Applying to Grad School

The Reference Letter Center/Interfolio (RLC)

The procedure for building a file of letters is simple. The College of Letters & Science Career Services has partnered with Interfolio, a web-based reference letter service. Through Interfolio students can set up an electronic portfolio, a convenient way to request letters of recommendation and mail them out to medical schools or graduate schools. After creating an account, students need to decide on the teachers or employers from whom they would like letters of recommendation. It is important that students obtain letters of recommendation by the end of their junior year if they plan to apply during to graduate school/professional school during their senior year. Students should also make sure that they allow sufficient time for requesting the letters since it can take time to individuals to write the letters, return them to students, and get them processed in the Interfolio system.  Medical school deadlines require early mailing of letters of recommendation, so students should plan accordingly and should not wait to process their applications too close to deadlines.

Interfolio account set-up and maintenance fees are as low as $19 per  year plus a modest fee for each mailing. At the beginning of your senior year (or when you apply to medical schools), you will forward your portfolio to the schools of your choice. For additional information about Interfolio, visit the Interfolio website.

Transfer students should have some letters of recommendation from instructors at schools previously attended, especially if they will be spending a limited amount of time on this campus.

Personal Statement or Essay

An individual's personal statement is a vital part of his/her application. It lets graduate schools, scholarship committees, or employers know something about the individual that is not reflected in the student's academic and extra curricular records or in the student's letters of recommendation. It is not a "prose resume" but a way for an individual to express himself/herself, through captured experiences, events, or beliefs. In the absence of a personal interview, an individual's essay allows him/her to "shine" before the admissions or selection committee.

Before writing a personal statement, an individual should consider the following guidelines:

  1. The statement must be well-written, with an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  2. The statement must be grammatically correct and vividly written.
  3. It must be personal. It is an individual's opportunity to express his/her commitments, challenges, and values through his/her own personal story.
  4. The statement should not describe activities that the admissions committee can learn about from the application. This is an opportunity to give NEW information that is not available anywhere else.
  5. This is a chance for an individual to think about the decision process s/he experienced while making the commitment to pursue the goal for which you are applying (a career in medicine or law, or the goal of your scholarship). Have there been formative events, people, or experiences along the way? Is there a story one could tell to explain his/her decision?  Very helpful information on writing personal statements can be found at writing personal statements for law, medical, and professional school applications and writing application essays and statements of purpose for graduate school

Help with Your Personal Statement

The Writing Center offers assistance free of charge to all currently enrolled UW-Madison students. Register for a class or an individual appointment by:

Individual Writing Instruction (Email Instruction)


Phone: 608/263-1992, or

Person: The Writing Center is located at 6171 Helen C. White Hall.

Additional Resources for Medical School Statements

For information on preparing a medical school application and writing a statement, refer to personal statements on the Center for Pre+Health Advising website.