Getting recommendation letters can seem like a daunting task, but it really doesn’t have to be! Keep these 5 simple tips to keep in mind, and you should have a less stressful time with securing them for when you apply to residency programs!
1. Ask early on in the rotation.
If you’re working with a preceptor in the field that you’re interested in, consider asking them within the first couple days, so that they can pay more attention to the characteristics that programs tend to look for.
At the very latest, try to ask by the last day of your rotation, instead of an entire year later, when they may have already forgotten you. Consider asking something along the lines of, “Would you be willing to write me a strong/outstanding (something along those lines) recommendation letter?”
2. If possible, give them plenty of time to write the letter. Include deadlines.
You may want to tell them a deadline that’s at least a month earlier than when you actually need the letter to be turned in by, because it gives you a little more leeway to potentially ask someone else if it doesn’t get sent in.
3. If your letter-writer doesn’t know how to upload the letter to ERAS, or has never done it before, include instructions!
Your goal is to make your letter-writer’s life as easy as possible.
4. If someone offers to write you a letter without you asking for one, TAKE IT.
It will almost always be better than any letter that you have to ask for.
5. Try to get at least two more than the minimum amount of letter-writers.
Realize that sometimes, even when you do all of the above, life happens, so it’s good to have backups!
If you had a great rotation/course that you loved where you feel that you got along really well with your preceptor/professor, it really doesn’t hurt to ask for a letter even if they’re not working in the field you’re pursuing. S/he can still be a personal reference who can attest to your character + personality.
Having more than you need is definitely better than not having enough, and the worst thing that can happen is that they refuse. If they do, consider that a blessing in disguise–if they wouldn’t be able to write you a strong recommendation letter, you wouldn’t want to include it with your application anyway!
- Do you have any other tips you’d add? Share them with us in the comments!