Recommendations

All recommendations are submitted to SOPHAS electronically. In this section, you must enter information for a minimum of THREE references, and you may now enter up to a maximum of FIVE references.  SOPHAS is not responsible for verifying an recommender’s identity. If a discrepancy is found, SOPHAS reserves the right to contact the applicant or recommender to investigate. SOPHAS reserves the right to share the discrepancy without comment to all SOPHAS programs.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Research SOPHAS Program Requirements

Determine what requirements, if any, your public health schools and programs have regarding references’ roles or relationship to you BEFORE listing ANY references on your SOPHAS application. Many schools and programs have strict guidelines for this, and once a reference is completed on the SOPHAS application, it can NOT be removed or replaced. Please note that references from family members are generally frowned upon by admissions offices.

Prepare Your Recommenders

Once you have chosen your references, be certain to inform them of the process and that they will be filling out the reference electronically. Obtain their preferred e-mail address and make sure they are monitoring their e-mail inbox for your reference request e-mail.

WHAT INFORMATION DO MY REFERENCES FILL OUT?

There are three parts to a SOPHAS reference:

  • “My Profile” where references fill out their contact information in case your program would like to get in touch with them. They can also correct any errors to their name or title you may have made when entering their information.
  • A ratings portion in which your reference evaluates you on a scale of 1–5 in regards to several different criteria.
  • An open letter of recommendation which may be uploaded in .PDF, .RTF, .DOC, or .DOCX format. Please note the file size limit for letters is 5 MB. Because all letters of reference are sent to each school the applicant applies to, recommenders should be vague in their form of address (Using “to whom it may concern,” etc.) and avoid referring to any particular school or program of public health in their letter.

HOW TO SUBMIT A LETTER OF REFERENCE

1. On the “Recommendation’s” page, click the blue “Create Recommendation Request” button to add a reference.

2. Enter their full name and e-mail address into the system, and assign them a deadline by which you would like this reference completed. We encourage applicants to select a date which is at least four weeks in advance of your earliest deadline. You also must write them a personal message, which can be brief.

3. Select your waiver decision (please see more information on waivers below) and check the permissions release boxes.

4. ONCE YOU SAVE THEIR INFORMATION, AN E-MAIL IS IMMEDIATELY SENT TO THE REFERENCE at the e-mail address you provided. Please advise your references to monitor their junk e-mail and spam folders for messages from “sophasinfo@sophas.org,” subject heading “Recommendation Request Submitted,” as these e-mails are automated and therefore sometimes filtered as spam. Confirm with your references that they have received the notification.

5. The e-mail provides the reference with a link to the Recommendation Portal where they can create an account and set up their own username and password. The reference will log into this site and see your name under the heading “Open Recommendations.” Your reference will click either “ACCEPT” or “DECLINE” to accept or decline your request. If they select decline, you will receive an email notification.

6. Once your reference has accepted your request, your name will become a clickable link. Upon clicking on your name, they will be asked to complete a ratings grid, and upload an open letter of reference in .PDF, .RTF, .DOC, or .DOCX format. Please note the file size limit for letters is 5 MB.

7. Once they have completed their reference, they must click “SUBMIT RECOMMENDATION” to send it to SOPHAS. This action occurs immediately, and the reference will show up as “completed” on your application with a complete date. Your reference can also click “Preview Reccomendation” to create a .pdf copy which they can save for their records.

8. Monitor your reccomendations’ statuses in the Status Menu of your application. Follow up with any references which still read as “Requested” or “Accepted.”

REMEMBER: NO PAPER LETTERS OR FORMS SHOULD BE MAILED TO SOPHAS. References must be completed entirely online.

WAIVING YOUR RIGHTS VS. NOT WAIVING YOUR RIGHTS

When you enter a reference, you are asked if you wish to “WAIVE” or “NOT TO WAVE” your right to view the reference. This waiver is not a creation of SOPHAS, but is part of U.S. Federal Law and must be filled out for any letter of reference, including those you may have obtained to attend your undergraduate institution.

Please review the information below before making your decision. Once a decision is made, it can NOT be changed.

 ”YES, I Waive My Right”

Checking this box indicates to the school or program that your recommender wrote their letter of recommendation with the understanding that you would never be allowed to view it. If you select this option, you will never see the content of your letter. However, programs may view this type of letter as a more accurate representation of an applicant’s qualifications.

“NO, I Do Not Waive My Right”

Checking this box indicates to the school or program that your recommender wrote their reference with the understanding that you may choose to view it in the future. Please note, however, that checking this option will NOT allow you to view your reference via SOPHAS. If you have not waived the right to view your reference, you may ask your reference for a copy of their recommendation, or, once you matriculate into a public health school or program, you may ask to view the reference in their offices. However, programs may view this type of letter as a less accurate representation of an applicant’s qualifications.

