When and How to Ask for Letters

Before selecting evaluators, please consider that no one is required to participate in the Letter of Evaluation (LEO) process. Anyone writing a letter of evaluation for a Health Professional school bears an obligation of candor to you, the institutions to whom it is addressed, and to the institution the writer represents. It is the writer’s responsibility to determine how to respond to your request for a letter. If a prospective evaluator feels that they are not able to write a letter following the guidelines of honesty and reliability provided by the PreHealth Advising Program, then it is their responsibility to decline.

Evaluators typically put tremendous time and effort into letters that they write. It is expected that all LOEs that are received in support of your career goal will be sent on to health professional schools. Students are not allowed to “letter shop,” asking for extra letters and then choosing the best ones to submit. Do not request more than three faculty letters nor more than three external letters unless you have been granted an exception to this policy.

When should I request LOEs?

Under most circumstances you will want to wait until your application year to request letters of evaluation.

For internal letters from NU faculty this will allow you the opportunity to take your smaller, upper level classes before you request a letter of evaluation. In addition, if you have a professor who you particularly like, you may enroll in another class or complete a directed study with them. After a second class the professor will be able to write a better evaluation. Remember to keep in touch with faculty after class ends; stop by for advice about a co-op or research position, tutor their class, or assist with their research. Make an effort to check in with a couple of former science professors once a semester to let them know what you are doing, and to maintain your relationship.

For external letters you may request letters within a few months of your experience. However, it may be more effective to maintain a relationship with your evaluator and ask for a letter closer to your application time. This allows a mentor to see how you grow over time. It also helps to establish that you are able to maintain long-term professional relationships.

Prior to requesting an LOE, you should decide whether you want to waive your right of access to the letter under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). before you make your decision, once you have submitted your letter request, you cannot change your FERPA status.

How do I request LOEs?

Whenever possible we recommend that you make an appointment to meet with your potential evaluator to “make the ask”. In your email request for an appointment let the evaluator know that you would like to meet with them to discuss your application to medical school. This sets the stage for your meeting and, in the unlikely event that the evaluator doesn’t feel that they can recommend you, allows them to decline. When you go to your appointment bring a current resume, a draft of your personal statement, and a copy of your degree audit or unofficial transcript to leave behind with the evaluator. Be prepared to talk about your passion for medicine and future aspirations.

Once an evaluator has agreed to write a recommendation for you, you will send an official request to them via MAP.
Make sure that evaluators are aware of the Guidelines for Evaluators below. You may also want to give them a copy of the
AAMC’s Letter Guidelines Brochure to help them understand what schools are looking for. This brochure was developed for allopathic medicine programs, but generalizes well to other types of health professions.

Guidelines For Evaluators

As a part of our Committee Letter and Letter Packet process the PreHealth Office verifies the identity of all evaluators to the best of our abilities. Evaluators must be able to receive the official request for a letter of evaluation via a professional/institutional e-mail address. We cannot “credential” individuals who provide gmail, yahoo, etc. e-mail addresses. If the evaluator cannot provide a professional e-mail address, you must obtain prior-approval from the PreHealth Advising Program to use a non-professional e-mail. In the event that you receive this permission, the evaluator is required to submit their letter via US Mail instead of email.

Make sure that you understand how the LOE submission process works and that each evaluator knows what to expect. Provide a copy of the Guidelines For Evaluators.

In brief, please explain to each evaluator who consents to write a letter on your behalf that:

S/he will receive an e-mail from the PreHealth Advising Program confirming that s/he has agreed to write a letter on your behalf. The confidentiality status of the letter will be confirmed as well as your matriculation year.
S/he will be asked to provide honest ratings about personal and professional characteristics and attributes that pertain to you based upon his/her knowledge of your academic progress and experiential learning.

S/he will be asked to submit a candid letter of evaluation electronically. NU faculty will submit a word document, all other evaluators will be asked to submit a pdf copy of a letter that is signed, dated, and on professional/institutional letterhead. All NU faculty are required to submit electronically. For external evaluators, we prefer an electronically submitted pdf but we will accept a hard-copy original by US mail (not by fax). All electronic letters must be submitted using a professional/organizational e-mail address. We cannot accept electronic letters from gmail, yahoo, aol, etc. e-mail accounts.

The e-mail does not contain a deadline for submitting the letter. You should tell the evaluator that you would appreciate the letter being submitted within 4-6 weeks of your request.

What if I defer my application or must re-apply?

The NU PreHealth Advising Program will maintain your LOE files. LOEs will be available to you for use in the next three years if you decide to defer your application, or if you are not successful the first time you apply. If you decide to defer your application, or must re-apply, we recommend that you add one additional letter that speaks to what you have done in the time since your other letters were received.

Please note: The PreHealth Office can’t forward letters to any program other than what was designated on the original request. We are unable to send letters to medical master’s, Post-Bacc, Physician’s Assistant, Nursing (etc) programs. Please contact your evaluators directly to request that letters be tailored to the program to which you are applying.