Getting good letters of recommendation (LORs) is an important part of the medical school application process. Often, medical schools request that at least one letter is from a physician or other healthcare worker. For most pre-meds, this means having to ask someone who they might only have “shadowed” for a few times for a letter of recommendation; while an understood part of the application process, it’s still awkward to have to ask someone who barely knows you to write you a strong letter commending your qualities and capabilities. Because of this, it’s becoming more and more common for pre-meds to write their own LORs. Such a letter is then submitted to the physician for approval and subsequent actual submission to a school.
Writing your own praises can be awkward, but here are four things to keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation.
Use Power Words
Instead of saying that you’re “kind,” or “smart,” use language that evokes stronger imagery. “Compassionate” or “empathetic” are both stronger words that can be more specifically applied to the medical field than “kind.” Similarly, admissions committees already know that you’re a “smart” student—you’ve completed premed courses successfully—so descriptors such as “inquisitive,” “adaptive,” or even “intellectual” are better options.
Recall Specific Examples
In addition to using power words, take things one step further by providing specific examples that exemplify the character qualities you’re claiming to possess. Are you a “team-player”? Recall a story where your assistance helps the medical team operate smoothly. Are you “empathetic” or “well-prepared for clinic”? Mention an incidence where you saw a need to comfort a patient and acted on it, or a time where you had researched a patient’s condition prior to seeing them.
Highlight the Best of You
This one should go without saying, but it’s still worth emphasizing. Most people are uncomfortable praising themselves, and for good reason: humility is a trait that’s wanted in physicians. However, keep in mind that medical school application committees will be reading this letter as if it has been written about you, not by you. If it helps make things easier for you, write the letter as if you were describing your best friend (who just happens to be applying to medical school as well).
Write how you’re teachable, reliable, or empathetic. In general, think of the character qualities that a school would want in a candidate, and then be sure to mention the ones that you yourself have.
Reference your CV
Finally, it’s understandable to want to have the opportunity to showcase some of your non-clinic work without seeming unrealistic in the “author’s” knowledge of you. This is where referencing your CV (or resume) enters the picture. Including a phrase such as “Additionally, as evidenced by his/ her CV…” opens the door to mentioning any number of extracurricular/ non-clinic activities to round out the letter. Not only does this create a stronger letter, but it also provides an easy way for the clinician to get to know a little bit about you without having to actually sort through your CV on his/ her own.