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Writing Letters of Recommendation

First, thank you for taking the time to write recommendation letters for students. Rest assured your efforts can make a huge difference in the admissions process.

Professional schools are trying to get to know the student through your letters. They are extremely important in the application process and carry a lot of weight with admissions committees. A two-line letter is not generally very helpful and often ultimately hurts students as they were asked to request letters from people who know them. Your efforts to write a thoughtful letter that speaks to the academic and personal qualities of the student are greatly appreciated!

Tips for writing letters

All letters must be typed and on Purdue or departmental/business stationery. They should include your signature, title, address, and e-mail address.

Copies of this letter will be sent to admissions offices at different schools, so you may exclude an inside address. Address your salutation to "Admissions Committee Members," and make only a general reference to the type of program the student is applying to rather than specific schools. (e.g. "medical school" rather than "Washington University")

Indicate the nature and duration of your relationship with the applicant.

Students are encouraged to ask whether you would be supportive of their application and to bring you a statement of their plans and a resume. We also highly recommend that they ask you as early as possible.

Please comment on such things as the candidate's record of learning and applying knowledge; breadth and depth of education; ability to handle rigorous course loads; ability to manage time and fulfill responsibilities, and other qualities relevant to success in a professional school curriculum.

You might also want to comment on the student's enthusiasm, emotional stability, honesty, integrity, openness, empathy, compassion, service, ability to lead, communication skills, ability to work with others, maturity, and other qualities relevant to success in a health care profession.

Any short, descriptive stories you can share about the candidate's character will be especially helpful.

Purdue’s Professional File Service

The Center for Pre-Professional Advising offers medical and dental applicants the opportunity to open a professional file containing their letters of evaluation/recommendation. The Center for Pre-Professional Advising then distributes their letters to their chosen professional programs. The process is simple and ensures that the letters are available to medical and dental schools. quickly after their letters are received. The letters are housed for five years so they are immediately available if the student needs to apply again.

Many fields require that the letter writer enter their letter directly into their online system. Our office does not handle these letters. So for applicants to veterinary medicine, law school, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant as well as others, you will be uploading your letter directly to their systems.

One note about professional files: letters can be used only for the purpose for which they were collected. If a student placed letters in a file to be sent to medical schools but then decides to apply to public health programs, he or she must obtain new letters written for the new purpose. Please save an electronic copy of your letter in case this happens.

The only exceptions to this rule: we will send letters to post-baccalaureate programs, to the U.S. military for scholarships supporting medical/dental training, and to other scholarship programs that will support the student's medical/dental training.

If a student is using the Center for Pre-Professional Advising File Service, it allows you to submit just one copy of your letter to our office in 465 Young Hall.

Students are required to sign a FERPA form indicating whether they are maintaining their access to their letters or waiving their access. We recommend that the student waive access because the letters are given more consideration if he or she did not have access, but it is the student's legal right to maintain access. You may refuse to write a letter until they indicate this information to you.

We must have a copy of the letter sent directly to our office (not handled by students) and it must have a signature. A PDF file of your letter is acceptable as long as the letterhead and your signature both appear.

Most programs prefer letters from faculty members. If a T.A. is writing the letter, they generally ask that the faculty member in charge of the class provide the first signature and that it then be signed by the T.A. This indicates that although the T.A. wrote the letter and knew the student, the faculty member, who presumably has more experience assessing students, has reviewed the letter as well.

Timing of Letters

Medical and Dental School

Medical and dental schools are beginning their application review processes earlier and earlier. This means that for these programs, students need to apply early for the most opportunities.

For students who are using our professional file service and who ask for a letter in the spring semester, we need to receive your letters of recommendation by the end of May so that we can distribute them in June, July and August. Any later and it may hinder the student's chances of being accepted. This is a change from the timing in the past – the professional schools have actually altered their timing, so we must do the same.

For those who request letters later than July or August, we know that you will return them as quickly as possible. Students starting their medical and dental school applications late will be asking for letters anywhere from July through October.

Other Program Deadlines

Other healthcare programs have deadlines throughout the fall and early spring semester.

Please send your letter directly to: Center for Pre-Professional Advising 4th Floor Young Hall Purdue University 155 South Grant Street West Lafayette, IN 47907 If you have questions, please contact the Center for Pre-Professional Advising office at 765-496-2690 or email preprofessional@purdue.edu.