What to do about recommendations post college?

Hi Parents, 

My daughter is finishing up her biology degree at the University of Washington in December.  Her plan post-graduation is to fulfill the requirements for Physician's Assistant programs (mostly the 1000 patient hours) and then apply for admission to a program for June 2023 or 2024.  I believe that means she will be applying in the fall of 2022 or 2023.  She will need 2-3 recommendation to apply to these PA programs, two of which will need to be academic recommendations.

My question is, how on earth does that work?  By the time she requests a recommendation from one of her professors at the UW it will be a year or more since she interacted with that professor.  In addition, those professors see a lot of students.  Can a student request a recommendation one year (say 2021) and have that recommendation saved with the professor?  Or, is there another way to do it?

Any insights or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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I graduated from a PA program in 2009 and more recently sat on an admissions committee for a PA graduate program.  The central application for PA school requires a minimum of 3 letters of recommendation (programs may require more, or sometimes less).  Generally speaking, one letter will speak to your ability to carry an academic load (professor), one will speak to your clinical skills (shadowing or clinical job), and one will speak to your work ethic (job, clinical or not).  The easiest thing to do is have your student ask for an academic letter now while she is still on campus and can easily speak with a professor about her plans.  This would be a non-confidential letter, since she would be holding onto it for applications.  Some schools have a letter banking resource which can send a confidential letter on her behalf when the time comes.  Hope that helps some.  Being a PA is awesome, good luck!

I fully agree with the prior response. She can get a letter now from a professor that knows her well. She can mention her career plans as well. When I write letters of rec, I request a personal statement, resume, and reflections on the program the candidate has participated in all of which help me craft a better letter. 

I applied to grad school five years after graduating from college. I had a very successful experience requesting a letter of recommendation from a professor. Admittedly this is ancient history because it was the mid-90s, but it seems like the commonsense principles I applied would still work today: I sent a letter reintroducing myself to the professor, and included a research paper written in her class on which I received an A. I also included a little bit of information about what I had been doing since graduating, and what I wanted to achieve in grad school. The professor did not hold my delay in requesting a letter against me, and wrote me a glowing recommendation.

College prof here. This is something she should definitely talk to her individual professors about - this is a VERY common issue, and not a problem, and each professor has their own way of handling it. If one of my students knows they will be needing a letter a few years out, I encourage them to discuss their plans with me now (while still enrolled), and I ask them typically to make notes about our interactions that they can save for later (e.g., "I served as your TA in Spring 2021," "I helped out by xxxx," "I did my group project on xxxx," "you suggested I apply to xxx internship," etc.). Then they can email me that information a few years out when they are ready to reply to graduate programs but both they and I have forgotten details. I will also usually still have course records, so I can look up students' grades and my notes on their work, and jog my memory from that. Don't worry - she is by far from the only student in this position and professors will likely have a procedure to work through it, even at large universities. I am not usually comfortable handing students an open letter that is not addressed to a specific program, because I don't know where it will end up. However, some schools work with letter-of-recommendation services that will save the letter (which the student cannot view) in a digital repository until the student is ready to submit applications, at which point they activate the letter. Best of luck to your daughter.