Guidelines and Guidance

The guidelines below may assist you in writing an effective letter and your letter will:

  • assist us in composing a Committee evaluation on behalf of the applicant (for medical/dental school applications).
  • be sent by us, at the applicant’s request, to professional programs to which the applicant is applying.
  • remain strictly confidential. 

The most helpful letters…

  • Provide an accurate assessment of the applicant’s suitability rather than advocate for them.
  • Briefly explain the nature and duration of your relationship to the applicant and whether you are writing based on direct or indirect observations. 
  • Provide comparison information that includes context, e.g. the comparison group and your rationale for the final comparison.
  • Focus on the applicant rather than details about the course, lab, assignment, job or institution.
  • Address some of the key areas of interest described below.
  • Do NOT repeat information available within the application, e.g. grades, test scores, GPA, activities, unless you are providing context to help interpret them.

Key areas of interest

Unique contributions to the incoming class

  • Obstacles that the applicant had to overcome and if applicable, how those obstacles led to new learning and growth.
  • Diversity, broadly defined; background, attributes, experiences, etc.

Core competencies: identify how the applicant has or has not demonstrated any of these competencies important for future success.

  • THINKING AND REASONING: Critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific reasoning, written communication.
  • SCIENCE COMPETENCIES: As they related to living systems and human behavior. Applies knowledge and skill in the natural sciences to solve problems related to molecular and macrosystems including biomolecules, molecules, cells, and organs. 
  • INTRAPERSONAL COMPETENCIES:  Ethical responsibility to self and others; reliability and dependability; resilience and adaptability; capacity for improvement.
  • INTERPERSONAL COMPETENCIES:  Service orientation; social skills (awareness of and appropriate response to others’ needs, goals, feelings; treats others with respect), cultural competence, teamwork, oral communication.

For more guidelines, review AAMC’s Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation.