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. Here you can find some basic information about who to ask for letters. 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. Here are some helpful hints that will make your evaluators task easier.
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. Most professional school application services have a letters service within the application (ADSAAS, PTCAS, OptomCAS, CASPA, AACPMAS, etc.)
Medicine (allopathic and osteopathic) only
1. Virtual Evaluations (for participating schools) (through Undergraduate and Preprofessional Advising Office--UPAO) Free for you.
2. Interfolio independent electronic submission- You pay.
3. Paper (definitely not preferred)
1. Virtual Evaluations (see above)
2. Interfolio (see above)
3. AMCAS letter service
4. Both (in exceptional circumstances)
Use what your schools prefer or will allow.
1. Virtual Evaluations (VE) is a web based system for submitting letters electronically coordinated through our office (Undergraduate and Preprofessional Advising Office UPAO). All letters come to us directly from the writer with the signed waiver form. Letters need to be on letterhead and signed. They are then scanned as a single pdf file and electronically submitted as a letter packet to AMCAS or to the schools. Most schools participate in VE but double check because not all do. The advantage of VE is that it's simple, effective, and free for you. The disadvantage is that you can't customize letters for schools although we can do a packet for osteo and a packet for allopathic. We cannot add letters after submission although we can add schools.
2. AMCAS now has a letter service. Individual authors submit their letters directly to AMCAS either electronically or on paper. The advantage is that you can custom tailor your letters to each school. The disadvantage is that you have to figure out who gets what, then track it. It's pretty hard to find enough letter writers in a school this small to customize every application. Most allopathic schools participate, but not all do, so check first. The instructions for letter writers document is located here. Electronic submission can be complicated for your writers. Paper letters received by AMCAS will be automatically scanned and submitted to schools electronically.
You can find out the AMCAS schools letter requirements or WICHE osteopathic schools.
Letters of evaluation are submitted electronically to medical schools. In order to use the prefered Virtual Evals® system you will need to complete a Virtual Evals Information Sheet and submit it to the PreProfessional Advising Office. Additionally, you will need to provide each evaluator with a Waiver Form that must be signed and attached to the letter they submit.
You are responsible for making sure your letters get either to AMCAS or to UPAO for VE. Watch your letters carefully as this is one of the two places where it can go really wrong.
Start early in asking for letters. That way, your writers have time to write and you have time to verify that your letters have arrived and to get other letters if the original ones don't come.
All letter services will require a FERPA waiver which gives you the option of reviewing your letters or waiving your right to see your letters. We strongly recommend that you waive your right to see your letters, as scary as that may be. Open letters aren't taken very seriously. UPAO requires this for you to use VE. If you choose to keep your letters open, you will need to use either AMCAS or Interfolio or another service.
BE SURE TO RELEASE INFORMATION TO YOUR PREPROFESSIONAL ADVISOR IN AMCAS. This will help me help you to track letters.
Here are some specific instructions for using VE to submit to AMCAS.
For additional information about preparing for medical school interviews click here.
For more details, or to discuss this information in more depth, please contact your PreProfessional Advisor.