Good Things Come to Those Who Are Waitlisted

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

You have all certainly heard the expression “good things come to those who wait.”  Since our first days of pre-school, the virtue of patience has been constantly reinforced as a valuable trait.  For years we have stood in lines and waited for our turns.

In the fast-paced life of a physician, in which potential decisions must sometimes be made in a matter of seconds, patience is sometimes an undervalued trait. In the realm of medicine, “waiting” almost seems to be a dirty word for both patients and physicians alike.

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Nowhere is this more evident than in the life of a medical school applicant, a life in which waiting for days, weeks, and even months at a time is commonplace.  If you have ever applied to medical school, I am confident that you have spent more than your fair share of time waiting.

As pre-med students, we are notorious for our constant worrying and over-analysis of the most minute details and the long gaps in correspondence with medical schools do little to ease these anxieties. Months between application submissions, interview invitations, and potential acceptances often seem like cruel punishments to over-anxious pre-meds like ourselves who interpret no news as bad news.

I, like many other medical school applicants this year, was placed on a wait-list over the course of this past admissions cycle. I, like almost every other applicant placed onto a waitlist, reacted to the news with a sense of disappointment, disenchantment, and (at best) a slight sense of hope. I, unlike many others, was eventually admitted to the medical school of my dreams in a matter of days following my placement on a waitlist (twice to be exact).

Ironically enough, the only day out of the past eight months in which I did not fervently check my e-mail or anxiously pace to my mailbox since the submission of my primary application was the day I was accepted to medical school. The one day that I stopped trying to find what I was looking for, what I was looking for somehow found me.

The morning before I was accepted off a waitlist, I found myself coming to the realization that I would have to re-start the arduous work associated with the application cycle: re-taking the MCAT and re-submitting my primary application only days after I had graduated from college. The prospect of studying, writing, applying, and traveling for interviews again had been wearing on me over the course of the past several months.

As I usually do, I went to my neighborhood park to play a game of pick-up basketball to clear my head. About twenty minutes later, to my surprise, I saw my mom frantically walk by the court in a pace that suggested she had very good or very bad news (or had to find a bathroom ASAP). My surprise grew when my mom ran onto the court, stopping a game of basketball in its tracks to give me a hug and tell me I had just been accepted to medical school. I stopped, the game stopped, my mom grabbed me and tried her best to hug me (or squeeze the life out of me), and slowly, I realized what I had waited for since this past August had finally arrived, in May, multiple weeks after I had graduated college with no sure-fire post-graduate plans and plenty of anxiety.

The remainder of the day became a blur of congratulatory phone calls, text messages, and visits from neighbors. This euphoria created such a sense of stunned disbelief that I almost forgot to return my paperwork indicating I would actually accept my admission into the class of 2013 (a minor detail). Waking up with plans to begin studying for the MCAT again and eventually going to bed as a soon-to-be medical school student made for quite an exciting day. I was honestly astounded by the good news I had almost given up hoping for.

It took nine months to the day for the secondary application I submitted in August to lead to an acceptance in May. The application, interview, and waitlist process certainly made the year seem like an eternity. Also, I like to think I took the longest possible path to my eventual acceptance. My application was put on hold after my initial secondary application submission, I received a post-interview hold, and to top that off, I was placed on a waiting list following this marathon year of waiting and hoping.

It is tough to say if I honestly did believe I would get off my waitlist. Based on anecdotal evidence from peers, friends, and professors, I thought my chances to get accepted off of a waitlist were one in a million (at best). Waitlist statistics are typically not released by medical schools, which are the sole institutions that know exactly how many students (if any) were admitted via the waitlist. I have been told that not even AMCAS, the veritable treasure trove of pre-med statistics and semi-pertinent percentages possesses this information.

The entire situation repeated itself two weeks later in a much less dramatic fashion when I eventually received the same good news at the second school where I was wait-listed. I could not believe my good fortune. While I do not know the exact probability of these two independent events occurring, it seems to be a very rare occurrence. The utter surprise I felt in getting accepted off of my initial waitlist became a sense of sheer disbelief when the process repeated itself.

