The Composite Letter of Recommendation
Many professional schools will require a "composite recommendation" from the Pre-Health Advisor or a "Pre-Health Advisory Committee" letter of recommendation. This recommendation is compiled by the Pre-Health Advisor from the individual evaluations submitted by your professors. Based on the materials in your file, the Pre-Health Advisor writes a comprehensive, narrative letter and includes the Pre-Health Advisory Committee's recommendation. This letter is a significant part of your application package since it will be mailed to all the professional schools to which you apply. However, YOU must request that a letter be composed and sent, and this will happen only after the Pre-Health Advisor receives the required documents.
Establishing A File:
In order to collect letters of evaluation, you must establish a file with the Pre-Health Advisor. At some time during the second semester of your freshman year, come by OM 127 to make an appointment with the Pre-Health Advisor. If you transferred to the SUNY New Paltz from another institution, you should meet with the Pre-Health Advisor as soon as possible.
Adding to Your File:
Your composite letter of recommendation is based on several components. For the Pre-Health Advisor to write a letter that best represents you and your attributes, you must make sure the following is in your file:
- Letters of Recommendation: First, obtain a copy of the form letter by coming by the Pre-Health Advisor's office or downloading a copy. Once you have signed the confidentiality waiver on the form, you can begin to ask faculty members to write letters of recommendation for you. You should have three science evaluations and one non-science evaluation written by members of the faculty. (A minimum number of letters is usually three.) Choose letter writers who know you well and who are impressed by your work.
Many students are uncertain as to how to ask faculty members for letters of recommendation. The following often works:
- Approach the faculty member, introduce yourself, and ask if she or he can write a favorable recommendation. [You'd be surprised how many luke-warm or negative letters otherwise excellent students receive simply because the referee was not appropriate for the student.] You should ask for an appointment to review your background and qualifications. Before the meeting, provide your recommender with a brief autobiographical statement including some detail about your interest in a health profession. Also, you should provide them with a list the courses you have taken, the grades you received and a summary of your extracurricular (and volunteer) activities.
- Additional Letters of Recommendation: You may request additional (and optional) letters of recommendation from other referees. Employers, research project directors, volunteer supervisors, and your academic advisor are all potential referees. These letters should be written on letterhead and directed to the Pre-Health Advisor. Be sure to employ the approach you used for requesting faculty evaluations.
- Autobiographical Sketch: You need to provide each health professional school with an honest, clear, and balanced picture of your background, qualifications and interests in a health profession. Your autobiographic sketch is your opportunity to identify areas you would like stressed in the composite letter. The essay has no pre-determined form or length, but should include the following:
1. Your General Family History
2. The Origin of Your Interest in Medicine
3. Any Experience in the Health Professions
4. Any Research Experience
5. Employment Experience (especially during college)
6. Extra-Curricular Collegiate Activities
7. Your Hobbies, Favorite Sports, Travel
8. Scholastic Information (Awards, Honors, Scholarships)
9. Academic Record (Major, Minor, GPA)
10. Factors You Want Emphasized in the Letter
Your essay is NOT a creative writing exercise. Be concise, clear, objective and to the point.
Requesting A Letter of Recommendation: Once you receive your your secondary health school application, you can request us to submit a composite letter of recommendation to each school.
Bear in mind that it is to your advantage to complete your application with the professional schools as early as possible!