Applying to Residency: Information Item #7--Letters of Recommendation (LOR's)

4th Year Advising Tip - June 11, 2014
June 11, 2014

Dear class,

Each of you will need to acquire LOR's from at least 3 faculty members to support your residency applications (these are separate from the MSPE, which is not considered an LOR).  ERAS will allow you to send 4 letters to each program (though some programs will only accept 3; you'll need to check with each program to see if they have restrictions on the number of letters).

Tips on requesting letters:

1. when approaching a faculty member about an LOR, don't be shy. trust us, you won't be the first student in history to have asked them for a letter!!  only faculty members can write you letters.  they can be full-time (MFA and Children's) or clinical faculty (all affiliated hospital physicians and all community-based physicians that teach in any clerkship). residents and fellows cannot be letter writers (the occasional exception to this is when a fellow or resident BECOMES a faculty member on july 1st--then it's OK!)

2. when approaching a faculty member about an LOR, always ask them if they think they can write you a STRONG letter of recommendation.  this gives them a reasonably safe and polite way to suggest that you find someone else if they are not confident about the strength of a letter for you. weak LOR's are the kiss of death for an application.

3. you MUST, MUST, MUST have at least one LOR from a GW faculty member in your area of specialty interest (family medicine is a possible exception--some students use faculty from visiting student electives at other institutions mixed with GW letters from related specialties such as primary care pediatrics, ob/gyn, or general internal medicine.  radiation oncology is another possible exception).

4. it is unlikely that all of your letters will be delivered to programs right at the beginning of the ERAS season.  that's ok, most programs will make decisions about interviewing applicants even if they don't have all letters.  it's nice if all letters can be to programs by october 1st-15th, if possible, and november 1st is pretty much a hard 'deadline' for most programs. 

LOR Cover Sheets: these are very important!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! do you like the green? i think it is catchy, yes?  reminds me of salads, which are good for you, sort of like ERAS LOR cover sheets.

Each letter will need a cover sheet that is generated by ERAS (as a pdf) when you first designate a faculty member as an LOR writer in ERAS.  you should WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO SEE THE LETTER. then, faculty members can submit letters in one of two ways:

a. the ERAS letter writer portal.
b. they can send to laquita beale (hard copy or PDF) in the dean's office. 

We will do a quality assurance check on each letter to be sure that it is about YOU, not someone else, and that basic things like gender pronouns and such are accurate. otherwise, we do not screen on content (we will not identify 'weak' letters; that is unethical).

Your favorite advisory deans!!  drs. h, n, and s.

W. Scott Schroth, MD, MPH
Associate Dean for Administration
phone: 202-994-2202 (dean's office only)
phone: 202-741-2222 (clinical office only)
fax: 202-994-0926