By no means do I intend for this article to sound like a personal pat on the back, congratulating myself on my two, equally miraculous waitlist acceptances. I believe readers can search various SDN acceptance threads for that type of writing.  I find myself writing this for a much different purpose. In writing this, I hope to give a sense of hope to those currently on waitlists or those who may soon find themselves on a waitlist at some point in the application cycle. Additionally, August is an interesting point for applicants in the medical school process. Past applicants who have been wait-listed find themselves still hoping (with good reason) for a last-minute acceptance into a medical school class beginning this year while a number of current year applicants are just beginning what could potentially be a very long application cycle. It is a busy, stressful time for applicants both former and current.

Reflecting on the process, our teachers and parents may have been right about this whole waiting thing, as much as it hurts me to admit. I consider myself a habitually impatient and multitasking person, but patience is the key to surviving the medical school application process. In my experience, I have found it is true what they say; good things come to those who wait, or in my case, to those who are wait-listed.

28 thoughts on “Good Things Come to Those Who Are Waitlisted”

  1. Congrats on your acceptance! Would you like to share which school will u be attending and what was your stats?

  2. why did you write this? I can understand writing this in the forum, but why did it get placed on the main website? all it does is provide false hope, considering 99% of waitistees do NOT get off.
    you are encouraging waitlistees to actually believe they have a chance of getting off it. that’s the opposite of what you want to tell ppl. ppl should think of waitlists as a rejection. if they get off the waitlist, then they were incredibly lucky and should leave it that. don’t actually BELIEVE in the waitlist.

  3. I know quite a few people in my med school class who got in off the wait list. my boyfriend and I both did. I believe the wait list does exist. Two of my closest friends in college were not accepted into any med school and were thinking of retaking and both got off the wait list a couple days after I did.

  4. Areyou Serious your statistics are way off.
    One wait list letter I got said “While we are unable to give you detailed information about your particular chances, we can tell you that approximately thirty to fifty percent of the final class is selected from this list.”
    2/3 out of the schools I was wait listed at eventually accepted me.

  5. whoaa…chill guys, I understand there must be a lot of emotional turmoil involve in this subject. However, the author took much effort to encourage those in similar shoes. He’s trying to share a glimpse of hope — even if you don’t get accepted in this cycle, patience and persistence will be handy in all your future endeavours. If you were him, after going through a year like that and writing this post. How would you feel about all these personal attacks? I’m not saying that the article isn’t biased, but you can comment on the content, but don’t offend the person. =S

  6. Congrats on the acceptance; I’ve also received a waitlist offer.
    I agree that the advice isn’t anything revolutionary, but I’m sorry that people had to take time to bash a stranger. That’s always productive.

  7. Thanks for writing this…There is a reason for a waitlist.. and i do beleive that if you are placed on a waitlist then you can come off of the waiting list and become accepted into the medical school of your choice. =)

  8. Congrats on your acceptance and good luck in med school. I used to play a lot pick up basketball with at emory last year.

  9. Congratulations, Paul Sr. you and Diane did a great job raising your children, Paul jr I am very proud of you both, keep up the good work your on your way to a wonderful life, good for you. Ben

  10. Congratulations, and nice meeting you at the orientation. The patience factor is definitely required in the application process, as a student doctor, and as a physician. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  11. Congrats for being accepted! I’m glad you were accepted while being on the waitlist, unfortunately I haven’t had that pleasure these past 2 years. 🙁

  12. I agree with the previous poster, I am questioning why this was posted on the main website. I have seen plenty of posts like this in numerous forums, but as a main article? If you are reading this and are on a waitlist or are ever put on a waitlist do not let this article give you false hope. Congratulations on the acceptance and everything, I just don’t want future waitlisters to go into the whole experience with much hope, because it can really be a bummer when you don’t get in – like 99% of people on the waitlist.

  13. Same as pre-pharmacy student has to do. I agree that patience is the key for surviving in any medical field. In the end, it is worthy to wait.

