During this time of the season, many medical school applicants should have heard back from some of the programs that they have applied to. Some have delighted upon their first acceptance while others are still anxiously waiting for theirs. However, there are also those who have been waitlisted at certain medical schools, which brings about mixed emotions. In one sense they should be flattered that out of thousands of applicants, this medical school considers them a strong candidate. On the other hand, it feels like they’ve come so close but still so far.
Let me be the first to say that getting onto a waitlist is an accomplishment. Most medical schools only accept 5-15% of all of its applicants. You were one of the few who they consider competitive. Now I know that does not assuage your emotions because it still does not mean you are going to be a doctor, but hear me out. Do not become discouraged that you were placed on a waitlist; instead be proactive in trying to get off of it.
Be proactive in trying to get off of it? I thought a waitlist was exactly what the name implies, a “wait”-list. Aren’t you supposed to just wait and hope that the admissions committee changes their decision? Sort of. You are technically “waiting” to hear back from them but there are things you can do while you wait. It is kind of like an ant that diligently gathers food while “waiting” for winter.
First, you have to remember that behind every admissions committee, are real people, and real people have incentives. What are the incentives of the admissions committee? It is to improve the reputation of their schools. How can they do this? They need to accept students who are going to support the mission of the school and contribute to the field of medicine. In other words, you need to convince the committee that you are the perfect fit for the school and that you will work to bring honor to the school. You have already proven that you are intellectually capable of medical school.
||Read: Example Letter of Intent||
Everybody on the waitlist is on almost the same playing ground. Some schools rank the students on their waitlist, but even if the school does that, the difference between the first and last student are usually marginal. Everybody on the waitlist is considered qualified.
Now let’s pretend that you are on the admissions committee. Would you much rather take a student off the waitlist who has shown a great desire in the school, or someone who has said nothing? Emails and phone conversations go a long way in this world, and it applies to medical schools as well. You can maintain contact by sending update letters that highlight your more recent activities and accomplishments. If there is one school that you really want to attend, you should send them a letter of intent. You can send multiple schools letters of intent. Even though this is common practice among applicants it is slightly dishonest. It is up to you whether you want to do it or not. I think the key here is to show the school that you are not only extremely interested in attending their school but also a good fit while not coming off as annoying or socially inept.
So what exactly should you do? Unfortunately, there is no one right answer. Remember, admissions committee members are people, not robots. Call them, send emails, ask for updates. All these things will make you seem more interested in getting into the school than the others on the list. Be creative and think outside the box. Most likely, everyone is viewed somewhat equally on the waitlist. If you do something that stands out, you will probably be the first off the waitlist. Let me give you a few examples of things students did to inspire you.
There was one student on the waitlist of a competitive medical school that sent in a photo collage with comments from friends and family members. The applicant was able use the collage to somehow tell the medical school why he desired to pursue medicine at that particular school. The committee members found the collage “light yet amusing.” It was most likely the most memorable wait-list student that year. He was eventually offered admissions to the school.
Another student on a waitlist sent in a poem to the admissions committee. In the poem she talked about why this school was her first choice and why she believed it was a good fit. Her risk paid off and she was offered admissions that year.
Now just because you do something different does not mean you will be taken off the waitlist. But if you do it well, it is definitely worth the risk. My advice is to ask your friends, family, and professors whether they think a certain idea is good before you act upon it.
Examples taken from US News.