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Letter of evaluation collection service

Overview

Among other services offered, the UHPO can help to facilitate the collection and submission of letters of evaluation to health professions schools on behalf of UTSA students and alumni.  When students opt to utilize this service, the UHPO can act as a clearing house of sorts for their letters of evaluation.  We will ask that students’ referees send their signed letters of evaluation directly to our office so that we may review them, suggest minor revisions when necessary, and maintain them in students’ files.  We will email students as each letter is received.  Once a student notifies us that all expected letters have been received, that s/he has also submitted his/her health professions school application, and of the specific schools to which s/he would like to have letters sent, we will send copies of the letters accordingly via either electronic services or postal mail.

All original letters will be maintained in students’ files as long as they remain active with our office.  In the future, letters can only be used again to serve the original purpose of why they were written.  For example, if a student originally asked a professor to write a letter of evaluation in reference to his/her application to medical school, this letter can only be reused during a future application cycle to medical school.  It cannot be used in reference to an application to another type of professional school or for any other purpose.  Students are advised not to send letters dated back more than three years.

Generally, medical, dental, veterinary, and optometry schools accept and often prefer that students have their letters of evaluation submitted by their respective universities’ health professions offices when possible.  However, this is not necessarily acceptable or preferred by other health professions schools.  Students are advised to read the application instructions for submission of letters of evaluation carefully before asking their referees to send letters to the UHPO.

Student Responsibilities

Although the UHPO can assist students with collecting and submitting their letters of evaluation to health professions schools, students are ultimately responsible for managing the successful submission of all health professions school application materials, including their letters of evaluation.  All students who choose to utilize the UHPO Letter Collection and Submission Service must follow these guidelines:

  • Read application instructions for requirements on the submission of letters of evaluation.  While many medical, dental, veterinary, and optometry schools will accept and often prefer that students have their letters of evaluation submitted by their universities’ health professions offices when possible, not all health professions schools do.
  • Meet with a UHPO advisor to discuss the application process and your readiness for it as well as to establish a “committee file” and to sign an “Evaluation Packet and Committee Letter Release Form,” which will give the UHPO permission to collect letters of evaluation on your behalf and also will indicate whether or not you release your right of access to those letters.
  • Ask faculty, health professionals, volunteer supervisors, work supervisors, and other mentors to write letters of evaluation on your behalf, if not already done, and provide a copy of your signed “Evaluation Packet and Committee letter Release Form” to each referee.
  • Inform each referee that his/her letter(s) should be on official letterhead, signed, and sent directly to the UHPO before the approximate date of when you intend to submit your school applications.  Letters will not be acceptable if delivered by you yourself.
  • Notify the UHPO once all of your expected letters of evaluation have been received by our office.  We will email you each time we receive a letter of evaluation, so it is important to ensure that the UHPO has your most current email address on file.
  • Communicate with the UHPO regarding the schools to which you are applying and your application timeline.  We will need to hear from you to know when and where to send your letters.

Frequently asked questions about letters of evaluation

How many people should I ask to write letters of evaluation on my behalf?
Generally, you will want to have three to five letters of evaluation sent on your behalf to the health professions schools to which you are applying.  However, if you are using the UHPO Letter Collection and Submission Service, you may ask more than five individuals to write letters for you.  The UHPO will read through all of your letters of evaluation and will choose no more than five letters and no more than ten pages that together offer the most complete picture of you as a candidate to health professions schools. 

Whom should I ask to write letters of evaluation on my behalf?
Among your letters of evaluation, at least one or two from faculty members should be included.  Other referees can include health professionals whom you’ve shadowed, work supervisors, volunteer coordinators, or other mentors who know you from academic, professional, or volunteer settings.  All referees should know you well and be able to reflect on their interactions with you.  However, letters from family members or others who share only personal connections with you will not be acceptable.

When should I talk to the UHPO about collecting my letters of evaluation and begin asking individuals to write them?
When it comes to asking for letters of evaluation, early planning can be beneficial, but you also don’t want to be too early.  You should give your referees ample time to write good, quality letters of evaluation.  Therefore, you will want to begin asking your prospective referees for letters of evaluation at least a month or so prior to when you plan to submit your health professions school applications.  Since you want your letters to be current when you apply, though, it might not be a great idea to ask individuals to write letters for you more than a year in advance of when you plan to apply.  It is probably best to begin planning and asking for letters of evaluation during the semester prior to when you plan to apply.  For example, if you hope to apply for dental school by May 2011, it will behoove you to be planning and asking for letters of evaluation during the Spring 2011 semester.  It would be at that time that you could meet with an advisor to review the UHPO Letter Collection and Submission Service.

Can my referees email their letters to the UHPO?
Remember that all letters should be written on letterhead and signed.  So, referees should only send their letters of evaluation by email if they have electronic letterhead and signatures available or if they scan a letter that was printed on letterhead and signed and attach it as a PDF document to their email.

What does it mean to release my right of access to letters of evaluation?  Why is it recommended?
When you release your right of access to letters of evaluation, you agree not to read your letters or otherwise to pry for their content.  Releasing your right of access to letters of evaluation is recommended because doing so sends a message of trust both to referees and to admissions committees.  Referees can feel free to write honest assessments of your various strengths and weaknesses.  And, this information will be of great use to admissions committees who depend on these letters to get to know how you might be able to contribute to their school’s future cohort of students.  In any case, you should not feel the need to review your letters of evaluation to know that they will be strong. 

Why can’t I use my letters of evaluation on file for other purposes in the future?
When you ask a referee to write a letter of evaluation on your behalf as you prepare to veterinary school, for example, the referee will write his/her letter with this understanding.  S/he will write his/her letter in a way to address what s/he feels will be of interest to a veterinary school admissions committee and often will state why you would make a good candidate for veterinary school specifically.  A letter written in this way will not be helpful and may even raise questions of your commitment if you would like to use it later as you apply to medical school or a Ph.D. program in Biology.  Additionally, it is not the right of our office to submit a letter for another purpose than what was originally understood by its author.