You’ve prepared a stellar medical school application—you received a decent MCAT score, your personal statement has a strong narrative, you’ve acquired great letters of recommendation, and you feel good about several of your interviews… but you’ve just been waitlisted. While being waitlisted is still an accomplishment (and a lot better than a rejection), the uncertainty surrounding that result is very difficult to deal with. What do you do next? We’re sure you’re eager to figure out how to get off medical school waitlists and accepted by your preferred school.
Getting waitlisted is a disappointing and frustrating result after so many years of hard work, but do not despair—there is still plenty you can do. Follow our strategies for your best chance of getting off of the waitlist and accepted into the medical schools of your choosing.
How Does the Medical School Waitlist Work?
There are two kinds of waitlists—the pre-interview waitlist and the post-interview waitlist. True to the name, the pre-interview waitlist happens before prospective medical students make it to the interview stage.
Some schools only have a certain number of interview spots available, but they send out more invitations than interview spots because they are unsure of how many applicants will accept the invitation. When a student turns down an interview invitation, another student is taken off the waitlist and can be placed in that interview slot.
The post-interview waitlist occurs after interviews have concluded. Allopathic medical schools in the US are required to send out acceptance offers equal to the number of students in their entering class by the middle of March, but most schools send out many more acceptance offers than are actually available to offset the number of rejections they will receive.
Since medical schools cannot definitively know how many applicants will accept or reject their offer, medical schools create waitlists of qualified candidates. As soon as an applicant rejects their offer, the admissions committee can move down the list and accept the next most qualified candidate.
How to Get Off Medical School Waitlists
1 | Follow School Instructions and School Policy
Every medical school is different, so before you do anything, carefully examine the school’s policy surrounding waitlists and follow the instructions listed in the school’s correspondence with you. When a school provides instructions, they expect them to be followed.
If the school tells you not to contact them, don’t contact the school. If they instruct not to send follow-up materials, don’t bombard them with mail. If a school recommends you improve an aspect of your application, do so.
Do not lose focus at this crucial time. While being waitlisted is a disappointing result, you need to knuckle down and focus on the next steps.
2 | Send a Sincere Letter of Intent
If crafted carefully, a medical school waitlist letter of intent can persuade an admissions committee to accept you. A letter of intent represents your steadfast commitment to accept the medical school’s offer above all others.
Effectively, it’s you “putting a ring on it.” While not a legally binding document, a letter of intent is your promise to the admissions committee that you will attend their school if they take you off of the waitlist. A medical student should only ever send one letter of intent, as it’s a commitment that medical schools take very seriously.
Think of the letter as your last-ditch effort to sell yourself and demonstrate why you and the program are an ideal match for each other. What do you love most about the program? What are you most excited about? What can you offer the school that other students can’t? What updates have you made to your application? Have you improved upon any areas of weakness? Don’t be afraid to flaunt your accomplishments and let your unique personality shine through.
Plus, if you have earned acceptance at other schools, you can take more risks with your letter of intent. Let the admissions committee know that although you have been accepted to other programs, theirs is the only one for you.
3 | Be Available and Ensure Your Contact Information is Accurate
Don’t miss out on a chance of acceptance due to your email or phone number being out of date! Schools are required to provide students with two weeks to consider their offer of acceptance before the end of April, but after that, medical schools won’t give as much notice—you may only be given a few days. If you’re not checking your email regularly during this time, you could miss out on your chance to get off of the waitlist.
Keep your contact information up to date and check your email frequently throughout the day. If you’re particularly busy during this time or away from your phone and computer, ask a trusted friend or family member to check your email for you throughout the day.
4 | Attend Events and Open Houses
Participating in open houses and events put on by the school you’ve been waitlisted by demonstrates your continued interest in and dedication to the program.
Each event you attend provides you with another opportunity to meet students and members of the admissions committee. Dial your charm up to 11 and be kind and polite to everyone you meet. Ask questions and practice active listening. Make eye contact, stand up straight, smile and nod during each conversation, and put your best foot forward. You just might impress the right people.
5 | Improve Upon Weaknesses
If you are fortunate enough to receive direct feedback about deficiencies in your application in the waitlist letter, then your next steps are clear—improve upon your application’s stated weaknesses! Unfortunately, it’s more common for programs not to say why you have been waitlisted, which means it’s up to you to determine which areas of your application need to be improved upon.
Ask a trusted mentor or your medical school admissions tutor about where they think your application could be enhanced. This is when you might want to deeply consider medical school admissions consulting services, which can help you zero in on the aspects of your application that can be improved.
You have come way too far to slow down or slack off now. Figure out how you can improve your application and work on it. Do you need to retake the MCAT? Do you need to improve your GPA through additional coursework? Have you participated in any recent extracurriculars that would appeal to the program?
6 | Send an Update Letter
Additional letters of recommendation, recent publications, and improved grades or test scores are all very useful and can be used to persuade the admissions committee to reconsider you.
Provided the program allows them, update letters inform admissions committees of any updates to your qualifications and let programs know that you’re still passionate about earning acceptance. What have you accomplished since sending your medical school application? What areas of your application have you improved upon? These are crucial developments that can dramatically improve your chances of acceptance, so don’t hesitate to update programs.
That said, only send an update letter if you have relevant updates. If you haven’t made significant improvements to your application or achieved anything noteworthy, do not send an update letter.
7 | Space Out Your Correspondence
Once more for the people in the back: if the program explicitly asks you not to contact them, DO NOT CONTACT THEM.
But if you are permitted to keep in contact with the program, space out your correspondence. You don’t want to come across as needy or desperate, but you also don’t want to play hard to get or not show enough enthusiasm about the school. It’s the timeless art of seduction. You don’t want to come on too strong, but you can’t be too passive either.
You need to find a happy medium. Be passionate, not obsessed. Keep the program informed of any and all substantive updates to your application. Plan out a schedule of continual, relevant updates and correspondence so that your name is always in front of the admissions committee in a positive way.
Tailored Application Services
Being waitlisted after the long medical school admissions process can be extremely disappointing, but don’t give up! Med School Insiders can give you the advice you need to improve your application and impress your top choice schools.
Our team of doctors has years of experience serving on admissions committees. You’ll receive key insights from people who have been intimately involved with the selection process—and who know exactly what it takes for an applicant to get off of the waitlist.
Learn more about our Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages, which are tailored to your needs and the specific schools you are applying to.