Waitlisted? Don’t Give Up Hope. Write a Letter of Intent.

News you have been waitlisted at one of your top-choice medical schools can bring a range of emotions. It’s not the desired outcome, of course, but the game isn’t over. Their admissions committee still sees you as a worthy applicant, capable of handling the rigors of the program.

The number of students who are admitted each year from the waitlist varies based on the school. Highly ranked and competitive programs will typically admit fewer from the waitlist than those further down in the rankings, as they will have a higher yield (acceptances resulting from initial admissions offers).

You can influence your chance of being selected from the waitlist of any school by continuing to showcase your interest in their program. Just as it is critical for medical schools not to overfill their incoming class, they do not want to have empty seats when the school year begins. Therefore, if you can show that you will improve their yield, a key component in medical school rankings, they will be more likely to send to you a letter of acceptance. Engagement with the program through visits and meetings with professors, admissions directors, and current students is an effective way to show interest. But don’t forget to craft a compelling letter of intent too. It should include the following:

  • Meaningful updates since you’ve submitted your application. Did your research study finally get published? What have been the key takeaways in that internship you began in August?
  • Reiterate your interest in the school by citing specific courses, experiential learning opportunities, professors, etc. that make sense given where you’ve been in your life and career so far and where you want to go. Why do you believe you are a good fit?  What will you bring to the incoming class? How will their program help you achieve your goals?
  • Mention any experiences you’ve had on a campus visit/tour or during your interview that increased your commitment to the school.
  • The Yield Protection Statement: “Medical School X is my first choice and, if admitted, I would absolutely attend.” If you can make such a statement, this will be the most impactful component of your letter.

As the waiting game continues, keep in mind that many schools do not use “rolling waitlists.” Instead, they often wait until they have received final admissions decisions from prospective students on May 15th. After this date, prospective students will only be able to hold a seat at one medical school. While prospective students can withdraw from a school if they are accepted from the waitlist into a preferred school up to the point of matriculation, students cannot hold a seat at both schools.

Good luck!