At nearly every meeting on the national, regional, or local level, when advisors come together, we end up talking about letters. Some of us cannot help but complain about how many committee letters we have to write. Some of us share the frustrations that arise from both enforcing deadlines for students to turn in required forms and coaxing faculty into producing letters of evaluation on time. Inevitably, we talk about “ranking” students and the levels of recommendation that some of us employ in our committee letters. Some of us do committee letters, some do not. Some health professions value committee letters, some do not. We debate whether we write “recommendation” or “evaluation” letters, whether we advocate or critique. Some of us worry about the possible future standardization of letters. And we often end up asking admissions officers to reassure us—is the work we put into letters really worth our time? — and while admissions deans generally encourage us to keep at it, they also mention the wide range of quality in the letters they receive, suggesting that maybe there is more work to be done.
It really starts to seem like, when it comes to the way we manage the letters of evaluation and the committee letter processes at our schools, we have more differences than similarities. Perhaps this is indeed true. And yet, it may not be a problem. Our institutions are very different, after all, as are the students who attend our schools as well as our own roles and responsibilities on campus. The dialogue around letters can lead to productive discussions about the work we do as a whole.
What has been missing, however, is a place online where advisors can go to share their ideas about letters outside of an annual meeting. Those of us on the Communications Committee at the NAAHP hope that this Letters Toolbox provides such an outlet. While you will find materials here that your advising colleagues use in their letters process, the Toolbox is not just a repository of information. We hope that it becomes more than that. We hope that what you find here will generate ideas, continuing healthy debate about letters and acknowledging the diversity of what we do.
I want to thank Kate Fukawa-Connelly and Carol Baffi-Dugan for their incredible patience over the past year or so, as well as Jane Cary and Rob Cannon for their assistance early on. Other helpful contributors include Gina Camello, David Verrier, and our NAAHP staff members (Sam Shafer) and Malinda Byrne. Most especially, appreciation goes to Candice Eisenhauer for her tremendous help in gathering the perspectives we have from advisors across the country. And of course, thanks to all of you who responded to our requests for your thoughts and resources.
And so, I welcome you to the Letters Toolbox. I hope that you find some useful information here, maybe some helpful perspective. Return often, as we will be updating and expanding content as time goes by. And please do not be shy about sharing your own tools that you use effectively in your work. We’re all in this together!
Assistant Director of Communications
The content of this toolbox is the sole property of NAAHP, Inc. It may be shared with colleagues for educational purposes, but may not be reproduced in any manner for commercial uses or in a document that is sold.