Guest Post from Jamie - Letters of Recommendation: How Do You Ask? and How Do You Get a Good One?

I'm really excited to share another post from Jamie with you, which was first published on Reddit.  This will shed some light on how to get a good letter of recommendation, which is so important for your PA school applications. You may remember her previous posts - The Unexpected Costs of Interviewing and Attending PA School and What's in My Medical Bag?


Hi all! I thought I'd do a post today, since I start my hardest semester next week and I might disappear for a little while. I've been seeing a lot of comments and posts about letters of recommendations. Please start here with the Wiki FAQ for LOR.

Now that you've read that (or skimmed pass the link to keep reading), we can talk about some more specific details.

One thing I did when asking for letters of recommendation was to mention a specific reason I was asking the person.
— Jamie

 

One thing I did when asking for letters of recommendation was to mention a specific reason I was asking the person. For example, I worked in the tutoring center as a chemistry tutor and was a crucial part of the development for our walk-in services. I was the first tutor hired, trained other tutors, opened the center most mornings, etc. So I asked my boss, a professor at our university, to write me a letter. But when I asked, I mentioned specifically, "You have been one of the biggest witnesses for my interpersonal skills, as well as my application of sciences. I was hoping you could speak about your experiences of those things with me. A strong letter of recommendation will be very important to my acceptance into PA school."

Notice how I didn't just ask for the letter, but mentioned something that I wanted her to talk about. It wasn't demanding, just gave her an understanding of why I wanted HER to be the one to write it. I'll paste her letter below, she sent it to me just recently so I could make this post!

Another example was my nurse supervisor. She is an RN and supervises each shift. She sees how things go on the floor and facilitates the flow of the shift. I had asked her to write my letter because she sees how I work in a team with the other CNAs and the nurses. She has asked me to train people, and I am the one she would go-to for greeting a new admission because she loved how bubbly I was. I asked her to specifically mention how personable and friendly I am, as well as my teamwork.

It is important that when you do this, you are not demanding. You do not want the person to think that they HAVE to talk about what you mentioned. But this will help them to write a more specific letter. Anyone can receive a generic letter of recommendation. "Jamie has good communication skills" is completely different than "Jamie also stands out as an excellent communicator. She is personable and approachable, and students feel comfortable asking her questions. Additionally, she is adept at communicating with both her peers and chemistry faculty members."

And with that, here's my letter of recommendation from my boss at the tutoring center.

May 11, 2015

To Whom It May Concern,

It is my pleasure to submit this letter of recommendation for Ms. JamieNicole3x. I direct the Chemistry Success Center (CSC) at [University], a center that provides free walk-in chemistry tutoring services. Jamie works as a tutor in the CSC, and I have been her supervisor since August 2014. Scientific knowledge is a prerequisite for employment as a tutor, and Jamie demonstrates an excellent understanding of general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. However, the traits that make Jamie stand out as a truly exceptional tutor extend far beyond her strong scientific background. In the ten months I have known Jamie, I have been greatly impressed by her professionalism, communication skills, and initiative.

Jamie consistently demonstrates an incredible level of professionalism. Jamie is, without a doubt, the most dependable and responsible student I have had the privilege of supervising. She is punctual and responds to all communications quickly and professionally. This past semester, Jamie opened the CSC two days per week. I typically stop by the CSC every morning to make sure things are set up and running smoothly. However, I quickly realized that I did not need to check in on the CSC on days when Jamie opened the center – I could rely on her to get things done correctly.

Jamie also stands out as an excellent communicator. She is personable and approachable, and students feel comfortable asking her questions. Additionally, she is adept at communicating with both her peers and chemistry faculty members. She manages to connect with people through humor, excellent listening skills, and a positive demeanor, all while maintaining appropriate professional boundaries. Students appreciate Jamie’s strong communication skills, and she consistently receives praise on student evaluations for her ability to explain things clearly.

Finally, I would be amiss not to mention Jamie’s initiative. Jamie excels at recognizing where help is needed, and never hesitates to deliver needed assistance. Whether it’s stepping in to help when another tutor needs support in dealing with a difficult student or taking the time to organize CSC resources, Jamie always pitches in to help without being asked. She truly leads by positive example.

I am confident that JamieNicole3x possesses the personal characteristics and academic preparation needed to succeed in a physician assistant graduate program. I recommend her for admission to your program without reservation.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need additional information.

Best wishes,

[Name Removed]

Affiliate Professor of Chemistry


Hi all. Thanks for reading! I'm Jamie Murawski, a physician assistant student at the University of Detroit Mercy. I have a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University. I'm a Michigan girl through and through. 

I'm growing my online presence in the PA community through Reddit, where I moderate /r/prephysicianassistant along with some other pretty cool PA students. I also have an Instagram where I pseudo-blog about my journey (@jamienicole_pa.s). Please feel free to follow me or message me with any questions, I'm happy to help!