Premedical Advisory Committee (PAC) Process

The Premedical Advisory Committee (PAC) process is designed to help prepare Columbia students and alumni to be successful applicants to health professional school. The Columbia PAC Institutional Letter of Support is a letter that serves as an introduction of you to the medical schools, focusing on your academic journey at Columbia.  Your individual letters of support are appended in full to your Columbia letter and the whole packet is uploaded to the centralized system on your behalf.

This Columbia Letter is written at a student’s request and only after the student completes all aspects of the PAC process by the stated deadlines. The goal of the committee process is to support candidates through the entirety of their application cycle by providing guidance and advice as they cultivate and refine the various pieces of their applications. The committee materials assembled by candidates involve essays that help us understand your background and interest in and motivation for a career in the health professions, an account of your extracurricular activities, short answers about some of your specific postsecondary experiences, and a copy of your resume. Additionally we ask you to list your potential recommenders and, eventually, the actual letters of recommendation are submitted to our office. The application and letters are submitted via the applicant's PAC portal.

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. After this meeting where we discuss the PAC process, we open the PAC portal and prospective applicants submit their materials in February. Once a student submits the Premedical Advisory Committee materials they are assigned a premedical advisor. The assigned advisor will work closely with the applicant throughout the application cycle and will write their Columbia Letter.

When and How to Solicit Supporting Letters of Recommendation

The Columbia Letter appends in full letters of recommendation submitted on behalf of applicants. 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 extracurricular involvement. Applicants are encouraged to seek letters from science and non-science faculty, employers, clinical and research mentors, coaches, and extracurricular activity advisors. These letters are compiled and sent in full as a part of Columbia Letter.  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.
If possible, 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 for the recommender. They should be prepared to talk about their future goals and past achievements. Applicants should also bring along the Guidelines for Letter Writers (in case the recommender is unfamiliar with  writing a letter for health professional school candidates).

We encourage applicants to ask if a potential reference is comfortable providing a strong letter of reference. All applicants want to be assured regarding the support they are receiving. It’s best to be up front with recommenders and give them a chance to decline the request. 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 (ideally two months but never less than one).

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 their assistance and support.

Quantity of Letters

Applicants who are going through the Premedical Advisory Committee process are required to submit a minimum of four letters of recommendation and a maximum of six. These letters of recommendation will be included in full with their Columbia Letter. It is required to have at least one from someone who has taught you in the sciences and recommended to have one from an instructor who assessed you based on writing.  A small number of schools require two science letters. Others who may write useful letters include research and clinical mentors, 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 postsecondary research experience in addition to the recommendations above. 

Submitting Letters

Letters should be uploaded by recommenders directly into an applicant's PAC portal. While we prefer that letters are uploaded to us directly, we will also accept letters via email. Letters hand-delivered or emailed by applicants will not be accepted. 

All letters must be written on letterhead and have an original or scanned 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 as a part of the Columbia Institutional Letter of Support.



Preprofessional Advising


403 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: 212-854-6378

Advising by Appointment

Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm 

Prehealth Virtual Drop-In Advising Hours

Mon - Thu, 12pm - 1pm 

Drop in Hours Zoom link*

*Drop in Hours are only for CC/SEAS undergraduate students