All med schools require letters of recommendation but not all require them in the same way. For some institutions, especially those in this article, you don’t need a M.D. or a D.O. recommendation letter to make a good application.
Here you’ll learn:
- 10 places that don’t require D.O./M.D. recommendation letters
- Why some schools have different admissions policies toward recommendations
- If you should apply to med school with letters of recommendation or not
Medical Schools That Don’t Require Letters of Recommendation
The following med schools, although they do require a couple (or more) “character” letters, don’t require a D.O./M.D. recommendation letter.
1. Georgetown University School of Medicine
Washington D.C.’s Georgetown has quite a relaxed stance when it comes recommendation letters. Here’s what their admissions guidance has to say:
You may use your discretion when selecting letter-writers, however, it is recommended that you submit a balance of academic, clinical, and service recommendation letters.https://som.georgetown.edu/admissions/degrees-and-admissions/md/guide/
2. Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM)
Pennsylvania’s LECOM will take letters of recommendation written by people other than D.O’s, but it’s not strongly recommended.
If you are selected for an interview, you will need to submit letters of recommendation. You may request letters of recommendation from your pre-health professions advisor or pre-professional committee. If you are unable to obtain a pre-professional committee letter, you may submit two letters of recommendation from undergraduate or graduate college/university science professors. A letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician is highly recommended.https://lecom.edu/admissions/apply/
Still, there’s a lot of options there.
LECOM is also a school that shows up in our list ‘Fun Medical Schools In America’.
3. Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM)
Michigan State is a little more laid back than LECOM. They don’t strongly require a recommendation letter from a D.O. In fact, it’s fine not to have one at all.
The college recommends that at least one letter be written by an academic or medical professional. MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine does not require academic/committee/advisor evaluations, nor do we require that an osteopathic physician complete an evaluation.https://com.msu.edu/future-students/applying/admissions-requirements
Also note that a “recommendation”, in this case, is not a requirement.
4. Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
Oakland has no strict requirements for their letters of recommendation. Here’s what there admissions information states:
We receive many questions about who should write letters of recommendation. We highly recommend you select writers who know you well and can speak to your qualifications for entering the field of medicine. It is a good idea to include at least one faculty member who has gotten to know you during the course of your studies. Letters from family members and/or friends are discouraged.https://oakland.edu/medicine/admissions/admissions-process-and-requirements/requirements
5. Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM)
OU-HCOM says you can switch out a letter of recommendation from a health professional for a teacher instead.
We require either a letter from a premedical/health professions advising committee OR two letters from natural science faculty who taught you in class. A committee letter is preferred, but if your institution does not have a committee, you must submit two letters of recommendation/evaluation from natural science faculty who taught you in class. There are no substitutions for this requirement.https://www.ohio.edu/medicine/med-admissions/apply/app
6. Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM)
PCOM states their opinions on premed admissions very clearly and succinctly.
No, a letter from a DO is not required but is strongly recommended.https://www.pcom.edu/academics/programs-and-degrees/doctor-of-osteopathic-medicine-philadelphia-campus/faq.html
7. Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM)
RowanSOM is another school that recommends but doesn’t require D.O. letters of recommendation. This is what their pre med information states:
A Pre-medical Advisory Committee recommendation is preferred. In lieu of this recommendation, or in addition to, you can submit two letters from science faculty (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, etc.), who can attest to your qualifications for medical school. If you are unable to obtain the required letters of recommendation, please contact the Office of Admissions. Letters from D.O. physicians are strongly recommended.https://som.rowan.edu/education/admissions/faq.html
8. Rush University Medical College
Chicago-based Rush is very detailed in the information they give pre meds when it comes to recommendations. Notice how there’s no specific mention of a M.D. letter?
Academic Letter: an individual who can critically evaluate your academic strengths and abilities, as well as your preparedness and suitability for a rigorous medical school curriculum. The academic letter does not need to be written by a science faculty member.
Professional Non-Academic Letter: an individual who has worked with you in a professional capacity and can insightfully address your personal strengths and attributes (e.g. resilience, dependability, social skills, cultural competence, service orientation) and the value these would bring to the diversity of the class, the patients you see, and the communities we serve. Examples might include: work supervisor, volunteer coordinator, physician shadowed.
Personal Letter: an individual who has an in-depth perspective of you and can objectively assess your personal qualities. This letter should be a deeper, more personal letter that discusses who you are as an individual and addresses your personal goals, characteristics and aspirations for a career in medicine. This individual should be someone who has had substantial contact with you during the past 24 months.https://www.rushu.rush.edu/rush-medical-college/doctor-medicine-md-program/admission-requirements
Of course a letter from a physician you have shadowed could pay dividends in helping you stand out from other applicants!
9. Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM)
TCOM is happy to take letters of recommendation from individuals other than doctors.
TMDSAS requires that an applicant’s premedical/health professions advisory committee submit a written evaluation directly to the service. Letters from three (3) people who are familiar with an applicant may satisfy this requirement if no advisory committee is available. The letters should be from faculty members and/or an advisor who can assess the applicant’s suitability for medical school.https://www.unthsc.edu/texas-college-of-osteopathic-medicine/admissions-and-outreach/admissions-requirements-and-selection/
10. University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNECOM)
Last but not least, UNECOM says recommendation letters from D.O.’s aren’t necessary to make an application.
Preferred sources of evaluations include: Pre-Health Committee Advisor, Pre-Health Advisor, a faculty member with substantial knowledge of the applicant, a direct supervisor with substantial knowledge of the applicant, or a healthcare professional with substantial knowledge of the applicant (preferably physicians). Letters from an Osteopathic Physician (D.O.) are recommended but not required.https://www.une.edu/com/admissions/criteria-procedures
Is It OK If I Don’t Have a Letter of Recommendation for Med School?
Judging by the list above, you definitely do need some form of letter of recommendation for med school. The nuances of who you need that letter from might be different but not having any at all could reflect badly on you as a pre med applicant. It’s better to aim to get at least one.
Of course there are exceptions where letters of recommendation might not be needed. These could include:
- External factors: pandemic years etc where sourcing letters could be difficult
- Non-traditional students who’ve been out of academia for a long time
My recommendation would be to try and get a letter from someone regardless. Maybe an employer or volunteer organizer you’ve had prolonged contact with.
Letters of recommendation can help you a lot in an application. Especially as med school interviewers like to bring up questions relating to them.
Why Don’t All Med Schools Require Letters of Recommendation?
Here’s why some med schools may not require letters of recommendation:
- To create a fairer application system for their students
- To obtain a more diverse student body (and not discriminate against those who couldn’t get good recommendations)
But most of the time the decision is an internal one made by the admissions committee itself.
So it’s hard to say why some make it more strict than others. Tradition and prestige could have a lot to do with it.
Is There Something Wrong With Med Schools That Don’t Require Letters of Recommendation?
Many people will notice from the list that osteopathic med schools are more flexible in their recommendation letter requirements than allopathic (traditional) ones. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these schools though, it’s just a personal decision they’ve made in terms of their admissions policy.
All of these schools are reputable and worthwhile places to study to become a doctor.
Do Med Schools Outside The U.S. Require Letters of Recommendation?
Most med schools, wherever they’re based, require some form of recommendation letter. It’s a standard part of an application process. And one that helps provide insight into the suitability of a candidate to study medicine.
Even schools in Eastern Europe (mine included) work this way. To apply for Medical University Varna I had to get various letters from academic institutions to vouch that I’d been a student there and achieved the grades I made the application with.
Letters of recommendation play a big part in the med school application process. Knowing how some institutions differ from others in terms of the importance they place on them, can maybe help guide you in the process.
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