Letters of Recommendation

An important part of your residency application, Letters of Recommendation (LoR) provide qualitative information on your personal and professional characteristics.

Letters should be written by physicians you have worked with in a clinical setting.

  • If you have done extensive research and are applying in a specialty that requires research, you could ask your research lead for a letter.
  • Letter writers may ask for copies of your CV and personal statement, so be prepared with drafts of both.

Programs require three or four letters of recommendation.

  • Check the requirements for each residency to which you are applying by:
    • Reviewing UWSOM Specialty Career Advisors FAQ
    • Speaking with Specialty Career Advisors
  • Depending on the specialty to which you are applying, specific types or numbers of letters may be required.
  • Refer to the Specialty Career Advisors FAQ for more information.

ERAS allows you to store as many LoR’s as you like and designate different letters for each program. No more than four letters can be sent to any one program.  You can continue to add letters of recommendation to ERAS, even after your residency application has been released to programs. This allows you to update your application with recommendations from your 4th year electives, APCs, sub-internships, and clerkships.

Attendings cannot submit their letters of recommendation until the residency application system opens in the summer of the year you apply and you send them a link to upload their letter. Ask attendings to keep letters in their files if you do not yet have access to the residency application system.

Select attendings who know you best and can speak most persuasively about your clinical and research strengths.

A resident or fellow may help the attending with the letter, but they cannot be the primary letter writer.

You need at least three letters of recommendation, and depending on the specialty to which you are applying, specific types or numbers of letters may be required. Refer to the Specialty Career Advisors FAQ for more information.

Think about who your strongest advocates are who can write a detailed, personal, and positive letter. As you go through your clerkships, anticipate who you might be able to ask for a letter. Try to work enough with this individual so they will possess the firsthand experience to advocate for you.

For specialty-specific advice about letters, review the Specialty Career Advisors FAQand speak with your Specialty Career Advisor(s).

Don’t wait until the end of your 3rd year to request letters!

  • At the latest, request LORs in June, July and early August before your fall application deadline.
  • Aim to have all of your writers submit their letters by the time you submit your final application. While letters are accepted throughout the application process, many programs require you to have a minimum of 2 before they will schedule you for an interview.

Your attending may offer to write you a letter at the conclusion of your rotation.

  • You may also request that an attending write you a letter – you may prefer to wait to receive your grade before doing so.
  • Letters are stronger and more specific if you solicit them at the end of clinical rotations.

Ask attendings to keep letters in their files if you do not yet have access to the residency application system (typically in June of the year you are applying).

Letter writers need at least 4-6 weeks of advance notice to complete a letter. Clearly communicate your deadlines.

  • When possible, request a letter directly via an in-person or online meeting.

When requesting a letter, begin by saying, “I am applying for a residency in X specialty. Do you feel that you know me well enough to write me a strong letter of recommendation?”

  • Provide writers with:
    • CV
    • Personal statement
    • Consider including a short reflection or anecdote that highlights a meaningful situation that occurred during your time in clinical and/or demonstrates your clinical skills development. This will remind the writer about your key clinical experiences and your skills.

Always waive your right to see your letters of recommendation. Program directors may see a student’s decision not to waive as a red flag.

For student applying in the ERAS system, use the Letter of Recommendation Portal (LoRP). When it comes time to apply to residency, reconnect with clinical attendings and ask to have the LOR updated with a current date and in the format required by ERAS.

Letters must be uploaded to the application system by the letter writer before the final application deadline.

Attendings cannot submit their letters of recommendation until the residency application system opens in the summer of the year you apply and you send them a link to upload their letter. Ask attendings to keep letters in their files if you do not yet have access to the residency application system.

For students applying to the SF Match, review the instructions for submitting letters to the Central Application Service.

 

Commonly Asked Questions about Letters of Recommendation

Review the Specialty Career Advisors FAQ, and speak with your Specialty Career Advisor(s) for specifics related to your specialty areas.

An attending agreeing to write you a letter does not end your responsibility for this process. You will be able to see which letters have been uploaded in the application system. Follow up with the writers who have not turned in their recommendation.

Example Reminder Email:

“I am sending you a note to thank you again for agreeing to write me a letter of recommendation. I also wanted to let you know that your letter has not yet arrived and am looking forward to completing my application. The deadline for my letter submissions is __. Let me know if there is any additional information that you need from me. Thank you again for all of your help.”

You assign specific letters to specific program applications. Be careful to not make a mistake while assigning letters!

If you have a letter writer who is writing for both specialties, there are two different routes you can take:

  1. You can ask LOR writers to write the letter and not indicate a specialty
  2. You can create two separate letter slots in ERAS – one for each specialty – and then have the letter writer upload their respective letters accordingly. If you do this, be sure to designate which specialty the letter is being assigned to when creating the letter slot in the ERAS form. This is crucial for ensuring that your writer uploads the correct letter to the correct slot and that you will be able to assign the correct letter to the correct applications. Be very careful when assigning letters in this fashion.

Or you can have two different letter writers, with one writing for one specialty and the other letter writer writing for the second specialty.

If you are applying to a preliminary medicine program, you will need an Internal Medicine department letter as one of your letters. Contact Kathi Sleavin to request a department letter from Medicine.

If you are applying to preliminary surgery or transitional programs, you can generally use the same letters that you are using for your advanced programs. Check with your preliminary programs for any program-specific letter requirements. These will be posted on their program websites.

The Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and OB-GYN departments collaborated to create a resource for letter writers.

Writers should also review the resources available to them on the ERAS LOR Portal as there are specific requirements to which they need to adhere.