Letters of Recommendation: Advice for Faculty

It’s the time of year when fourth year medical students have decided on their specialty and are working on their applications to enter the NRMP match.   It’s also the season that faculty are asked to write letters of recommendations. With approximately 17,000 medical school seniors applying, there will be around 100,000 letters of recommendation written this year!


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If you have had the benefit of sitting on a residency committee to evaluate and rank applicants, you’ve read these letters – and you know that they matter.   If you haven’t had that experience, it will be important to seek advice on how to write these important letters.  Seek help from other faculty with more experience or review the great advice posted by the University of California- San Francisco and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

A few other points that may help:

  1. This year, for the first time, faculty will have to upload these letters themselves. You can have a “designee” (your assistant, for example) do this for you – but it cannot be someone in the Office of Student Affairs. Make sure you get started early so it doesn’t become an issue as deadlines approach! The help desk at the AAMC is wonderful, but it’s going to be a problem if you wait until the last minute!
  1. Proofread. Twice. This is the first year that the Deans in your school won’t be able to look at your letters.   No one means to make mistakes…. but in years past, I’ve found letters with the wrong names, the wrong gender and grammar that only sort of made sense.   Needless to say, for the Program Directors it raises a question about whether your letter is legitimate.
  1. Instead of having the students worry (think back…. you worried, too), let them know when you plan to upload their letter. Regardless – make sure they are uploaded by September 1st.


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On behalf of all the students you are helping, and all the departments who rely on your letters to help match students to their programs – thank you!!


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