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Letters of Recommendation

The faculty and staff of the College of Science & Mathematics will prepare a composite evaluation for students who request it.  It is strongly advised that all pre-med students use this option when applying to medical school. Students applying to other types of programs should consider having a composite evaluation prepared and sent as part of their application. A composite evaluation is very substantive, so it is usually in a student’s best interest to have one prepared and sent. Students who are applying to schools other than medical schools should check with those schools to ensure that a composite evaluation is acceptable. Some professional programs may prefer a different evaluation instrument.

What is a composite evaluation?

Medical schools differ in their requirements for letters of recommendation. Some request a single letter from “the premed advisor” or “the premed committee.” All medical schools, however, accept a composite evaluation. The composite evaluation consists of the following: a waiver signed by the student giving UNG permission to prepare the composite evaluation; a cover letter (written by the chief health professions advisor) that describes UNG and introduces the evaluators by name, title, and affiliation; a consensus form showing how the student was ranked by the evaluators in categories such as motivation, stability, empathy, etc.; and, finally, written comments made by the evaluators. The result is a very substantive document representing the opinions of (usually) five evaluators and the chief health professions advisor.

Why use a composite evaluation?

If some medical schools want a single letter from “the premed advisor” why don’t we send it to them? For one thing, we have several faculty that advise students who want to apply to medical school. Also, it may not be in the student’s best interest if one person writes everyone’s letters of recommendation. That person will not know all the students equally well. Why don’t we have a “pre-med committee” write all the letters? Again, we will have some applicants that are not as well known to that committee as others. Transfer students, in particular, might benefit from asking faculty from other institutions to contribute to their letters of recommendation. A composite evaluation gives the applicant the ability to choose the evaluators while still providing the uniformity that medical schools prefer.

Your evaluators...

Students should cultivate potential evaluators throughout their college career. Students should work hard to impress potential evaluators. You should try to stand out.  Give evaluators something to say in their narrative remarks. Ideally, a composite evaluation includes contributions from five evaluators.  The chief health professions advisor may also add narrative comments making that person, in a sense, a sixth evaluator. Evaluators should be from an academic environment, but they need not all be teaching faculty. Evaluators, also, need not be exclusively from UNG. Transfer students often ask faculty from other institutions to contribute. What is best is to choose five evaluators, most of whom are teaching faculty, all of whom are from an academic environment, and all of whom know the applicant well enough to make a meaningful contribution to the composite evaluation. If the evaluators meet those criteria, the result is an evaluation that is very substantive, far more so than one written by a single individual such as “the premed advisor.”

When and how you should start your composite evaluation...

Faculty often are unavailable during the summer. Therefore, students who apply via early decision should begin the composite evaluation process before the end of spring semester, when faculty are around. Students applying via regular decision should begin the composite evaluation process in August, right before the fall of their senior year. Medical schools request letters of recommendation when they send their secondary applications, but do not wait for your secondary before beginning the composite evaluation process! Once you get your secondary you typically have just two weeks to get everything, including letters of recommendation, sent in to the medical schools. Getting substantive contributions from five evaluators takes more time than that. To begin the composite evaluation process, see Dr. Paul Johnson in the Department of Biology. He will give you a packet, from which you should promptly fill out and return to him the following:

  1. An authorization form (on letterhead) giving UNG the authority to prepare and send the composite evaluation.
  1. The UNG Student Health Professions Information Sheet which includes the following: an equivalent of a resume, another authorization requiring your signature, a list of schools to which you are applying, indication of whether you are applying via early or regular decision, and a list of the evaluators you’ve chosen.

What to do once the process is started...

Promptly fill out and distribute the UNG Health Professions Confidential Evaluation forms to your evaluators. Ask them in person if they can provide the evaluation. If you cannot see the evaluator in person, at least call or email them. Do not simply stick the forms in their office assuming they are willing to provide the evaluation. Make sure you fill out the top of the UNG Health Professions Confidential Evaluation forms before giving them to the evaluators. It is always best to waive your right of access to the evaluation. This sends the message that the evaluators were being completely honest, rather than holding back thinking you might see what they’ve written. A good idea is to give the evaluators your resume or something equivalent. It may help them write positive narrative remarks if they are aware of your extracurricular activities.  If the evaluators are off campus, make sure you provide them with a stamped, addressed envelope (the address is on the forms). Give the evaluators a reasonable deadline, perhaps a few weeks. Contact them from time to time to ensure they send in their evaluation in a timely fashion. It is your responsibility to ensure that all evaluators do their job in a reasonable length of time. The chief health professions advisor may occasionally check on the status of your file, but that responsibility is really yours. You may contact Dr. Johnson to check on the progress.

If medical schools get your composite evaluation before anything else, such as your AMCAS application...

They will start a file on you as soon as they receive anything about you, including the composite evaluation. What if your composite evaluation is sent, and then you receive your secondary, and it includes a form the “pre-med advisor” is supposed to sign and send in with the evaluation? No problem. The composite evaluation includes an equivalent form. We can sign and send in the form they send you saying, “See the composite evaluation already sent.” We can even sign it and send it in attached to another copy of the composite evaluation. It is not necessary, however, to do either as the composite evaluation has a form equivalent to the one you get with your secondary application.

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