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Obtaining Letters Of Reference


ChristmasPi

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I'm just starting university in September 2017 so I'm a long way before applying to med school, but I'm hoping this question will help me not just for med school but also for university entrance scholarships.

 

I went to a panel discussion where people spoke about their careers and how they got there.  One of the speakers was a doctor and he said he applied to every med school in Canada and was accepted to each one.

 

I have no idea how many med schools there are in Canada, but when I got home, I had one question that came up and that was how do you arrange to have people write so many reference letters for you?  Do people actually ask one person to write 10-15 letters of reference, one for each med school or do you get tons of people to write 1-2 reference letters?

 

Thank you

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My example is not on the same level as the doctor you mentioned, but I applied to the two Alberta schools, plus Ontario, All Ontario schools have one application, so you just need 3 references for all Ontario schools.

 

As I felt bad asking each reference to write 3 letters, I chose 4 good references to each write 2. My master's supervisor did write 3 for me, which I think was necessary, since it could be a red flag if your own supervisor didn't write you a letter. 
 

It's all about personal relationships - if they want you to succeed, they will write 3 good letters even if it does take them a lot of time. I don't think I would ask for more than 3 or maybe 4 though.

 

Also, I'm not sure when this doctor applied to med school, but nowadays most people do not apply to every school in Canada. There are a lot of in-province restrictions, so most people apply in their home province and maybe a few more depending on requirements. 

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How it works for applying to ON schools, is you need 3 reference letters (each written by different people). Then OMSAS distributes the letters to all the ON schools for you. This now can be done electronically (so letter writers do not physically need to put anything in the mail). Schools outside of ON generally also want 3 letters, but you need to submit them to each school individually. So, theoretically, you would get your three letter writers to send their letter to OMSAS and separately send a copy of the same letter to any additional schools. Hope this clarifies things!

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Every academic knows that writing letters is part of their unofficial duties and most are flattered and happy to do it.

 

As mentioned before the number of letters is usually not an issue. They are all copy paste on the computer so if you write one you can use for the others with minimal formatting. The schools that ask for specific things can kind of be a pain but its all part of the job. One of my undergrad referees wrote letters for like 30 people a year because she taught a year long lab course and people who took it were mostly premed and she really got to know her students.

 

What i would suggest is give someone as much notice as possible or if engaging in a long project or relationship with them let them know you are applying to med, this gives them a heads up. When it comes time to write letters make it easy on them I sent mine an individualized package with a brief bio, any evaluations they have given me, and a quick highlights of the things we had done together. Afterwards I sent them a thank you card and after acceptances i wrote them an individual letter by hand informing them of where I was accepted and thanking them again. 

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