Recommendations letters are required by VMCAS and it is another case where you need to do some research into what the schools you are applying to want. For example, when I applied, one school required that two of your recommendation letters be from veterinarians, not just one. This was something I had known about so I had made sure to establish good relationships with several veterinarians.
A good letter of recommendation may not necessarily make your application, but a poor one can break it. Asking for a letter of recommendation can be stressful so here are some tips to go by…
1.Think about who you are going to ask to write your letters. This is a big decision. You need to consider things like who knows you best and can speak to your individual attributes? There’s nothing wrong with asking an associative veterinarian to write your letter of recommendation versus the owner if the associative knows you better and has worked with you more. Also consider which teachers know you best and who have the most experience with you as a student. You want a good, solid letter of recommendation, not a “cookie cutter one” that someone sticks your name into with a few minor, personal details.
2. Ask the person who you wish to write you a letter if they feel comfortable and have the time to write you a GOOD letter of recommendation. This gives them an out if they aren’t comfortable because they can say they don’t have time. While no one wants to be turned down when they ask for a letter of recommendation, it is better to hear up front that someone isn’t comfortable writing one, than to have them give you a poor letter.
3. Give the person lots of advanced notice! Many of the people you will be asking (professors, academic advisors, veterinarians, etc.) are very busy people and they will need time to write you a good letter of recommendation. As a rule you should ask at least two weeks in advance at the minimum, but more such as 1-2 months is more appropriate.
4. Provide the people you are asking with the materials they need. These people should know you well, but it is helpful if you can provide them with a copy of your resume at the very least. Also ask them if they need any additional information that you could provide.
5. This should be common sense (and maybe written in VMCAS’s rules if I recall), but don’t ask family members or other people that a veterinary school may consider inappropriate. Your piano teacher from the 4th grade may love you and you may have been her best student ever, but she might not be the best choice on an application to professional school. Veterinarians, professors, and academic advisors are usually the most common choices.
So ask early, ask the right people, and ask for a GOOD letter of recommendation. 🙂