Applying to Medical School

How to Boost Your Med School Acceptance Chances While on MD/PhD Waitlist

While your MD/PhD application process is pending, did you know there are still things that can increase your chance of med school acceptance? It can be stressful after the interviews while you await admissions decisions. But you don’t have to sit in silence. Here’s what you can do while you wait for your med school application decision.

While there are no more explicit requirements for applicants to complete once medical school interviews over, remaining in contact with program leaders and administrators can help improve your chances of being accepted. Often considered the “unwritten” portion of the application because there are no prompts and deadlines, these interactions can play an important role for MD/PhD applicants, especially if on the waitlist.

Sending a Letter of Intent vs. Letter of Interest While on a Waitlist

The two primary forms of communication that you can send are the Letter of Intent and Letter of Interest. A Letter of Intent is a formal statement that you would commit to matriculate into a program if you are accepted. However, a Letter of Interest conveys that you are strongly interested in the program, but it does not indicate any commitment or explicitly state that a program is your first choice. Both letters should summarize why you believe the program and school are a great fit for your interests and how you will be able to uniquely contribute to the school, in under one page.

Be sure to mention people with whom you’d want to conduct research and interest in any specific programs they offer. While you should not make any comparative references to other schools or programs, discussing factors ranging from research and academics to location and extracurricular opportunities demonstrates that you have given the institution considerable thought and are genuinely interested in attending their program. To write a strong letter, consider the ways in which your interview experience provided new insights and amplified your interest in the school.

For MD-only applicants, letters describing one’s interest in a program without tangible updates can often go unnoticed, but that is not at all the case for MD/PhD applicants. MD/PhD waitlists tend to be smaller and are highly selective, and in many cases only include about 10-20 students. In fact, at many MD/PhD programs, a significant percentage of students who matriculate are selected from the waitlist.

If you are on a waitlist, you are not out of the running yet, and should still remain very positive.

A Letter of Intent can carry a substantial amount of weight. These can be sent whenever you are confident that a particular program would be your absolute top choice but is especially critical while you are on a waitlist. MD/PhD programs highly value their enrollment yield, so indicating that you will definitely attend their program may move you to the top of the waitlist. Importantly, a Letter of Intent should only be sent to one school at a time. However, if you are rejected from a school after sending a Letter of Intent, you can, of course, send the letter to a
second program.

To write a strong letter of intent, consider the ways in which your interview experience provided new insights and amplified your interest in the school.

Letters should be uploaded to the application portal (if available) as well as emailed to program administrators to confirm that they were received and downloaded. In addition, it is worthwhile to send a more personal Letter of Interest or Letter of Intent to the director of the program. Program directors often want to stay in touch directly with applicants, so an encouraging response opens the door to send more occasional updates on your activities and interests.

Connect with Important Figures from Your Interview Journey

You may also consider sending individual emails to some of your research interviewers, reiterating your interest in the program. If a research faculty was impressed during your interview and could even envision you joining their lab, they may be able and willing to advocate on your behalf when the admissions committee is selecting applicants from the waitlist.

Overall, navigating the waitlist can be one of the most confusing parts of the med school application process. However, the most important advice is to be patient and to never give up hope. Good things happen to those who wait, and when you get accepted into your first choice MD/PhD program, it will all have been worth it.

You can read more about how to succeed in the MD/PhD application process with
The Complete MD/PhD Guide.

Need help navigating the application process or even deciding on your specialty? MedSchoolCoach works with advisors and coaches who’ve served on admissions committees and real doctors who can share their experiences and tips. 

Jonathan Sussman

Jonathan Sussman graduated from the University of Southern California in 2019 with dual degrees in Biomedical Engineering from the Viterbi School of Engineering and Music Performance from the Thornton School of Music. He has conducted Systems Cancer Biology research at USC as an undergraduate researcher and Molecular Biology research at The Scripps Research Institute as a research assistant and is now pursuing an MD/PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology with an emphasis in Cancer Biology. He is one of the authors of The Complete MD/PhD Applicant Guide.

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