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Premedical Advisory Committee Letter of Evaluation

The Premedical Advisory Committee (PAC) Letter of Evaluation is a comprehensive narrative evaluation that is written for current students and alumni applying to medical and dental schools. . It is designed to provide the admissions committee with a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of each candidate’s background and experiences, highlighting their academic, interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies. .

This evaluation is written at a student’s request and only after the student completes all PAC application requirements by the stated deadline. The committee application requires submission of letters of recommendation, resume, autobiography, activities grid, supplemental information form, as well as an interview with the PAC.

In December of each year Preprofessional Advising will hold an informational meeting for all students and alumni planning to apply to medical or dental school in the coming summer. At this time the Application for the Committee Evaluation will be distributed. Once a student submits the Premedical Advisory Committee Application s/he will be assigned a premedical advisor. The assigned adviser will work closely with the applicant throughout the application cycle and will have input into their PAC letter.

Importance of the Committee Evaluation

Many admissions committee practice holistic review and therefore are very interested in learning more about your background and significant experiences. They have the difficult job of choosing between thousands of qualified applicants and are therefore very interested in having as much information at their disposal to assist in making those choices. The PAC letter’s goal is to help frame your experiences, and highlight your strengths and readiness for health professional school. The committee evaluation also includes letters of recommendation submitted as a part of the committee application process. These letters should come from individuals who have directly supervised the applicant’s work, either in an academic or employment setting, or through some other community or extra-curricular involvement. Applicants are encouraged to seek letters from science and non-science faculty, employers, research mentors, coaches, and extracurricular activity advisors. These letters are compiled and sent in full text as a part of  the committee evaluation.  Applicants should choose their referees carefully, and premedical advisors are always available for consultation about who might serve as the best referees for individual candidates.

When and How to Solicit Supporting Letters of Recommendation

It is a good idea for applicants to request letters at the point when the connection with a potential recommender terminates. For example, if a first-year student has a strong relationship with his/her Literature Humanities instructor during the first year but does not expect to have another course with this instructor, the student should ask for the letter at the end of the first year. Preprofessional Advising does not actually need the letters until early summer of the application year, but if students wait until then to request recommendation letters, instructors may have moved on to another college or may have forgotten details about an applicant that would typically make a recommendation stand out. The same timelines apply to other recommenders: if students have an on-going relationship with them, they may wait until their application year to request a letter. Otherwise, they should obtain recommendations earlier. 

It is preferable to ask for letters of recommendation in person. Applicants are encouraged to bring their resume and transcript as well as any academic work that they have completed with the letter writer. They should be prepared to talk about their future goals and past achievements. Students should also bring along the Recommendation Waiver Form as well as the Guidelines for Letter Writers.

We recommend that applicants ask if a potential reference can provide d strong letter of reference.  All applicants want to have strong letters and if a person is somewhat uncomfortable writing or doesn’t have enough time, it is likely that the resulting reference will be short and weak. It is much better to have someone be honest from the start, so that the applicant can find another referee who will be more enthusiastic. 

Applicants should give their referees plenty of advanced notice and time to write a letter of recommendation (a month or even two), but also give them a deadline. Students should be sure to clearly communicate their deadlines.

Applicants should be sure to keep in touch with letter writers and of course communicate their successes. A thank you note should follow, thanking the recommender for his/her assistance and support.

Summer Activities

If applicants are doing something significant in their application summer, they should discuss carefully with their advisors whether or not to include a letter about these activities. Generally, such a decision depends on  timing. If it appears that waiting for a delayed letter would hold up the committee letter too long, applicants may send this letter separately at a later time. .

Quantity of Letters

Allopathic applicants are required to submit a minimum of four letters of recommendation and a maximum of six.  These letters of recommendation will be included in their full form with your Committee Evaluation.  You should probably have at the minimum two academic letters of reference from faculty or graduate teaching fellows at Columbia.  It is required to have at least one from someone who has taught you in the sciences and recommended to have one from a faculty member in the liberal arts.  A few schools have begun requiring 2 science letters.  Others who may write useful letters include research advisors, administrators, faculty advisors, athletic coaches, supervisors of campus or summer jobs, and those who have known you in volunteer positions. MD/PhD applicants should have a letter from each research experience in addition to the recommendations above.  As always, please check each school’s requirement.

Submitting Letters

Letters should be sent directly to Preprofessional Advising within the Center for Student Advising in 403 Lerner Hall. Letters hand-delivered by applicants will not be accepted. Please note: All recommendations must be accompanied by a waiver form. Applicants should complete this form and provide it to all individuals who have agreed to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf along with an addressed, stamped envelope to our office.

Letter writers may also email recommendations, provided the document (PDF preferred) appears on letter head, is dated, and has a scanned handwritten signature.

Privacy of Letters of Recommendation and the Waiver Form

Applicants may either request an open letter, or waive their right to see the letter. Applicants should consider this decision carefully, and discuss the choice with their advisor. Applicants should be aware that they will be required to be consistent in their waivers. If they waive their right to view the contents of one letter they must do this for all letters of recommendation because they will all be combined within the Premedical AdvisoryCommittee Letter of Evaluation. 

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