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Cornell University

Process Details

The HCEC understands that applying to medical and dental schools is a lengthy, often stressful endeavor. To support registrants in a clear and straightforward manner, we have created an interactive online checklist as a step-by-step guide for navigating the HCEC process to obtain an HCEC Letter. We include publications and postings throughout the checklist to provide information and answer questions.

As an HCEC registrant, you are required to read and understand the annual HCEC Registrant Guide, which is available to registered users through their HCEC Checklist. The HCEC Registrant Guide describes in greater detail the complete HCEC Process including all expectations and requirements.

The following summary of the process briefly describes requirements to obtain an HCEC Letter.


The HCEC cycle opens for online registration in December of the year prior to the medical and dental school application year. Once registered with the HCEC, you gain access to your personalized HCEC Checklist, which provides detailed guidance, instructions, submission forms, and a record of your progress as you complete the steps. Submission of your HCEC Personal Statement (PS) and the Background Information Form (BIF), both of which require a substantial time commitment, is done through the HCEC Checklist. The checklist also serves as communication between you and the HCEC. The HCEC provides information in the checklist through Required Readings, Frequently Asked Questions, and News & Bulletins.

In the Letters of Recommendation section of the checklist, you list the names and contact information of your Letters of Recommendation (LOR) writers. You should arrange for two or three LORs to be received by the HCEC by the target submission date in early March. There is not a hard deadline for receipt of LORs. The HCEC will accept LORs whenever they arrive. Keep in mind that LORs received much later could delay the timing of the undergraduate interview match and the timing of your letter release.

Registrants must arrange for any non-Cornell college transcripts to be delivered to the HCEC, and this information should be entered into your checklist. The HCEC Checklist should be completed in early to mid-June, after applications are submitted to AMCAS, AACOMAS, or AADSAS. See the Timelines page for Undergraduate and Alumni final deadlines for completing the checklist. The date of checklist completion determines the order of HCEC Letter release.

HCEC Interviews (Undergraduates Only)

To help students prepare for the medical school admissions process, the HCEC provides a practice admissions interview to all eligible undergraduates. This HCEC interview serves to simulate the experience of a medical school admissions interview, while also providing the HCEC with insights about you and clarifying any aspects of your HCEC file.

The HCEC interview is available to undergraduate registrants who meet eligibility requirements and deadlines. Alumni are not offered an HCEC interview. Undergraduates who meet the eligibility requirements (completion of the checklist up to the Interview eligibility section, submission of at least two LORs, and no missed deadlines), will be matched with an HCEC interviewer.

Interview matches are scheduled periodically in rounds from February through mid-May as registrants meet the eligibility requirements. The interview is conducted via remote video link with an interviewer who has read your submitted HCEC materials and LORs, but does not know you personally. Information on your interview match, interviewer contact information, and instructions on scheduling your HCEC interview will be provided through the HCEC Checklist.

As mentioned above, HCEC Letter release timing is determined by the date of checklist completion. It is not based on the timing of the HCEC interview, nor whether or not a registrant had an interview.

Optional Early Submission Deadline for Alumni

The HCEC offers an optional Early Submission Deadline for alumni registrants. Those who submit all HCEC materials and complete the Checklist through the delivery authorization section by February 1, 2021 will receive advanced position for HCEC Letter release.


The HCEC Letter discusses academic achievement through the end of the previous fall semester. Typically, this is five semesters for juniors and seven semesters for seniors. Coursework and grades from spring of the application year are not factored into the GPA that is reported in the HCEC Letter. Each registrant’s GPA comes from the Cornell transcript that the HCEC obtains from the university registrar. The HCEC does not forward or send this transcript anywhere. The HCEC also requires transcripts for all non-Cornell courses taken after high school, with the general exception of Cornell Study Abroad.

As part of the application process, medical and dental school applicants will be required to send to the application services official transcripts for all coursework undertaken since high school. It is the registrant's responsibility to arrange to have Cornell and any other transcript, sent to the application services. When requesting your Cornell, or any other transcript, be sent to the application services, it is imperative that you know whether your spring grades appear on the transcript. This can be verified by logging into Student Center. Do this before ordering transcripts. Again, the HCEC does not forward any transcripts to application services. This is the responsibility of the registrant.

The HCEC Letter Writing Process

The HCEC writes and releases nearly 400 committee letters each year. The content of the HCEC Letter is primarily based on information provided by each registrant in the Background Information Form and Personal Statement, transcripts, letters of recommendation, reports from the HCEC interviewer, and in some cases, personal interactions with the HCEC. We begin working on letters in February for those who meet the optional Alumni Early Submission deadline, and continue releasing letters into early September, for registrants who complete their checklist later in the summer. Each HCEC Letter goes through a careful editing and review process to ensure it is thorough, comprehensive, and fair both to the individual and to all Cornell applicants.

The HCEC will not finalize and release our HCEC Letter for you until all materials (LORs, non-Cornell transcripts, BIF, PS, Photo, submitted application) have been received, and your HCEC Checklist has been completed through the Checklist Complete section. We will notify via email once your checklist is complete and again once our letter for you has been released.

HCEC Letters are released on a rolling basis in order of checklist completion date. For those registrants with a common completion date, the HCEC assigns a random number and releases letters in order accordingly. Those who complete all aspects of the checklist on time will have their letters released ahead of those who may have missed one or more HCEC deadlines. All HCEC Letters are written and released well ahead of medical school primary application deadlines and in most instances, early in the medical school application process.

Resuming an Earlier HCEC Registration

At any point during the registration process before the HCEC Letter has been released, a registrant may decide to pause their registration and resume in a future application cycle. We refer to this as “going on hold.” When a candidate who has placed their HCEC registration on hold returns to the HCEC they are considered a Resuming registrant when they re-register. As a Resuming registrant, you must complete the full HCEC Checklist, including submission of a new Registration Agreement Form, Background Information Form, and Personal Statement. If you had an HCEC interview in the previous cycle, you will not be interviewed again. Previous fee payments are applied, and any LORs and non-Cornell transcripts are kept on file for use in the new cycle.

As a resuming registrant, you may replace any or all LORs with new ones by the same writer. You may not omit an LOR without obtaining a replacement letter. When the HCEC receives a new, updated LOR, the old one is deactivated from the file. You also may add one additional LOR in the new cycle.

Update and Reactivate Letters

A registrant who has received an HCEC Letter in the past may re-register for either an Update Letter or a Reactivate Letter.

A Reactivate Letter is the same letter used in an earlier application cycle. There are no changes permitted to this letter. As a reactivate registrant, you will be required to re-register online with the HCEC, and submit a new Registration Agreement Form.

An Update Letter is a new HCEC Letter of Evaluation with one new LOR for each year since the previous HCEC Letter, up to two new LORs. The original HCEC Letter and accompanying LORs are then appended to this new HCEC Letter creating the Update Letter. As an Update registrant, you will be required to complete the full HCEC Checklist, including submission of a new Registration Agreement Form, Background Information Form, and Personal Statement.

The decision to Resume, Reactivate, or Update is an important one. Admissions officers look for substantial improvement when they review a re-applicant’s credentials. Applications are even more closely reviewed and the bar is set higher for repeat applicants. The HCEC encourages all registrants to seek advising and to make the best decisions for themselves. Health careers advisors can provide critical guidance in this decision, and are available for all Cornell undergraduates and alumni. You are encouraged to discuss the decision to re-register and application timing with Dr. Chelsea Rule, Health Careers Advising Program Director, or with another health careers advisor.