  14. Congratulations on your successful story. For you, the wait was well worth it. For many other students who end up on the waitlist, it’s less about waiting, and more about being proactive.

  15. I still don’t know where the one guy is getting the 99% rejection from waitlist figure. I recall people scoffing at how one school only accepted 32 people off the waitlist. Were there 3200 people on the waitlist? Um, no.

  16. Seriously? 99% don’t get in off of a waitlist? Someone’s stats are a little off. I was accepted at 3/4 of my waitlisted schools (withdrew from the fourth in the summer). I know of many classmates also off of the waitlist. It probably depends on the school, but 99% is a ridiculous imaginary number. Keep your hopes up.

  17. I got rejected from a couple waitlists my first time around and had to reapply. I’m not sure what’s the point of this article, especially since he only had to wait 2 days to find out he got in where I and many others had to wait months to find out that we’ll have to reapply. If he got accepted after reapplying or at the very least, accepted the day before the school started, this would be an ok article, but that didn’t happen so all this article does is provide false hope. No one wants to be placed on the waiting list. The end.

  18. As a mother of a twice waitlisted applicant to dental school I would say to all of those on a wait list. Do not let this define who you are. All the rejection is not a reflection of the person you are. They(the schools) only see letters amd numbers and a few minutes of your time in an interview to learn a micro of who you are.

  19. Obviously nobody wants to be placed on the waitlist. However, as an applicant sitting on 3 waitlists right now (one of which is my top choice school), this article gives me a sense of hope. Yes, come August my dreams (for this year) may be smashed, but almost everyday I dream of waking up and having my mother run out to me with my acceptance to Stony Brook and this article makes me realize that may in fact happen. Sure there are no guarantees, but there still is hope.
    Thank you for writing this article, Paul. There’s nothing wrong with hope and sometimes… if you’re lucky… dreams do come true!

  20. To Lee
    I am a mother of a son who is beginning the process of applying to medical school and was waitlisted to his first school . Thank you for your kind words. I believe in my son and know he would make a compassionate doctor. Its sad that to the schools, he is just a number.

  21. When my son started his medical school application process, I had a good talk with him re
    application process, hold, wait list, deferred. We’re both in agreement that kids that apply to med school have exceptional stats, volunteer hours, l o r s etc. I do believe that Personal statements, essays and the INTERVIEW are things that will eventually be the deciding factor. Applicants must WOW adcom and the short period of interview time must be exploited positively for the applicant to really stand out.
    I am thankful that that my son submitted his apps the first hour that apps accepted, got invited for int 5 weeks later from his top choice school, went to the interview, got accepted. 🙂 this med school is an hour and a half drive from home. Great great $savings…and to see him enjoying senior year being bored, is such a joy to watch.:) For those who’s not heard from any school, hang in there!! a lot of prayers would surely help.
    I am one proud, happy and grateful Mom.

  22. My son was accepted 1 out of 12 med schools that he applied to. He also was waitlisted 4 times. One of his waitlist schools SUNY Buffalo finally accepted him (which was his first choice) so all waitlist applicants keep the faith,

    • ok, just to shed light on the situation…. Your chances of getting off the wait list is completely dependent on your rank. Schools are trying to fill their class with the most highly academic successful people and depending on your GPA, MCAT and research experience, you will be ranked accordingly. There are also other factors that med schools take into account, ie your sex, ethnicity and whether you are instate or out of state (for public institutions who cater to instate residents). Remember, they have to meet federal guidelines for educational institutions. Personally I think the whole medical school application process is very flawed. High achieving students are expected to have stellar applications submitted early, yet medical schools have no obligation or deadlines by which they are required to get back to students (except the March 15th deadline). Remember, for medical students this is about education. For medical schools, this is simply business. That’s true no matter how you slice it.

  23. I also thank you for giving my son hope (or me, rather – I’ll tell him about this tomorrow). He was just recently put on a wait list for pharmacy school after a requested second interview! I’m sitting here with knots in my stomach because my heart is breaking for my son and I just wish I could fix it. He’s such a good kid, always has been. If the school does not choose him, I definitely feel it will be their loss. Thanks again!

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