Letters of recommendation are an essential and influential part of any applicant's candidacy for health professions programs. The Pre-Professional Advising Office recognizes that there is a significant time commitment involved with writing such a letter, and we thank you for your efforts.

Please read the following information to understand what is expected of you as a recommender in terms of formatting requirements, letter content, and submission procedures. Take special care in noting the "Avoiding Bias in Letter Writing" section, which addresses ways to account for unconscious bias in framing, word choice, etc.

Remember that our office is here to help if you have questions throughout this process. You may email us at

Formatting Requirements

Our office acts as an intermediary in our role between our applicants and the schools to which they apply. As such, we are responsible for ensuring that formatting requirements are met on our applicants' behalf. If your letter is missing one or more of these formatting criteria, the applicant will contact you. It is our office's policy to contact applicants regarding any formatting errors; it is then their responsibility to contact you if they wish to receive an updated version of the letter.

ALL letters of recommendation need to be submitted as a PDF or Word Document only, with a date, a wet/hand signature (an electronic version of your hand signature is acceptable), and professional letterhead (personal letterhead will be accepted if you do not have access to professional letterhead).

  • There are several ways to create a wet signature:
    • Sign a piece of paper, take a photo of your signature, email it to yourself, and then copy and paste this signature onto the Word document.
    • Print your letter, sign at the bottom, and then scan the document.
    • Use an electronic service such as Adobe Acrobat or DocuSign.
      • Please note that a typed name alone does not suffice for authenticity.
  • If an official letterhead is not available, a personal header that identifies you and your affiliation(s) will suffice. At the top of the letter, please include your name, position title, contact info, place of work, etc.

All letters should also include a general address. For example, one should say "to the medical admissions committee" or "to whom it may concern"—please do NOT address the letter directly to our office or to UConn Medical.

The guidelines we share are taken directly from professional schools and their specific requirements and are used as a means of confirming authenticity. While our office does attest to the authenticity of each letter we receive, it is still necessary for these guidelines to be met to avoid encountering any problems upon formal submission.

NOTE: Letters of recommendation are expected to be received in English. If a recommender does not speak English or English is their non-native language, they are still able to write a letter of recommendation for an applicant. We recommend they work in tandem with the student to find a translator.

How to Upload Your Letter

You will upload your letter through the UConn Quest Portal. You do not need to do anything other than follow the directions that are provided to you in the auto-generated email sent to you when an applicant requests your letter.

If you are associated with the university, please follow the instructions for "UConn Affiliates." If you are from an outside organization or institution, please follow the instructions for "Non-UConn Affiliates."

Both UConn and Non-UConn Affiliates alike will want to pay special attention to the "Instructions for giving this recommendation" section of the auto-generated email—this tells you succinctly what the formatting requirements are and what the general content of your letter should look like. If you wish to review more formal guidance on either of these topics, please explore the other sections on this page.

If you have trouble with the system or would like to ask the office questions, email us at

Content Recommendations

In writing your letter, there are a few key aspects that you will want to focus on:

  1. Establish your relationship with the applicant and, therefore, credibility to recommend them.
  2. Using rich examples to illustrate the applicant's achievements and abilities—focus on quality of examples over quantity of experiences.
  3. Emphasizing personality traits, behaviors or capacities that make them a strong and suitable fit for medical school. Make sure to include any information that makes them unique or exemplary.
  4. Placing your applicant in a broader context, when possible (e.g., "top 5% of students in my 10 years of teaching").

In writing your letter, try to avoid:

  1. Summarizing their resume
  2. Giving unsupported and non-specific praise
  3. Focusing too heavily on the context of your relationship (e.g., lengthy descriptions of your course/lab/practice, unless very applicable)

DO NOT ask the student to draft or write their letter of recommendation—if you are unsure of exactly what to write, ask the applicant directly what they would like you to include and highlight.

We encourage you to explore the AAMC Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation for a Medical School Applicant. This document expands upon the above guidelines and includes information about the AAMC Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students. While written for allopathic medical applicants specifically, we include these here because the principles are applicable to all pre-health applicants.

Additional Resources:

Writing Recommendation Letters Online manual, posted by Penn State University. This manual holds a wealth of information ranging from style suggestions to sample letters of recommendation.

Medical School Recommendations that Helped Applicants from U.S. News

Avoiding Bias in Letter Writing

First and foremost, unless you have discussed it with the individual directly and obtained their consent, avoid discussing their race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or citizenship, parental or material status. Also avoid mentioning their appearance, age, health status, or family/personal circumstances without their consent. Please seek the individual's permission—even if you maintain a close relationship with them—to reference such topics in your letter, as they may not wish to disclose certain things on their application.

When writing, be cognizant of the fact that there is both explicit bias and implicit/unconscious bias that can color your recommendation. Explicit bias is attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Implicit/Unconscious Bias is unintended, subtle, and subconscious thoughts that happen to all of us, all of the time. Consider as well that "bias" does not always refer to negative thoughts or feelings; we are just as easily capable of being explicitly or implicitly biased towards one person or group in a positive manner as we are to be biased in a negative manner.

Understanding what biases you may hold can help you to avoid issues of misrepresentation. An important and equivalent part of this process is thinking of how comments/descriptions will be interpreted by your audience. The goal here is not to sanitize your letter; rather, to allow for the opportunity to inject some objectivity and consider how an individual might be imagined by an outside admission committee. Consider the following example:

"If you say that Chris works well in a team—that might be interpreted differently depending on whether Chris is male or female. Exactly the same language can convey different messages because of people's antecedent beliefs about gender differences. The reader might infer that Chris the man is a good team leader or someone who can work well with a team even when he isn't a leader of it. Chris the woman, in contrast, may look as if she can't or doesn't lead. For both men and women, then, it is good to be explicit that the person is both a good team leader and can work collaboratively." (from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, p. 8)

There is a wealth of studies to suggest, for instance, that more "standout" adjectives like "outstanding" or "excellent" are used to describe male-identifying candidates in letters of recommendation. In addition, recommendations for male-identifying candidates are typically more likely to include more specific and descriptive language.

As previously mentioned, stylistic factors play an important role in letter writing. In terms of potential bias, word choice can suggest a certain perception of an individual when taking into account antecedent beliefs. Consider how certain words have become synonymous in our vernacular with being used to describe a particular gender-identifying, racial, or socioeconomic group.

To combat issues of bias in letter writing:

  1. Be as evidence-based as possible with your descriptions and characterizations, providing clear, illustrative examples to back up assertions.
  2. Do not speculate when it comes to someone's behaviors or aptitudes.
  3. Consult additional resources if you want to assess the strength and sensitivity of your letter.

Additional Resources:

Writing a Letter of Recommendation Workshop put together by UConn's Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships (ONSF), Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion (ODI)

Letters for POC from University of California, Merced

Writing a Letter of Recommendation; Addendum to Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for PostDocs and New Faculty by Burroughs Wellcome Fund and Howard Hughes Medical Institution (BWF–HHMI)

Discrimination and Recommendation Letters from Writing Recommendation Letters Online manual by Penn State University