What’s the difference between a letter of intent vs. a letter of interest, and how are they used in the medical school application process?
After you submit your primary medical school application through AMCAS, there are two ways to convey your continued interest in certain medical schools—the letter of interest or letter of intent.
Although the general content of both of these letters will be very similar, there are some important differences to be mindful of when writing letters to medical schools.
Why Write a Letter of Interest or Letter of Intent?
A letter of interest or letter of intent conveys your level of interest in attending the medical school you’re writing to. Thus, it is useful in cases where you truly enjoyed your experience at a particular medical school.
Every medical school is different. The process of medical school admissions does not simply boil down to whether or not the medical schools like you, but whether or not you’re a good fit for their student body.
If you have not yet been invited to interview at a particular school you’re interested in attending, a letter of interest or intent may be appropriate to convey your continued interest.
Letter of Intent vs. Letter of Interest
The main difference between a letter of interest and a letter of intent is the nature of commitment.
In short, a letter of intent demonstrates a higher degree of commitment compared to a letter of interest. Using Queen Beyoncé’s own words, a letter of intent is like “putting a ring on it.” If that medical school says, “I do,” and accepts you off of a waitlist, you are promising to attend that medical school.
There are no consequences to violating a letter of intent per se, but committing to a school and then pulling out does not bode well on you as a candidate, and it could hurt your chances at other schools. Only write one letter of intent, and only do so if and when you are certain you would attend that school should they send you an offer.
For more information, read our tips for writing a letter of intent.
On the other hand, letters of interest are like Valentine’s Day cards. You can write multiple letters of interest to the schools you are most interested in attending.
Your letter of interest can include all of the content you would include in a letter of intent — the reasons why you love the medical school, why you are qualified, etc. The main difference is you do not say that you intend to attend the medical school if accepted off the waitlist.
When Should You Write These Letters?
Considering a letter of intent is a serious commitment, it’s a good idea to wait for all your waitlist notifications or acceptances before writing one.
For example, say you write a letter of intent to Medical School X before realizing you were waitlisted at Medical School Y. You can’t take back your letter if Medical School Y was actually your dream medical school.
On the other hand, feel free to send a letter of interest earlier. Letters of interest signify your interest in a medical school and are less committal, thus there is generally less risk in sending them.
However, avoid sending multiple letters of intent to a single medical school. Letters of interest and update letters are separate entities. For example, if you already sent a letter of interest but have updates that are worth sharing, feel free to submit an update letter. Otherwise, hold off. Too many letters of interest are like too much sugar in tea. While good in moderation, overdoing it will weaken your application.
Ultimately, you don’t want to give the admissions committee a reason to not accept you; being pushy or sending out multiple letters of intent is doing just that.
Do the Letter of Intent and Letter of Interest Actually Make a Difference?
The medical school admissions process is mysterious and painstaking, to say the least. However, if you have a particular interest in certain medical schools, it’s important to make your interest or commitment known.
If a certain medical school is your dream program, and you still haven’t heard from them late in the cycle, writing a letter of intent may swing the odds in your favor.
As with every aspect of your application, don’t treat these letters halfheartedly. If you are going to send a letter of intent or letters of interest, make sure you do so with care. Have someone else proofread your work and ensure you tailor the letter to each school. Always, always double check to make sure you have the correct school name before sending anything out.
For assistance writing a letter of intent or letter of interest, Med School Insiders offers highly effective editing and advising services to maximize their impact. We also have a library of free resources aimed at helping applicants get accepted at their top choice schools.