitted. This is one of the two danger zones in applications. Many letters don’t arrive as you expect them to. FOLLOW UP! Once your letter is received, send your evaluator a formal, written thank you note. And then let them know the results. They cared enough to write for you and will want to know the outcome.

QUESTIONS:

Contact Craig Vaske (cvaske@uwyo.edu or 307-766-3499) in the Undergraduate and Preprofessional Health Advising Office located in the College of Health Sciences. Click HERE to make an advising appointment.

(Thanks to CU-Boulder’s Preprofessional Advising Office for letting us adapt their materials.)


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UW Preprofessional Health Advising

Craig Vaske, Manager, Student Advising, MS, M.P.A.

University of Wyoming

College of Health Sciences

Dept. 3432

HS room 230E

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-3499

Email: cvaske@uwyo.edu

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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