As a pre med student, you might find yourself applying to medical research or volunteer positions that ask you to submit a cover letter along with your pre med resume.
While writing a pre med cover letter may seem intimidating at first, they have a straightforward format and are a great opportunity for you to advocate for why you are the most qualified applicant to fill an organization’s needs.
This post will cover these topics:
So, what is a cover letter?
The purpose of a cover letter is to provide specific and unique details about what you have to offer the employer for the role that they are advertising. While the goal of a resume can be to provide a quick snapshot of your experiences, the pre med cover letter allows you to emphasize your most relevant ones and provide more in-depth information on how you will transfer your skills to fill the employer’s needs.
To address why a cover letter is important, we must remember that employers are usually reviewing many applications for limited spots. As a result, they must find ways to decide which applicants merit further interest and which ones are not well-suited for the position. Therefore, a strong pre med cover letter can pique an employer’s interest while a weak cover letter may mean the end of your candidacy. Coupled with a comprehensive pre med resume, a focused and specific cover letter can catapult your application to the top of the pile.
Now that we have addressed what is a cover letter and why it is important, let’s look at an example to see how to approach writing one.
Here’s a sample cover letter for a medical internship.
September 15th, 2020
Dr. Jane Smith
Director, Biochemistry Laboratory
123 University Road, Big City, AL, 12345
(111)-123-1234 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Dr. Smith,
My name is [Student Name] and I am writing to apply for the research position on your lab careers page. I have three years of experience as a student researcher working in the lab of Dr. Boyd at Another University and led a project focused on energy metabolism in mice. After learning more about your work, I am hoping to join your lab and utilize my experience with tissue culture, statistical analysis, and manuscript writing to contribute to your work on energy metabolism in monkeys.
In your job posting, you mention that you want to hire a student researcher who understands tissue culture and specimen integrity. During my time in Dr. Boyd’s lab, I was given the responsibility of isolating and maintaining all live tissue cultures in a sterile and secure environment. When I began my independent project, I conducted all of the tissue analyses and ensured the integrity of my specimens daily.
As a student in Dr. Boyd’s lab, I was responsible for leading a team of researchers studying the impact of diet on energy metabolism in mice. I conducted many experiments to assess my hypothesis and determined that diet plays a major role in energy metabolism. Within six months, I was able to support my hypothesis following extensive data analysis and publish my findings in Peer-Reviewed Journal.
When I saw the job opening, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to utilize my research skills and explore a new dimension of energy metabolism in animals now that I am pursuing a graduate degree at Example University. I recently read your paper titled, “Big Advances in Monkey Energy Metabolism,” and particularly admire your approach to measuring oxygen consumption as a proxy for energy metabolism. I hope to be able to participate in similar cutting-edge work as a member of your lab.
I’ve included my resume so you can learn more about my educational background and all of my work experience. Thank you for your time and consideration. Please feel free to email me or call my cell phone at 111-111-1111. I hope to hear from you soon.
111-111-1111 | email@example.com (email)
Breaking down the cover letter sections
Before we get into specific sections, make sure to note that the header for a cover letter is formatted slightly differently from a resume. That is to make it look like – well, a letter!
On the top left of the letter, include the name and address of the hiring manager/employer so that it is clear who you are addressing the letter to. This should include the reader’s name, professional title, company, address, email, and phone number.
In the first paragraph of the cover letter, briefly introduce yourself, mention the specific role you are applying for, and describe how you heard about the position (college job board, personal connection, or online). You should also include a brief overview of three reasons why you believe you are the strongest candidate for the role and highlight key skills that you will describe further in the body of the letter. In this sample cover letter for medical internships, the student names 3 reasons of why he is qualified for the job.
In the body paragraphs of the letter, you must emphasize your interest and qualifications for the position with 2-3 specific and relevant examples from your past experiences. You can discuss your academic background, relevant volunteer opportunities, and relevant extracurricular experiences.
While you may briefly describe your roles and responsibilities in these experiences, make sure to focus on tangible takeaways and skills that you have acquired from these roles will also link their previous experiences with the job responsibilities they are applying for.
In the final paragraph, make sure to reiterate your interest in the position and the key points about why you are a strong candidate. This is also a good place to mention or reference any research you have done on the employer and why you admire their work. Finally, make sure to thank the employer for their consideration and express your enthusiasm for the role.
Now that we have seen how to structure and organize a cover letter, we want to provide specific advice on how to build a strong pre med cover letter.
Tip #1: Use the job description
A great way to ensure that your letter is specific and focused on the position is to use the employer’s job description. If you are struggling to find relevant experiences, try writing down some of the competencies that are in the job description and seeing if you have gained these competencies in any of your previous roles.
Helpful questions to consider include:
- When have you done something similar to what they list in the job responsibilities?
- What are the ways that you meet their qualifications?
The more that you are able to parallel the language used by the job description, the more a reader will believe that you possess the requisite skills for the role. For laboratory positions, for example, reference any previous work that you may have done and highlight general skillsets in the job description that overlap with your experience.
Tip #2: Do your research and reference it
Another way to demonstrate your interest in the employer and their work is to research the role and some of the recent work of the company. Referencing specific details about a recent project and your corresponding interest in a similar area is a great way to show compatibility and your knowledge of the employer’s output. This could be a recent publication by a research lab that you find fascinating or project published by a volunteer organization that you admire. Demonstrating your interest in their work before you have been hired is a great way to signal your dedication to goals of the employer.
Tip #3: Mention connections and conversations with representatives of the role
Oftentimes, anyone who is reviewing resumes has to sift through countless applications and will try to find any factors which allow them to quickly place you in the “further consideration” or “rejection” piles. One way to increase the chances that your application finds itself in the “further consideration” pile is to mention any work you have done to get to know the employer better. While this could take the form of referencing their work, as discussed above, this can also come from specific people and conversations that you have had with them. At small organizations, the hiring manager or employer may reach out to these representatives to gain their assessment of you or see the effort that you have undergone as reflective of your interest. Nonetheless, the employer can always reference these conversations in an interview so make sure that they are accurate!
Tip #4: Emphasize what the company will gain from you
Remember that although you are applying for the job, employers are also looking for the best person to fits their needs. In order to demonstrate not just how you will gain from this opportunity, but also how the employer will benefit, make sure to identify what qualities you will bring to the employer. In our example sample cover letter for medical internships, it is clear that the applicant already has extensive knowledge and recognized contributions in the lab’s focus area due to his past laboratory experience. This specialized experience would make him a more attractive candidate than someone who has done a different kind of research or has not done research before.
Tip #5: Address Concerns
The pre med cover letter also is a place to preemptively explain anything that might give a hiring manager pause, such as a gap in employment or your motivations for leaving a previous role. If you were out of work, briefly explain what you’ve done in the meantime to keep your skills up to date. Similarly, look at our example above to see how the applicant pre-empts the question of why he is leaving his previous research position by describing how he is now pursuing a degree at the employer’s university.
To return to our initial questions, we have seen what is a cover letter and how to build a strong cover letter for medical internships. Whether you are applying for a research role, volunteering position, or a job, these suggestions are universal and will position you to be an extremely strong applicant with specific and relevant connections between the job’s needs and your past experiences.
Blog post written by Kevin Li and Dr. Rachel Rizal