Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner
After you interview at a medical school, you will likely wait several painstaking weeks before you receive an admissions decision. In the best case, you are accepted to the program and can begin planning the next chapter of your academic life. In the worst case, you receive a rejection letter and are then faced with deciding how to best move forward.
Each of these decisions is concrete. But for many students, the relief of finality remains elusive, as represented in the form of a waitlist decision. If this describes your current situation, here are several ways in which you might secure a positive final decision out of the “maybe” of a waitlist letter.
1.) Strengthen your application with additional academic, employment, research, and volunteer opportunities, and update your prospective school
For many prospective medical students, waitlist decisions are received while courses are in progress or before new jobs begin. If you are holding a waitlist decision, and if you have any critical updates—such as an increase in GPA, a research publication, or a position in a health setting that exposes you to a new population—be sure to inform the appropriate admissions committees. This may involve uploading a document to your applicant portal, or writing an email. Structure your update as a formal business letter, using formal language and signing with your complete name. Address your letter to the dean of admissions and/or the admissions committee. (If you are uncertain about which option to choose, contact the program.) Whenever possible, include the dean’s actual name, which was likely made known to you on your interview day. Otherwise, it can easily be found online.
Do note that certain medical schools will provide specific instructions for submitting updates. If this is true in your instance, follow them.
2.) Write a sincere letter of intent
Letters of intent are generally written at the conclusion of the admissions cycle, when most application decisions have been released. If you have been waitlisted at a medical school that you very much wish to attend, composing a letter of intent is a great way to respond to your waitlist decision.
Inform the admissions committee that you would like to attend its program—even (and especially) if you have a spot elsewhere. Detail the reasons why you think the incoming class will benefit from your inclusion, as well as why you believe this school suits you better than any other. Avoid belittling another program, and do not use any language that could be construed as desperate. Again, address your letter of intent to the dean and/or the admissions committee. Depending on your medical school’s preferences, your letter can be sent via email or the postal service.
3.) Avoid contacting the admissions office too frequently
Some students may believe that demonstrated interest is best represented by calling or emailing admissions committees on a daily or weekly basis—often with unnecessary updates or questions regarding their position on the waitlist. In the same way that you might be irritated if someone were to inundate you with excess information or redundant questions, admissions staff can quickly grow annoyed. Limit your updates to truly significant events, and ensure your questions are genuine. Above all else, remember that there is a line between respectfully indicating your interest and harassing the admissions committee.
Cassie Kosarek, MD is a professional tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College and was a member of the Class of 2021 at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.