Donor activation and boosting AEM metrics are a priority for large and small schools, private and public. 

This amazing story featuring a Denison University pre-med student looking for insights on recommendation letters is a great example of broad constituent engagement. And the Denison community rallying to help with advice. 



The "ask"

Hello, my name is STUDENT and I am a rising sophomore pursuing a Biology major & double Chem/Ancient Greek Studies minor. I am on the pre-medicine track.

Recently, I’ve shadowed Dr. DOCTOR (plastic surgeon & Denison alum) for around 6-8 hours each day for 4 days. I’ve been told that it may be wise to ask for a letter of recommendation from the physician that you shadowed if the overall experience was good. As of now, I am far from applying to medical school and am not working on any applications which require letters of rec.

Therefore, is it a good idea to ask for a letter?

Can a letter written now be used in the future?

And finally, would a letter of rec. from a doctor I shadowed for 1 week even be a strong letter? Is it worth asking for a letter this early in my undergraduate years? Or are there stronger letters I should seek, for example, after I engage in future research with professors or my immediate supervisor in an internship?

Thank you for your time and advice! I really do appreciate it!

The "give" (one of three responses)


These are all good questions, and it is great that you are starting to think about your application package to medical school.

In my opinion, I think a letter of recommendation from this 4 day shadowing experience may not be as strong as some of your future letters. It is challenging for a letter writer to get to know an observer in just four days, and then use that experience to translate into a strong letter of endorsement.

If you enjoyed your experience with Dr. DOCTOR and felt that she would make a good mentor, I would encourage you to continue to engage with her over the next year and a half in a mentor/mentee-type capacity. That would make for a stronger letter from her.

In general, letters of recommendations are often not viewed by the applicant, so it would probably not be possible to collect letters and submit them in the future. Instead, the writer will need to submit them directly, so you’ll have to request those letters closer to the application cycle.

Future letters from research mentors or internship supervisors would definitely be viewed as strong letters. I think Dr. DOCTOR, if she served as a mentor, would be able to also write a very compelling letter of recommendation when needed.

I hope this helps. Keep up the good work.

The feedback


This experience was brief but extremely effective, as I was able to have my question answered and be able to connect directly with someone in my field of interest that’s already been in my shoes.

The outcome

Besides fantastic feedback from both the student and alumni, across the four AEM dimensions the request engaged 17 constituents (16 of them were prospective donors), yielded 3 great responses, and triggered two lead alerts


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