Letters of recommendation

Medical and dental schools receive letters of recommendation from Carleton students either as a committee letter or as individual letters.  Because they know that Carleton submits Committee Letters, this is what they expect to receive from Carleton students/alumni. If you choose to have your letters submitted individually you might be expected to explain why you did not choose to have a committee letter submitted on your behalf.

How does the committee letter work? 

Pam Middleton, the pre-health advisor, composes the letter, with input from the committee. Pam incorporates the supporting letters (see below) into the body of the committee letter or, if the supporting letter is excerpted into the body, then the supporting letter is attached to the committee letter. The supporting letters are not edited by Pam, and this is made clear in the committee letter.

In addition to including the supporting letters, Pam introduces the applicant, highlighting special circumstances in the applicant’s record and those areas of the applicant’s story that might not be apparent in the other areas of the application such as the transcript and the MCAT score. Finally, the committee letter also has an initial two-paragraph description of Carleton.

Supporting letters

Once you have decided to have Carleton submit a committee letter on your behalf, you must decide whom you will request supporting letters from. The most common number of supporting letters is four, but some applicants have had only three and some as many as seven. Your choice of letter writers should be discussed with Pam. At least two letters must be from science faculty. If you major in a non-science department, you should request a letter from a professor in your major department.

The remaining letters can come from coaches, work supervisors, research supervisors, pastors, other professors, or others who know you well (except for relatives!) and can speak to the following characteristics:

  • Academic Performance and Intellectual Ability
  • Motivation for Medicine
  • Ability to Communicate and Relate to Others
  • Personality
  • Distinctiveness of the Individual

Once your letter writers have agreed to write a letter for you, you can give them the Request for Reference form, which has details on how they should submit the letter. Basically, letter writers should send a signed hard copy of the letter on letterhead to Pam Middleton, Pre-Health Advisor, Carleton College, One North College St., Northfield, MN 55057. They should also email a copy of the letter (as an email attachment, preferably as a Word document) to pmiddlet@carleton.edu.

Students and alumni must also sign a Waiver Agreement, in which they waive their right to see the letters. The signed agreement is submitted to the pre-health advisor.