APPLICANT RESPONSIBILITY

It is the applicant’s responsibility to monitor their application for recommendation receipt, even after you have submitted your application. SOPHAS will NOT notify applicants concerning missing references. Applicants must follow up with any references in a “New” or “In-Progress” status and ensure all reference materials are completed to avoid delays in processing their application. You may view the status of your references at any time in the status menu.

COMMON QUESTIONS:

Q: What is the difference between a letter of evaluation, letter of reference, and a letter of recommendation?

A: Nothing. They are the same thing.

Q: How many recommendations must I enter?

A: SOPHAS requires three letters of reference to be listed on your application in order to submit to SOPHAS, however you may list up to five. These must then be completed through the SOPHAS reference website. PLEASE NOTE: SOPHAS will process and mail your application as long as two out of your three references are completed. Any additional references received by SOPHAS will be available to your schools immediately once they are completed.

Q: Can I submit more than five references?

A: NO. You may not submit more than five letters of references via SOPHAS.  SOPHAS can not accept any additional or substitute letters. However, you may want to contact the schools and programs to which you are applying in inquire as to whether they will accept an additional or substitute letter. If so, you would send this additional letter directly to them.

Q: Why can I only have five letters? Why are letters restricted to 5 MB in length?

A: Restrictions regarding the length and number of references have been determined by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). These restrictions reflect the schools and programs of public health’s desire to receive concise assessments and allow a certain degree of standardization in the amount of consideration given to each applicant’s reference material.

Q: Can I have different Letters of Reference sent to individual programs?

A: No. Each letter of reference is sent to all schools and programs that you applied to.

Q: Can I send letters of reference which are on file at Interfolio or a career center?

A: NO. All letters of reference must be completed via the SOPHAS reference website by the recommender themselves.

Q: Does SOPHAS accept committee letters?

A: If you wish to submit a committee letter to SOPHAS, it must be a single composite letter written by ONE individual (usually an advisor) who will also complete the ratings section. This single recommender must be listed on your application with the individual’s name. Do NOT label this letter as being from a group; i.e. “Thesis Committee.” The composite letter and ratings still must be submitted electronically through the SOPHAS Recommendation Portal, and must consist of ONE composite letter which fits within the  5MB upload limit. Do NOT upload a file containing multiple letters. Please note that a committee letter only counts as ONE letter of reference. SOPHAS applicants using a committee letter must still submit additional individual references, completed by recommenders who were not involved with the committee letter.

Q: What do I do if I want to change the person who is sending the reference or edit the information I entered?

A: Even after you submit your application, you may edit, delete, or replace references whose status is still listed as “new” or “incomplete.” Once a reference is “completed,” you may not make changes to that reference, regardless as to whether or not you’ve submitted your application.

Q: How do I know my reference received the e-mail request?

A: Reference e-mail notifications for electronic references are sent immediately once you save the reference’s information into the system. Please advise your references to monitor their junk e-mail and spam folders for messages from “sophasinfo@sophas.org” subject heading “Recommendation Request Submitted” as these e-mails are automated and therefore sometimes filtered as spam. If your reference has not received their request within 24 hours, click the pencil icon to the right of the reference’s name on your SOPHAS application, and then click the “Resend This Evaluation Request” button at the bottom of the page.

Q: My reference can’t log into the Recommender Portal. What do I do?

A: If the reference continues to experience difficulty, they should contact SOPHAS customer service directly by phone or e-mail so that we may assist them.

Q: How do I change an recommender’s e-mail address?

A: To change the e-mail address of an recommenders, please log into your SOPHAS application and click the pencil icon to the right of the reference’s name on your SOPHAS application, and then edit the required information. Click the “Resend This Evaluation Request” button at the bottom of the page to resend the request to the correct address.

Q: How do I know if SOPHAS received my evaluations?

A: You can monitor the status of your reference at any time by returning to the “recommenders” section of the application. Each reference has a “STATUS” bar underneath. References which we have received will have a green “Status: Completed” flag and include A COMPLETE DATE. Since the references are completed electronically, these updates occur in real-time. Therefore, as soon as your reference clicks “submit” on the reference website, it also shows up on your application. If your reference does not have a complete date, then we have not received it.

Q: Can I e-submit my application before my references are received by SOPHAS?

A: Yes. Once you have successfully filled out your application, you can e-submit it to SOPHAS at any time. However, your application will not be processed until SOPHAS has received all of your official transcripts, at least two letters of recommendation and your payment.

Q: How can I view my letters of reference?

A: Even if you have not waived your right to view the reference, you still cannot access the reference via SOPHAS. If you have not waived the right to view your reference, this means that you may ask your reference for a copy of their recommendation, or, once you matriculate into a public health school or program, you may view the reference in their offices.

Q: Can SOPHAS forward my references to me, my recommenders, or schools or programs not affiliated with SOPHAS?

A: NO. As per the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), SOPHAS may not release letters of reference to anyone other than your designated schools and programs, including other schools or programs or the applicant themselves.



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