Carnegie Mellon University

Letters of Recommendation

Health professions schools are interested in receiving letters of recommendation from a diverse group of people who know you well and are supportive of your application and career choice.  For admissions committees, the most useful letters are those that reflect real knowledge of you and your performance, whether in the classroom, in the laboratory or in a clinical or volunteer setting.  Letters from family members or from people an applicant is having a romantic relationship with are not welcome and are considered inappropriate.

Successful applicants to health professions schools typically submit four to seven letters of recommendation as part of their application packet.  Here is a generic list of five to six letters that often serves as a good starting point for considering appropriate letter writers (substitutions, deletions and additions are allowed):

  • One to two science (engineers often substitute a CIT faculty member for one of these) faculty members whose classes you have taken
  • One humanities faculty member whose class(es) you have taken
  • A research advisor
  • A dentist, pharmacist, physician, veterinarian, physical therapist, etc. whom you have shadowed
  • A supervisor from a volunteer or service experience

Other good letters of recommendation may come from an employer, coach, ROTC training officer, etc. who has guided you during a significant experience you have undertaken.

When deciding whom to ask to write letters on your behalf, you should consider a diverse set of people who know you well and who will be supportive of your application.  Also keep in mind that letters of recommendation provide a great way for admissions committees to get firsthand reports from people who know you from the many different areas of your life – not just professors who have taught you in the classroom.  As you think about whom to ask to write a letter for you, seek out the people who are the most senior (i.e., tenured faculty or attending physicians) among the diverse group of potential letter writers you are considering.  

Letters should be requested at least 1.5 – 2 months prior to the desired arrival date in most circumstances.  When asking for a letter of recommendation, be sure to ask if the writer can prepare a strong letter of support.  Applicants must complete and distribute an appropriate Letter of Recommendation Waiver Form*.  As specified on the waiver form, letters should arrive in the Health Professions office with a signed electronic or physical copy of the waiver form, two weeks prior to a scheduled committee meeting.  Letters of recommendation may be sent by email, fax, US Mail or a courier service.

In summary, applicants should provide the letter writer with:

  1. resume
  2. personal statement
  3. *waiver form (required) for (1) medical school  -OR-  (2) other health professions graduate programs 
  4. other materials the letter writer requests   

Applicants who have a committee meeting will typically list one “letter” in their application materials.  This will be a “committee letter packet,” and it should be listed with Dr. D'Antonio's contact information.  The Carnegie Mellon Health Professions Program will upload this packet to the application services or schools specified by the applicant as soon as it is ready and the applicant will receive an email confirmation when this has been done.  This packet consists of the committee letter of recommendation and all of the original individual letters of recommendation the applicant is using for the application.

Applicants who do not wish to have a committee letter may instead ask the Health Professions Program to upload a letter packet to the application services or schools specified by the applicant.  This simply includes all of the individual letters of recommendation received on behalf of the applicant.