committee letter?

Hi all! I’ve been browsing this forum and it’s helped with lots of questions/concerns/stress es I’ve had so far! What a great resource

I’m sort of a non-traditional applicant in that I finished my four year college degree three years ago, and I’m getting ready to apply to MD and possibly DO programs this spring. I completed all of my pre-reqs at this college, and majored in bio. My undergrad institution does have a formal committee review process for pre-meds, which I didn’t pursue as an undergrad because I wasn’t fully ready to apply at the time. They do offer committee interviews and letters for alumni, though I now live in a completely different part of the country and would need to make time to travel back this month to meet with profs on the committee - most of whom I did not have for any classes or really get to know as an undergrad.

Here’s my question – do I need to go through my undergrad institution’s committee process? Would it give me an edge or just be an unnecessary investment of time? Most of the med schools that I’m planning to apply to don’t specifically “require” a committee letter, and I’ll be able to secure other letters from individual undergrad profs (one of which is at a new institution now, so wouldn’t contribute to the committee letter anyway), MDs that I’ve worked with since graduating, and an international health internship supervisor.

Another factor in all of this is the fact that the pre-health advisor at my bac school had made some pretty disparaging remarks about my GPA (around 3.4), and said that I “would never get in” to medical school, which is probably what sparked the whole debarking from the “traditional” straight-to-med school path after college thing anyway. One grad degree and considerably more life experience later, I’m back and ready to apply. So getting back in touch with this health advisor is not something I’m jumping to do, though I’ll do whatever is necessary, of course!!!

I haven’t seen this topic discussed anywhere else on the forum, but I’m sure it’s a concern for others, too - especially those of us who fall into that grey area between “traditional” and “non-traditional” status…

Advice much appreciated, thanks!

Hi Cocomoa,

Welcome to the board. I was going to say what you already mentioned, make sure the schools that you are applying to do not require a committee letter. If they do not, you probably are okay. I think you might have to get in contact with your undergrad institution though. Even though you said you have new letter of recommendations, you might want to use some of those older ones. Those can (and sometimes need to be) submitted via VirtualEvals.

Question: the recommendations you have from the physicians you worked with and your health internship supervisor, where did they send the recommendations? Did they send them to you, your new institution, or your old college? If you have them personally, I think you might want to ask them to send them to whichever institution has your other letters of recommendations so they can be submitted via VirtualEvals. Even if your school does not use this system, I think only a collegiate institution can submit recommendations to the medical schools you are applying to.

Also, you might want to call the schools you are applying to as well and ask them to reiterate their policy to you. Indeed some will say they do not require a committee letter but if you speak with them over the phone or in person they might strongly encourage it. Its not because they frown on individual recommendations but rather the committee letter is a great summation of all those letters and then some. So just to be on the safe side, give the office of admissions a call and double check if they want/prefer a committee letter from their applicants.

I hope this helps and good luck in the upcoming year!

If the schools you are applying to don’t state that they require committee letters, individual letters are fine. In fact, even in some cases where schools state that they prefer/require committee letters, you can still often submit individual letters. Not all undergraduate institutions offer committee letters. The largest university in the country (Ohio State) did not (and as far as I know still doesn’t) offer committee letters. I had one school that I applied to that stated that they wanted a committee letter - I called them and they said if your school didn’t have a committee to submit three individual letters.

Now, for you, the possible point of contention is the fact that your undergrad institution DOES offer committee letters. In some cases, choosing not to use a committee letter when it is offered can be a “red flag” of sorts to adcoms. You may need to be prepared to explain to an interviewer why you chose not to use the committee. I think your reasons are valid, but I’m not an adcom, so I can’t say for certainty that it won’t be an issue, but I don’t think it will be a huge issue.

I’m haven’t heard of the VirtualEval thing that the dude mentioned, but I do agree with his contention that you should use some sort of independent service to administer you letters so that they can be confidential letters (i.e. you waive your right to see them). When I was doing pre-reqs at Ohio State, they discontinued their university letter service and instead told people to use Interfolio for submitting your letters. Instead of your professors submitting the letters either directly to each of the schools or to a centralized university office, they submit one copy to Interfolio (can be done electronically, fax, or hard copy) after you have set up an account. When you set up an account, you enter the information of your letters, and then print out a waiver to give to the letter writer to submit with the letter that both tells them that you waive your rights to see the letter and gives them the information on how to submit your letter. Once Interfolio (or whatever other service you choose to use) has your letters, you can then go in and request that your letters be sent wherever. The whole electronic service thing is nice (imo) because it puts you in control of your letters and not at the mercy of a committee or university service that submits letters on their own timelines. With an electronic service, you can get your letters uploaded in a timely manner, have them ready to go, and then as soon as you receive a request for them, go online and request that your letters be sent to the school.

On one hand, I can see why med schools would prefer committee letters (more standardization, fewer letters to wade through), but in the days of ever increasing costs in higher education, it would seem inefficient for universities to put together letters and/or be responsible for administering multiple student’s LOR’s.

Thanks a bunch for the advice, Emergency and The Dude! I actually don’t have med school recommendations from the past (this will be the first time I’ve actually applied to med school), just a couple of profs who have worked with me in the past (thesis advising/ research, etc) and who have recommended me for jobs/internships before, as well as a current employer – and I just need to ask them “officially” to write letters for me for my applications. I’m definitely planning on using interfolio or virtual eval, and I think I’ll get in touch by phone with the med schools on my list in the next week or so to see where they actually stand in terms of requiring a committee letter… If not, my plan is just to contact my little list of references individually and get them to send letters to interfolio.


Virtual Evals was started by Kay Singer who used to be the pre-med advisor at Duke. It is a system whereby undergrad institutions send their LORs electronically (.pdfs I believe) to VE and VE sends them to the designated med schools. A bit like how AMCAS works. It has streamlined the LOR process for pre-med offices enormously, although all colleges/universities haven’t modified their letter services to take advantage of VE.