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Letters of Recommendation
veCollect Service for Collecting LORs
The HPAO uses veCollect, a secure web-based service, for the collection and storage of recommendation letters. Students planning to apply to medical, dental, and podiatry school in the upcoming applicant cycle can request an account. Refer to the veCollect Instructions for Students for specifics. Please note: Optometry applicants must have letters sent directly to OptomCAS.
How should I ask for letters of recommendation?
Be professional in asking your professors/recommenders for letters and give plenty of notice. Offer to meet with them to refresh their memory about you or help them put you in the context of the type of program to which you are applying and present them with the following:
- Personal Statement or a paragraph about why you think this program is right for you and how you have prepared yourself for it
- Helpful Hints for Letter Writers from AAMC
Once your recommender has agreed to write a letter on your behalf, you must enter them into your veCollect account (see instructions for details). If they are unfamiliar with preparing letters of recommendation for students applying to health professions programs, you may wish to share these Helpful Hints for Letter-Writers for technical tips and characteristics of an effective letter of recommendation.
When can I start asking for letters of recommendation?
You may ask for letters at any time, but keep in mind that your letters, with the exception of letters from summer experiences, should be submitted by the beginning of the summer to avoid any delays (see timeline for specific deadlines). Often, it is wise to ask for a letter from a faculty member soon after the course is completed and when you are still fresh in their mind. A letter that is a year old is still effective, provided the overall collection includes more current letters. If a letter is older than one year, it is a good idea to ask the author if they would mind updating it for you; you can provide them with a current resume or brief statement of what you have been doing since they wrote the letter for them to include.
What is the FERPA Statement and how do I sign it?
HPAO includes a notation in your Committee Letter that indicates whether or not you have waived your FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) right to view your letters. While professional schools prefer letters to be marked confidential, it is your decision as to whether or not you retain or waive your right to view the letters. Within your veCollect account, you will electronically sign a FERPA statement each time you create a new Letter Record.
The FERPA Statement in veCollect indicates to the writer whether or not you waive your right to view your letters of recommendation. Students utilizing the Committee Process will check a box marking their entire packet confidential or non-confidential within the Pre-Health Packet, which will override the statement signed for each individual letter and is the information that thr HPAO uses in reporting the confidentiality of your file to the professional schools.
When must my letters be received?
Your letters should be submitted by the beginning of June to avoid any delays (see timeline for specific deadlines). Letters received after this will still be accepted, but could potentially delay the submission of your letter packet to schools.
What are appropriate letters of recommendation?
Most professional schools request that you submit three to five (3-5) letters of recommendation. The HPAO will send out a maximum of six individual letters, not including your committee letter. Please note: Optometry applicants are allowed to have a maximum of 4 letters submitted to OptomCAS and should consult the Required Letters of Recommendation for each school.
We strongly recommend that you obtain the following:
- Biology, Chemistry, Math or Physics = 2 science letters from professors or head research Supervisor. The requirement here varies from school to school. Some schools insist upon faculty who have taught you in an academic class; others will accept one letter from a research mentor and one from a classroom professor. Still others will vary on this requirement, based on whether or not you also have a Committee Letter. Check your individual schools for their guidelines. HPAO will not forward a credentials packet that does not include at least one science letter.
- Your Major, Minor (or separate course) = 1 non-science academic letter
- Health-related Work, Volunteer Work, Athletics = 1 letter
- Research Mentor = 1 letter
- A letter from a faculty member in your graduate program, if you have pursued one
- DO applicants should obtain a letter from an osteopathic physician you have shadowed or with whom you have discussed osteopathic medicine
- A Pre-Health Committee Letter
- Consider carefully who you will ask for a letter of recommendation and how strongly they will be able to support your application to professional school.
- You should seek authors for your letters from among professors, supervisors, employers, coaches and/or individuals with whom you have developed a solid working relationship.
- HPAO will not include personal letters (parent, relative, neighbor) from people with whom you have not had a professional or academic relationship unless the medical school specifically requests such a letter. If one school requests such a letter, we will send it to that school alone. Otherwise, these letters are not valued by schools and make the overall product appear less professional.
- Please remember that you are encouraged to develop a relationship with faculty by visiting them during their office hours and using that time to explore your common interests beyond what is normally done in the classroom.
- Your letters are a reflection of your intellectual curiosity and exposure to the profession. They should highlight your interests, relevant activities, leadership, and academic abilities for the profession. This is why it is helpful to provide your recommenders with a copy of your resume, transcript, and personal statement.
Can my letters be forwarded to a potential employer?
No. Letters submitted to HPAO are for professional school applications only and cannot be used for any other purpose.