• Requesting Letters of Recommendation for Residency Application

    Your letters of recommendation (LoR) are an important reflection of your academic performance and can serve as a source of information about your distinguishing personal qualities as well. While CVs and personal statements have many similarities from candidate to candidate, the LoRs are an opportunity to qualify the factors that set you apart.

    Programs may ask you to submit personal and professional LoRs. The quality of your letters may be the strength of your application.

    Typical LoR Requirements

    Most residency programs request three LoRs. Sometimes they specify certain departments or rotations from which the letters should originate. You will only be able to submit four LoRs to any given program through ERAS®.

    Do not send more letters than requested. Some selection committees are suspect of large applications, which can give the impression a student is trying to hide something. Some programs review only the first letters to arrive up to the number they request, and subsequent letters are ignored.

    Be Aware of Program-Specific Requirements

    Be sure to follow instructions for each program. For example, some programs will require letters from particular departments, and others require letters from attendings rather than residents. Occasionally, a letter from a person not involved in the profession of medicine will be requested.

    Requesting a LoR

    You can request letters at any point in your clinical training, but it's best not to let too much time to pass after a rotation before reaching out. In fact, when you start a rotation knowing that you'd like a letter from your attending at the end, letting that person know your interest early on can help him or her write you a more intentional letter.

    Allow at least a month from the time you request a letter until it must be delivered. Bear in mind that faculty are busy, may travel or be unavailable at the initial time of request, and usually have multiple letters to write.

    Tips for Working with Your LoR Authors

    • Request a letter from a mentor in your specialty of choice.
    • Avoid requesting a letter from a resident or fellow. They may have the best knowledge of your clinical skills, but the attending should write your letter.
    • Help the attending by providing the names of the residents and fellows with whom you worked so he or she can consult them for input if needed.
    • Help the person preparing your letter by providing a CV, a personal statement, and a photograph.
    • Make a 15-minute appointment with the letter writer to review your CV personally. Help the letter writer with additional personal information, particularly if you can remind him or her of a specific event or situation in which you think you performed well on his or her rotation.

    Contacting Letter Authors

    In most instances, you will request a letter from a rotation in which you did well that relates to your chosen field or that was requested by a specific program’s application requirements.

    When possible, choose someone who knows you well instead of someone who doesn’t. This is more important than the professional position of a letter author. For example, if you worked closely with a faculty member on a rotation, he or she may be able to write you a stronger letter than a department chair with whom you may have had little contact. It can also help to choose someone who has a connection to a program you are interested in.

    LoR Submission and Access Through ERAS

    Letter of recommendation submission must be completed through the Letter of Recommendation Portal online. LoR authors must register through ERAS on the Letter of Recommendation Portal, and use a letter ID that you provide on the original Letter Request Form. They may also submit their letters to your school’s designated dean’s office for submission directly to the ERAS PostOffice.

    MyERAS allows you to request as many letters of recommendation as you deem necessary; however, MyERAS will allow you to assign a limited number of letters to each program. New letters may be submitted on your behalf at any point during application season.

    As an applicant, you will enter the letter of recommendation authors you’ve chosen into MyERAS. The system will then generate a Letter Request Form you can email, mail, or deliver in person to each of the authors you choose. You will also need to select whether to waive your rights to see the completed letter upon submission by the author, though the author may choose to share the letter directly with you for your reference and to show their support.