The HPA Composite Letter
The letter of recommendation written by HPA on an applicant’s behalf is often called a composite letter or committee letter. Composite letters are preferred by medical and dental schools, and accepted by some veterinary, optometry and other health professional schools. The letter is referred to as a “composite” because it incorporates information from several different sources.
Purpose of the Composite Letter
The composite letter serves many purposes, all of which are valuable to students in the application process:
- To provide a clear narrative of the applicant’s candidacy
- To address anomalies in the applicant’s candidacy within context
- To give admissions committees a clearer understanding of the candidate in the context of other Princeton applicants
- To help HPA advisers learn more about applicants, which may be helpful in guiding them through the application process.
Eligibility for a Composite Letter for New Applicants
In order for a composite letter to be written for a new applicant (i.e., an applicant who has never received a composite letter), the following criteria must be met:
The applicant must have taken at least half of the pre-requisite science courses at Princeton in the past seven years.
The applicant must secure at least one letter of recommendation from a faculty member (or preceptor) who taught them in a science course.
The applicant must meet all paperwork deadlines:
Seven days prior to pre-application interview: HPA forms 1-4, essays, activities list
- June 15: Absolute deadline for HPA pre-application interview scheduling (preferred scheduling is in February)
- October 1: Absolute deadline for AMCAS submission (ideal submission is in June)
The applicant must sign up for and participate in a pre-application interview.
The applicant must release application information to HPA through the primary application process (instructions to do so will be provided in an AMCAS workshop) and send HPA a copy of the verified primary application(s).
Please note that while there are no GPA or MCAT cut-offs to receive a composite letter of recommendation, HPA strongly encourages students to engage in the composite letter of recommendation process when they feel confident that they are competitive applicants. A committee letter will provide an honest evaluation of academic performance and readiness for success in the rigorous medical school curriculum.
Timing and Contents of Composite Letters
The composite letters of recommendation are prepared beginning in May; preparing them is a time-intensive process for the HPA office, and this is the reason that we ask for much information from applicants well before the application season truly begins with submitting your application in June.
Once the composite letter is written, it is sent, along with other materials, to the applicant’s schools. The materials sent by HPA include:
- Composite letter of recommendation.
- Individual letters of recommendation.
- Pre-health Course Form with description of Princeton’s grading policies, independent work requirements, and other highlights of the academic program.
- Letter addressing disciplinary/academic institutional action, if applicable.
For allopathic (MD) schools, composite letters are sent through the AMCAS letter writer service – you need only designate that you’re receiving a committee letter, and do not include each individual letter writer separately. Contact information to include in your primary application regarding the letter writer:
Author: Ms. Kate Fukawa-Connelly
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org - Phone: 609-258-3144
Address: Health Professions Advising, 36 University Pl, Suite 230, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544
Processes for other schools are described in the Applicant Handbook.