Updated November 13, 2021. The article was updated to correct minor grammatical errors.
Being placed on the waitlist for medical school can feel disheartening. After working so hard through the application and prepping for interviews, a waitlist decision can make even the best applicants question their chances for acceptance. However, fear not! A waitlist does not equate to rejection, and many applicants will receive an acceptance after being placed on the waitlist. Although every waitlist is different, some schools quote that upwards of 50% of their class is filled from waitlist positions. The point is, don’t get discouraged and follow these simple steps to help you come off a waitlist with an acceptance.
- Keep your demographical information current
This may seem obvious, but this small detail should not be overstated. Did you switch email addresses because the other one was full of junk? Or did you graduate and are no longer using your school email address? Be sure to update schools of any email, phone, or address changes. You don’t want to miss your chance at an acceptance because you are no longer checking a specific email or your address changed because you moved back home after graduating.
- Check your emails often
On the note of making sure your demographical information is current, check your emails daily, including the spam folder. Medical schools may notify you of a change in your status and want to expect a prompt reply. Be sure to give them one! If you are going on a trip where you won’t have service, still try to log in as frequently as possible to ensure you don’t miss an important message.
- Write to the schools
First, check to make sure that the school allows the submission of additional material. Some schools explicitly state that an applicant should not send in additional information while on the waitlist. If the school allows additional material, then send them an update letter or letter of interest. Essentially these letters are the same thing (sometimes they are even called a letter of intent) as they have the same purpose.
The letter should serve to provide any additional information to the school that they may have not heard about (for instance, a new volunteer position or a publication) and to express your interest in attending their university. Here are a few tips to make the most of these letters:
• Keep them short! Less than one page is what you should shoot for.
Be concise. You don’t need to go into great detail about your new research position or completed courses, provide a few-sentence overview of what you are doing and its significance.
• Provide some detail on why you are interested in attending that school. Don’t make the letter generic, but instead provide some specific details about that school that interests you.
• Put your demographical information. Make sure you include your name, email, phone number, and AAMC/AACOMAS/TMDSAS identification number so they know how to reach you.
• Don’t inundate the admissions committee. Write one formal letter and then that’s it. You can continue to check in with them but that should either be via phone call or a brief email. Also, space these check-ins out to every couple of months.
- Reassess your application
Although it is important to be hopeful and proactive while on the waitlist for medical school, you should also critically assess your application. Was there something missing? Is your MCAT score not strong enough? Analyzing your application and addressing any potential weaknesses is essential if you have to reapply. If you have not received any acceptances and are still on waitlists around February, you should really begin preparing for a reapplication. Although you still could be accepted off the waitlist, start gathering letters of recommendation and rewriting your personal statement so that you are ready to submit your application early if needed.
- Be hopeful
Students often remain on the waitlist for medical school for several months before receiving a final admissions decision. Focus on the above tangible steps and stay positive as you can still receive an acceptance!
Example update letter:
Dear Medical School XXX Admissions Committee,
Thank you for your continued consideration of my application. I would like to provide a brief update on my activities since submitting my application and express my continued interest in attending your medical school.
In July of this year, I began volunteering with a local clinic that provides complimentary medical care to uninsured and disadvantaged patients in the area. In my role, I obtain patient histories to aid the physician and provide community resources to the patients. This position has allowed me to become a direct participant in patient care while expanding my understanding of how socioeconomic factors can affect patient well-being and the overall delivery of medical care.
One of the reasons I pursued this volunteer opportunity was because, during my interview at your institution, many current medical students told me about their participation in the community clinic. It was inspiring to hear that although the students were very busy, they still took the time to give their time to help patients in their community. It is for reasons like this and many others that I hope to attend Medical School XXX. With a collaborative student body and supportive faculty, I am confident that Medical School XXX will provide an environment that is conducive to cohesive learning and personal growth that is necessary in order to become an exceptional physician.
Thank you very much for your consideration of my application. I sincerely hope to matriculate at Medical School XXX this fall.
AAMC ID: 123456789