Pre-Med Spring Break: Letters of Recommendation

As the snow falls and you dream of your potential Spring Break tan lines, you might wonder if you are forgetting anything other than sun lotion and checking for the Spring Fling artist (announcement later). If you are applying to medical or dental school, in addition to MCAT preparation for the May or June test takers and drafting Personal Statements, you should be thinking about letters of recommendation.

Medical schools require that you submit a “committee letter” and letters of recommendation as a part of your secondary application. In order to receive the committee letter from Penn, the Health Professions Advisory Board (HPAB) requires that you send a minimum of 3 letters (referenced in the committee letter), though you may send a maximum of 6, and has set May 15th as the deadline for having those letters of recommendations on file with Career Services.

Before the festivities begin or even after you are all settled in at home, you should request letters of recommendation from a variety of people with whom you have worked but are relevant to medical school.  You might ask a TA from a biology recitation, a Principal Investigator from your Organic Chemistry lab, or your supervisor from a hospital volunteer program. Please note: you must have at least one letter of recommendation from someone who has taught you in the sciences, however, two is preferable.  In addition, it is ideal to have at least one letter of recommendation from someone who has taught you in a course outside of the sciences and one of your letters must be from a member of your undergraduate school’s standing faculty (i.e., Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor).

Having a letters of recommendation from someone famous, your baby daddy’s psychologist, or a family doctor who has known you since you were a toddlers are not recommended as the letter would not necessarily be helpful or particularly relevant.

Please instruct your recommenders to submit their letters of recommendation directly to your Credentials File in Career Services via email (, accompanied by a Confidentiality Agreement, which is available on the Career Services website: You need to complete the form and sign the Confidentiality Agreement; we strongly suggest that you waive your right to see your letters since medical schools prefer confidential letters of recommendation and the committee letter is confidential.

Lastly, you can confirm whether letters have arrived in your Credentials File by checking the status online: Please check regularly, allowing at least a week for processing.