University of California, Riverside

Health Professions Advising Center

Letters of Recommendation


Letters of Recommendation are important to the admissions file as they should highlight the applicant in several areas. A strong letter should shed light on academic, extra-curricular, and job performance that isn’t already apparent within the application. Letters may also clarify questions the admissions committee members might have in reviewing your file (i.e. retaking a course, research experience, clinical experience, etc.).  For example, work supervisors are often able to write about how well the applicant works with others, handles problematic issues, and communicates with fellow team members/colleagues.  All in all, letters are a vital component to the applicant file.

Consider asking the following individuals for a letter of evaluation:

  • Science professor (Most medical schools will want two)
  • Professor of a non-science course
  • Health care practitioner (i.e. physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, optometrist)
  • Supervisor from research, service or volunteer program
  • Spiritual advisor
  • Work supervisor


 What may be asked of you by someone agreeing to write a letter on your behalf?

  • Resume/C.V.
  • Personal Statement
  • Transcript
  • List of schools that you are planning on applying to
  • Certain # of clinical or research hours
  • Specific grade in course


When should I ask for a letter of evaluation?

It’s best to approach your letter writers as early as possible. It’s most practical to ask early spring quarter. Because a letter of evaluation takes time to develop and write, please allow 4-6 weeks for the letter to be written.  


How should I ask for a letter of evaluation?

  • Could we set up a time to chat about me applying to a graduate/professional program?
  • Do you feel that you have enough information to write a strong letter of evaluation for me?
  • I’m applying to ___________ program this spring. I’m looking for letter writers, would you be willing to write a letter to support me application? 


 How should I approach a letter writer?

  • E-mail: Some students feel more comfortable approaching a letter writer via email.  You may also choose to contact the letter writer via email simply to set up a time to speak in person.
  • Phone: Although less common, some may choose to call a potential letter writer.  We see this more frequently when the student is not in reasonable proximity to the letter writer but they still desire to have a more personal conversation than possible via email.
  • In person: This is probably the most common and personable way to approach a potential letter writer.  We highly recommend that you schedule a time to speak with the letter writer about you application and void dropping in unannounced  to ask for a letter of recommendation.
Regardless of how you approach a potential letter writer it is important to select your letter writers carefully, ensuring they    
are able to provide a strong letter of recommendation, and approach them in a professional and courteous manner.
Letter Timeline
Traditionally, letters are sent to the respective application service (AMCAS, AACOMAS, PharmCAS, AADSAS, etc) in early summer. It’s very important to identify letter writers a few months prior to the application process to ensure that they are the appropriate individuals to write a letter on your behalf. This will also allow the writer to have sufficient time to craft the letter.  Many graduate/professional programs will NOT review an applicant file until all letters have been received. It is recommendation that you ask each letter writer at least one month prior to needing the letter submitted.
Before requesting or sending any letter of evaluation, make sure that you understand the guidelines of the application service (i.e. AMCAS, PharmCAS, OptomCAS) or school.  Please be aware of how your application program wants letters submitted prior to asking writers for letters. 

Letter Waiver Information

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) provides applicants the right to access letters of evaluation written after January 1, 1975, unless they choose to waive their right to review the letter.
Most application services will ask you if you wish to waive your right to view the letter of evaluation. You are encouraged to do so. Refusing to waive your right to view the letter signals that you have some concern, either about yourself or your letter writer, and that in turn doesn’t reflect positively on you. You should select only those who you feel can author a strong letters of recommendation on your behalf. Each application service provides explicit information on waiving and right to view letter process. 


Letters should be on official letterhead
Health professions program application services try to ensure authenticity of letters. It is HIGHLY encouraged that letters of evaluation be written on official letterhead and signed and dated by the author.  UCR letterhead (and postage if needed) are supplied to faculty/researchers and staff; it’s not the responsibility of the applicant to provide these materials.
Submitting Letters of Recommendation

There are several ways letters are formatted and forwarded to programs. Most commonly, letters are sent as a single letter, letter packet (compilation of letters) or a committee letter (which is written or composed by faculty and the health professions office staff).

UCR does not have a Committee, Composite or Letter Packet Process
The Health Professions Advising Center (HPAC) does not have a Committee Letter process. Students are encouraged to request individual letters of recommendation from those who they feel can best identify their academic ability, strengths (inside/outside of the classroom) and motivation to enter the profession. 
Applicants are not considered deficient in their application if their undergraduate institution doesn’t use the ‘committee letter’ option as professional health programs know that colleges/universities utilize a variety of letter of recommendation formats.


Letters of Evaluation Portals

Below is a list of health professions portals to aid in your processing of letters of evaluation. Although this is a guide in letter processing, it is the applicants’ responsibility to understand the policy and procedure of each school when an application is being submitted as the number of required and recommended can vary by institution.

Caribbean Medical Schools: Letters are typically mailed to the school’s application processing             
                                                   office. Speak to an HPAC advisor about this!


 Letters for Post-Bac Programs

Many post-bac programs require letters of recommendation. It’s important to check with each program that you are interested in applying to understand their submission process, what type of letters they want, and how many letters? (Note: Some post-bac programs will accept letters addressed to professional programs (i.e. medicine, dental) in lieu of letters addressed specifically to the post-bac program; however, this is NOT true for all programs.) 


If you are considering re-applying to a professional health program, please speak with an HPAC advisor to discuss your previous letters and how you might move forward. You may be advised to have past letters freshened up. As previously stated, letters of evaluation are a significant component of your application. 


Resources for Students and Faculty



More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Health Professions Advising Center
Rivera Library B03

Tel: (951) 827-6233

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