Letters of Recommendation
What is veCollect?
HPAO utilizes veCollect, a secure web-based service for the collection and storage of recommendation letters.
Refer to the veCollect Instructions for Students for more information. Please note: Optometry applicants should have letters sent directly to OptomCAS.
What are appropriate letters of recommendation?
Most professional schools request that you submit three to five (3-5) letters of recommendation. HPAO will accept a total of six. Your veCollect Quiver can not exceed seven letters 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.
You may wish to share these recommendations for characteristics of an effective letter of recommendation with your evaluators if they are unfamiliar with preparing letters of recommendation for students applying to health professions programs.
We require the following:
- 2 science (Biology, Chemistry, Math, or Physics) 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 any letter packets that do not include science letters of recommendation.
We strongly recommend that you obtain the following:
- Your Major, Minor (or separate course) = 1 non-science academic letter
- Health-related Work, Volunteer Work, Athletics = 1 letter
- Research Mentor = 1 letter (MD/PhD applicants should submit a letter from the PI for every significant research experience)
- A letter from a faculty member in your graduate program, if you have pursued one
- A Pre-Health Committee Letter
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
- Additional tips for writing effective letters of recommendation
- Helpful Hints for Letter Writers from AAMC
Additional tips can be found in the Letters of Recommendation Workshop video.
Once your recommender has agreed to write a letter on your behalf, you must create an Evaluator Record and Letter Record in you veCollect account. Be sure to send a letter request email through veCollect as this email will contain instructions for letter writers. We have also posted a brief section with helpful tips for letter writers. Review the veCollect Instructions for Students for additional information.
When can I start asking for letters of recommendation?
Students entering the current application cycle are expected to have all letters submitted to veCollect by June 1. Letter writers should be given plenty of notice in order to meet this deadline. Letters will not be mailed out piece by piece.
You may ask for letters at any time. 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. For veCollect instructions, see the Instructions for Students.
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. This check box overrides the statement signed for each individual letter and is the information regarding your FERPA rights that HPAO uses in deciding how to report the confidentiality of your file to the professional schools.
When must my letters be received?
Your letters should be submitted to veCollect by June 1 to avoid any delays (see timeline for specific deadlines). HPAO is not able to forward letter packets until all individual letters have been received and the veCollect quiver has been locked. Letters received after June 1 can delay this process, and thus, the submission of letter packets to schools.
- 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.