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 California State University, Fullerton

Letters of Evaluation

This guideline serve as a starting point in your journey to attaining letters of evaluation. The Health Professions Advising office does not assume responsibility for false or inaccurate information. It is the applicants’ responsibility to check each institutions’ requirements regarding letters of evaluation.

How to request a letter of evaluation:
Letters of evaluation are one of the most important aspects of your application and it is essential to select the best individual to compose a letter on your behalf. Letters attest to your personal qualities seen both inside and outside the classroom, including details about personality traits that would make you successful in a Health Professions Program.

Make a good impression with your future letter writer. It is important that you create and maintain a working relationship with individuals whom you would like to ask for a letter of evaluation. If an instructor hasn’t seen or spoken to you on a consistent basis and know very little about your personal qualities, it will be very difficult for them to persuade an admissions committee to admit you into a Health Professional Program. Most letter writers prefer to be asked for a letter of evaluation in a scheduled meeting and not in passing or via email. It is also important how you ask your letter writer to compose a letter of evaluation on your behalf. Asking a prospective letter writer if they would “like to”compose a letter on your behalf instead of simply “can they” is an excellent way to go about requesting a letter of reference. This slight change in vocabulary greatly affects your potential letter. Most anyone can compose a letter on your behalf, but adding ‘like to’ greatly decreases the likelihood of a mediocre letter of reference.

The best time to ask an instructor for a letter of reference is the middle of the semester, as their workload is often heavier at the start and end of the semester.

What to bring to your meeting:
Prepare for your meeting by creating a short list of important events that have taken place in your life. Bring a copy of your resume or curriculum vitae to give to your letter writer and assist them with composing the letter of reference. A copy of your personal statement is a nice addition to add to the other documents that you are providing your letter writer. Place all of the documents that you are providing your letter writer in a folder with your name on the front and the desired due date. Due dates are important as they allow you to follow up directly with your letter writer after the date has passed. 

During your meeting with your letter writer, inform them about your desire to enter into a Health Professional program and what makes you a good candidate. They will often address this in their letter and thus greatly strengthen your evaluation.

The Health Professions Advising office has a Reference Request Guide to provide to each of your letter writers. The letter of evaluation guideline provides your letter writer with: where to send your letter to, what items to include in your letter and how to address your letter. 

Please note that the Reference Form is no longer a required portion of the Intent to Apply application.

Following up with your letter writer:
Assign a date for your letter writer by which they should submit the letter of evaluation. Usually a month’s time is sufficient for an individual to compose a good letter of evaluation.

Letters should arrive at the Health Professions Advising office a few months before you submit your application to prevent any delay of your file going to your professional programs. 

Most importantly, send your letter writer a thank you card once the letter has been submitted.

What if my letter has not been received by the submission date?
It is important to keep track of when your letters of evaluation are received. A letter that is submitted late can greatly delay the submission of your letters to a Health Professional program.

You can check the status of your letters of evaluation through the Health Professions TITANium (grade center) or by contacting the Health Professions Advising office directly. If the letter has not been received by the due date, it is essential to follow up with your letter writer and kindly remind them that the submission date has passed and give them an additional week to submit the letter of evaluation. Gently enforce to them the urgency and ask once more if there are additional documents that you can submit to assist with composing the letter of reference.

If, after a weeks time, the letter writer still has not submitted your letter of evaluation, contact the Health Professions Advising office. The Health Professions Advising office will then send an email to the letter writer so that your file will not be held back from submission.

What is the difference between a letter packet and a committee packet?
Letter Packets: Contain all of your letters of evaluation including a basic cover letter from the Health Professions Advising office.

Committee Packets: Contains all of your letters of evaluation including a letter composed by the Health Professions Committee. The Committee’s letter is a evaluation by the Health Professions Committee that represents the Universities evaluation of you for a Health Professional program.

Where should my letters be stored?
You must establish an Intent to Apply file in the Health Professions Advising office. Your file is established in our office upon receipt of your Intent to Apply application. Your file stores all of your letters of evaluation and any additional items that the committee needs to review your file.

Who should you ask to compose a letter on your behalf and how many letters should you request?
The total number of letters that you can submit varies with the professional school and the application service. It is your responsibility to research the guidelines for the profession to which you are applying. Typically you should include letters from:

  • 1-2 Physicians/Dentists/Pharmacists/Optometrists/Veterinarians whom you have spent a significant amount of time shadowing
  • At least 2 science Professors who can attest to your personal attributes as well as your academic ability. 
  • 1 non-science Professor who can give insight into other aspects of you, such as your writing ability, humanism, etc.

If applicable you could also include letters from:

  • Research advisor 
  • Director of Volunteer Services 
  • Community member who knows you well 
  • Employment Supervisors

Finally if you receive a Health Professions Committee evaluation this will, in some cases, count as one of your letters.

It is important to note that Allopathic programs will accept up to 10 letters of evaluation, although it is not necessary to submit that many. Please contact your centralized application services to learn about their letter of evaluation requirements. Other institutions require additional items that need to be attached to each letter of evaluation, so please check the requirements of each institution.

How are letters uploaded to the Health Professional Program?
If you established an Intent to Apply file in the Health Professions Advising office, you can request for your letters to be sent once certain items in your file have been submitted. Learn more about the different items needed in your file. Most Professional Schools require letters of evaluation to be sent after secondary application materials have been received. It is important to check each and every school to which you applied to see their letter of evaluation submission policy.

If you are applying to Allopathic school, you can designate different packets to be sent to selective schools but it is important to discuss this with the Health Professions office. To learn more about assigning letter IDs for the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), please visit https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/63166/amcas/.

Letter packets or committee packets are digitally uploaded. Some institutions such as foreign medical schools do not accept digital submissions thus making it necessary to place a packet in ‘snail mail’. For Allopathic and Osteopathic programs, we utilize AMCAS Letter Service (AMCAS only) and Virtual Evaluations. For AADSAS, PharmCAS and other professional programs, we upload letter or committee packets directly to the designed program. It is essential that you check with each school that you are applying to as, in some instances, institutions will not accept letters that are sent through a central application service.

This article was made possible from the following sources:

  • AMCAS 2011 Instructions pages 56-59 
  • CASPA’s Customer Service Department - (617) 612-2080