An important part of the documentation to support your application for admission to physician assistant school is the evaluation of your performance in an activity that was directly observed by the letter writer. This is often referred to as a letter of recommendation, or LOR.
Here are some tips concerning LORs:
- Faculty instructors and physician assistants provide the most useful recommendations for physician assistant school. The authors should know you well and be able to comment on your work ethic and commitment to the profession, as well as report on your performance in the position for which they supervised you.
- We recommend that you select letter writers that know you and your work ethic or personal philosophy – this is probably the most important factor since they are not likely to comment on important characteristics if they are not aware of your merits.
- Choose letter writers who are established and have some seniority with their institution or facility (faculty instructors, not teaching assistants; physician assistant, not receptionist).
- Inform your letter writers about yourself and what information you feel is particularly needed in a LOR. They may request (and you should provide them with) a current resume, transcript, and a good draft of your Personal Statement. Make an office appointment and let them know that you are, for instance, looking for a letter that will speak to your ability to function in a professional healthcare setting.
- Make sure your letter writers know how to submit or upload your letter of recommendation. For the application service (CASPA), letter writers will receive an email with information about how to upload their letter after you put in their contact information on the application. Letters are only accepted electronically through CASPA for schools participating in the application service.
- Letters from family friends, public officials or character-type references are usually not useful and should not be solicited unless explicitly requested by the physician assistant school.
- For most schools, 1-2 evaluation letters from science faculty who taught you in a course, 1 from a non-science college instructor, and 1-2 letters from physician assistants should be enough. Some schools will specify exactly how many and from what type of authors and you should, of course, provide exactly what they request. You may enter contact information for 3-5 evaluators on the CASPA application.
- Check periodically to make sure that your letter writers have submitted their letters. If not, you are encouraged to send polite reminder e-mails to the authors who agreed to provide a letter with a clearly indicated due date that you specified. You are in control of the due date, and we recommend that you send them a deadline that is at least one week before the earliest deadline for the schools you are applying to.
- In general, all aspects of applying to physician assistant school should be done early in the application cycle, not later (applications may be submitted in summer each year). For example, try to involve a few letter writers in the review of your entire application in the spring of your junior year (or the year that you begin the application). This will help establish a relationship and they will be more prepared to write a favorable and detailed recommendation letter.