Letters of evaluation are key pieces to your professional school application. Each application service has its own way of collecting letters and the number and type of letters will vary from depending on the healthcare pathway you are pursuing. It is important to check with the application service you are using for additional details and guidelines.
The Pre-Health Advising Center can provide guidance to applicants regarding letters of evaluation, but does not write, store, or submit letters on your behalf (with the exception of applicants who complete the HPAC evaluation).
NOTE: Pre-Medical and pre-Dental applicants at the University of Houston are expected to undergo evaluation by the UH Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) in order to obtain a Committee Letter of Evaluation. See below for more information regarding HPAC.
Choosing Letter Writers
When thinking about who to ask, the most important consideration is who knows you the best and can write you a quality letter! A quality relationship is more important than having made a certain grade in a course or having a letter writer from a prestigious faculty member. It is always important to choose the individuals who know you well and can speak about your personality and the competencies you have developed and why you would be a good candidate for your chosen healthcare pathway.
General Guidelines for Types of Letters of Recommendation
- At least 2 academic letters (science faculty are strongly encouraged)
- At least 1 of the academic letters should be from a science faculty member (strongly suggested, may be required by SOME programs).
- Consider a faculty member from your major/minor or one who knows you both in and out of the classroom.
- 1-2 letters from individuals who know you "outside of the classroom"
- Healthcare professions with whom you've shadowed, research mentor, job supervisor.
- Someone who can speak to your work ethic, reliability, maturity-level, etc.
- [NOTE]: Some professional schools may require letters from a professional in the field. Indeed, many Osteopathic medical schools require a letter from a DO and Physician Assistant/Physical Therapy programs require a letter from a PA or PT.
- If you have participated in research, and it was a meaningful experience, you should request a letter from a PI or mentor.
- It is almost never appropriate to submit evaluations from graduate students or teaching assistants. Admissions committees prefer letters from individuals with terminal degrees (PhD, MD, DMD, etc.).
Letter Writer Etiquette
When asking an individual to provide a Letter of Evaluation, it is important to consider the following:
- Ask someone you have a strong personal connection or relationship with. If you have not spent some time with this person, consider asking the letter writer to chat with you over coffee or a meal to re-establish your connection.
- Ask well in advance. Letter writers always need ample time as they are busy with their own responsibilities. A good time to begin asking your letter writer is the fall before you apply for your intended program. At the very least, allot your letter-writer no less than 1-month to compose the letter.
- Sometimes letter writers do not have the time to write for you, or do not feel like they know you well enough. That is OK! This is why we suggest asking multiple people and asking early. Sometimes hearing "no" is the best favor a writer can give.
- Some letter writers need more information from you in order to write a letter for you. If a letter writer does not give you explicit instructions for what they need, you may offer to share your personal statement, your motivations and career pursuits, or a resume that outlines your experiences. You should always be willing to answer any questions they may have of you at any point in the letter writing process as promptly as possible. It is important that your letter writer knows why this career pursuit is important to you and that you are willing to do your part to accomplish this pursuit.
- It is not appropriate to write your own Letter of Evaluation, or even a draft. If a potential writer asks you to do so, you may share the additional information we outline above, and explain that you have waived your rights of access.
- If your chosen individual confirms they will write a letter, ask the following questions to establish follow-up protocol:
- "May I check in with you regarding the status of the letter?" or "How would you like me to check in with you regarding the status of the letter?"
- "Do you want or need follow up from me? If so, how often would you like follow up?"
- "How do you prefer communication – email, in person, phone, something else?"
- "What do you think is a reasonable timeline for completion? How can I best assist you with meeting your own timeline and the required timeline?"
- Write a thank you note to your letter writer.
- Inform your letter writers of the outcome of your application. They spend a lot of time advocating for you! Let them know how you did (or if you decided to wait to apply).
Regardless of the application service you use, most medical schools require a minimum of 3 Letters of Evaluation (2 Science/BCPM Faculty and 1 Non-Science Faculty).
Our office also recommends including an evaluation from a physician with whom you have shadowed. Other letters may come from a job supervisor, research mentor, athletic coach, or other individual who can speak highly of your suitability for the medical profession. That said, do not feel as though you need to include additional letters. More is very rarely better. Our office typically recommends that students submit no more than 5 evaluations in total.
Osteopathic medical schools also typically require an evaluation letter from an Osteopathic physician (DO).
The University of Houston also strongly encourages pre-Medical applicants to undergo review from the Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) in order to secure a committee Letter of Evaluation. This committee Letter is added to an applicant's individual evaluation letters and submitted by the Pre-Health Advising Center to each application service an applicant uses.
- Information on the Health Professions Advisory Committee
- TMDSAS Letters of Evaluation Instructions
- AMCAS Letters of Evaluation Instructions
- AACOMAS Letters of Evaluation Instructions
- Interfolio Instructions for TMDSAS, AMCAS, and AACOMAS
- AAMC Guidelines for Letter-Writers (Give this to your letter-writers)
Regardless of the application service you use, most dental schools require a minimum of 3 Letters of Evaluation (2 Science/BCPM Faculty and 1 General Dentist).
Other letters may come from a job supervisor, research mentor, athletic coach, or other individual who can speak highly of your suitability for the medical profession. That said, do not feel as though you need to include additional letters. More is very rarely better.
The University of Houston also strongly encourages pre-Dental applicants to undergo review from the Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) in order to secure a committee Letter of Evaluation. This committee Letter is added to an applicant's individual evaluation letters and submitted by the Pre-Health Advising Center to each application service an applicant uses.
The primary PA school application service is CASPA.
Most PA schools require a minimum of 3 Letters of Evaluation (2 Science Faculty and 1 PA).
The primary PT school application service is PTCAS.
Most PT schools require a minimum of 3 Letters of Evaluation (1 Science Faculty, 1 PT, 1 additional).
The primary OT school application service is OTCAS.
Most OT schools require a minimum of 3 Letters of Evaluation (1 Science Faculty, 1 OT, 1 additional).
The primary Pharmacy school application is PTCAS.
You can have a maximum of four (4) references on your PharmCAS application.
It is recommended you review the PharmCAS Directory to see what types of evaluations are required, recommended and not accepted by each institution. A few schools prefer that applicants send references directly to the institution.
There are two primary veterinary school application services: TMDSAS and VMCAS.
Regardless of the application service you use, most dental schools require a minimum of 3 Letters of Evaluation (2 Science/BCPM Faculty and 1 Veterinarian).
The Health Professions Advisory Committee (or HPAC) consists of 18 University of Houston faculty members tasked with evaluating UH applicants to medical and dental school each application cycle.
All Texas applicants to medical and dental school are expected to complete the HPAC review process and receive a committee letter of evaluation to accompany their application.
The Pre-Health Advising Center collects and submits letters of evaluation for all medical and dental school applicants who complete the HPAC evaluation. Applicants that do not complete the HPAC evaluation should anticipate using Interfolio to submit letters or requesting their letter-writers submit letters directly to the application services.