Writing Recommendation Letters Online


Application Services for Medical Programs and Law Programs


For students applying to medical schools and law schools, different rules often apply to the application process, and these rules directly affect recommendation letters as well.

Increasingly, schools serving the medical and law professions are using application services to manage the flow of applications in a streamlined manner. This allows students to submit applications through a single service to a number of schools at once, and such services provide checklists and benchmarks to applicants to help ensure a successful application. As one example, pharmcas.org, with the support of The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), is a centralized application service for applicants applying to colleges and schools of pharmacy. Students applying to dental programs use the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).

Most medical schools subscribe to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), and students are required to use this service to submit their application materials if their target schools are participants. With some students applying to 10 or more medical schools, many of their recommendation letters will end up having something of a generic component (though certainly the letter should address the student’s aptitude for the medical profession nonetheless). Students can include up to 10 letters of recommendation in their application, with the reasoning that this allows recommenders to target particular schools on the student’s behalf—i.e., you might actually need to provide a student with more than one letter for the same application package, with one letter aimed broadly at medical schools and another targeted to a specific program. Letter writers also have a variety of options about delivering the letter, some of which will be influenced by the writer’s academic institution and its level of relationship with medical schools. For further information, see the first link in the “Further Study” box below.

As with medical schools, law schools also use a centralized application processing service, allowing for both generalized letters of recommendation (up to four) and additional letters targeted to particular schools. Hundreds of law schools use the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service, and the LSAC also administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) required for law school applicants. Finally, students using the LSAC Credential Assembly Service typically have to fill out special forms that the recommender must sign as part of the process. For more information, see the second link in the “Further Study” box below.