If you are currently in college, it is very important to maintain close contact with your pre-health or pre-med advisor. A mistake that many students make in this process is either not meeting with him or her at all, or meeting with him or her too late. Your pre-health advisor is an invaluable resource and should be sought out early in your college career. He or she will be very helpful in assisting you through this rather daunting experience. Be sure that you have a good working relationship with your advisor, and be sure to take his or her advice seriously. In many cases, your advisor will be the person responsible for providing your letter(s) of recommendation to medical schools. If you have a solid relationship with your advisor, he or she can provide a letter from someone who knows you well and can comment on your character, ambition, and suitability for a career in medicine. This more personal letter will be more effective than one simply stating that the writer has had one appointment with you, that you arrived on time, and that you were pleasant and attentive during the meeting.
Keep in mind that most schools have a process for requesting a pre-health committee letter. Depending on the school, the process can be quite lengthy and may involve scheduling an appointment several months in advance, a subsequent interview, soliciting letters from various professors on your behalf, a composite write-up of your interview, a summary of the letters submitted on your behalf by professors, and the committee’s overall recommendation. All this takes time. Medical schools are aware of which colleges and universities have pre-health advisors or committees available. If you do not submit a pre-health letter because you waited until the last minute to request one, or did not ask for one, this could be viewed as a “red flag.” The committee will most likely question why you did not submit a letter from your pre-health advisor or committee and may make the assumption that you procrastinated or failed to do so to avoid receiving an unfavorable recommendation.
If there is no pre-health advisor on your campus or if you are a non-traditional student, the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professionals (NAAHP) advisor-at-large service may be able to provide you with some advice on applying to medical school. Its Web site www.naahp.org provides a list of members willing to volunteer their time to help applicants who do not have access to an advisor. There is also a list of colleges and universities that do have health professions advisors available on their campus.
This is excerpted from 101 Tips on Getting Into Medical School by Jennifer C. Welch, who has served as the Director of Admissions at SUNY Upstate Medical School since 2001.
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