by Alison Yu
For many seniors, the process of applying to medical schools seems long, arduous, and even daunting. With growing competition among premedical students fighting for limited spots at top medical schools, it makes sense that many applicants dread starting their applications. However, thanks to the letters of recommendation (LOR) service offered by the Office of Pre-Health Advisement, the application process may seem less stressful for students.
According to Nathalie Zuletta, the Administrative Assistant at the Office of Pre-Health Advisement, the LOR service includes letter of recommendation storage and forwarding to help streamline the medical school application process. The Office stores original letters for up to 5 years, scans them into an online file, and then forwards them to the health professional schools. Since the establishment of this service over eight years ago, more than 250 students have participated in this program each year.
Most medical schools require a minimum of three letters of recommendation; two of the three must be from a science-related professor or adviser and the third from a non-science related subject. Specific requirements may vary.
According to Zuletta, students should start stacking their letters and deciding who will be writing their recommendations as early as January of their junior year.
“We would like to start off at the beginning of April, which is when you can officially create your account online through our Pre-Health website. But, ideally, students should be working a few months before that, two or three months before, to line up their evaluators.” Students have until August 1st to submit all of their letters.
Because the process of submitting and storing letters of recommendation may seem complicated, the main benefit of the service is that students can easily check up on the statuses of their letters and whether the medical schools have received them.
Zuletta said, “Students may feel comfortable to have an office to check up on stuff or if something is delayed, they can get advice on how to handle a difficult scenario.”
Audrey Nguyen, a senior currently applying to medical schools, decided to use the LOR service because “I thought it was simpler and easier to use, essentially more student-friendly. And I was pleasantly surprised that it met my expectations.”
However, Zuletta cautions that while the LOR service is useful and simple, students should not be limited to this option. “A lot of students feel that they have to use our services, which is really not the case. However, I like for them to do their homework first and see what’s the best for their scenario,” Zuletta said.
Alternatively, many students have chosen to submit their letters through MCAT and Interfolio. Zuletta said that the main differences between the LOR service and MCAT are that MCAT allows uploading and submission of up to ten letters, while LOR allows for six, and that students can select which letters to submit to each school through MCAT while all six letters are sent together though the LOR service.
Besides the LOR service, the Pre-Health Advisement Office also offers other services for students gearing up for the application process, such as support from Pre-Health advisors, numerous informational pamphlets, and mock interview help.
More information about the LOR service and other Pre-Health services can be found on the USC Dornsife website.