The medical school interview season is well underway, and many of you may be in the position of balancing interview invites in the midst of your busy day-to-day life. However, if you still haven’t heard back from your top medical schools —or any schools—fear not! Good things come to those who wait…right? Good things come to those who wait, but good outcomes happen to those who hustle. And if you want to do anything and everything you can to get an interview offer at your favorite medical school, then you might consider sending a medical school update letter and medical school letter of interest.
Later in the medical school application cycle, after your med school interviews, you might be wondering if there’s anything else you can do to get an acceptance? One common tip we give our advisees is to send their top school(s) a medical school letter of intent.
In this blog post, we’ll go over:
- What is a medical school update letter, medical school letter of interest, and medical school letter of intent
- Worthy updates versus unworthy updates
- How to write an outstanding letter
- Sample Medical School Update Letter
- Sample Medical School Letter of Intent
- When should you send your medical school update letters and letters of interest? How about letters of intent?
Download our sample Medical School Update Letter example down below.
What are update letters?
What is a Medical school update letter vs. Medical school letter of interest vs. Medical school letter of intent? What’s the difference?
In brief, a medical school update letter and medical school letter of intent are short letters of correspondence, usually less than one page in length, that are addressed to the Dean/Director of admissions or the admissions committee. The key distinction between update letters and LOIs are that:
- Update letters disclose updates on achievements, awards, and endeavors to the admissions committee, whereas
- A letter of interest or a letter of intent (LOIs) reaffirm and strengthen your interest in the school. These letters should explain why you want an interview or acceptance at that particular medical school. They are almost like a “Why this medical school” essay.
Do not get bogged down between the differences of med school update letters, med school letters of interest, and med school letters of intent. There is no distinct line that separates the three letters, and the content in both of these letters can be similar. In fact, it is perfectly fine to write a letter that incorporates updates on your application AND your interests of going to that specific medical school. Typically, we advise students to do a hybrid letter of interest / update letter. The key factor is whether you have notable things to update.
What are Notable Updates to Mention?
Information in update letters should be noteworthy updates that you have not yet written about in your medical school applications, including your secondary essays. Noteworthy updates include:
- Job promotions
- Research publication acceptances
- Poster presentations not previously mentioned in your application
- Leadership positions or milestones
- Extracurricular activity milestones. For example, you organized a health fair on your college campus.
- Expansion of extracurricular activities. For instance, you expanded the after school program you do tutoring at from 2 middle schools to 4 middle schools.
It is important that these updates are all new and you have not mentioned them in your AMCAS application or secondary application.
- MCAT Scores – these are automatically sent to AMCAS, which distributes it to the medical schools. Unnecessary to mention in the update letter, UNLESS you have taken the MCAT a second time and there is drastic improvement between the scores.
- Grades from ongoing courses – As with above, this is not worth mentioning UNLESS it portrays a drastic improvement in your GPA.
- Minor changes in your research or job.
Why are medical school update letters useful?
A medical school update letter is an extra bit of you for the admissions committee to read and learn about. A medical school update letter or medical school letter of intent gets added to your file, and many (but not all) schools will re-examine your application upon receipt of these documents. As such, they should be written with the same level of care and formality that you would use in a personal statement or secondary essay.
Not all applicants send a medical school update letter. In fact, a majority of applicants do not send the med school admissions committees an update letter. But if you do, it demonstrates a measure of persistence on your part, a proactive element in which you are putting the extra effort to make sure your application is getting in the door. Granted, there’s a risky line between persistent and pestering. So, use your best judgment.
If you have questions about writing medical school update letters, including whether you should send them or not, contact our Cracking Med School Admissions advisers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send a medical school update letter or medical school letter of intent to deepen your narrative as a candidate. Your accomplishments should back up your attributes in leadership, persistence, or innovation. Did you get a job promotion with more responsibilities? Highlight that in the letter, and tie it back to the school and why you would be a great fit. Were you invited to a research conference to present your findings? Disclose it, along with your enthusiasm to bring that energy to the school. Did your transcripts from your supplementary courses return with high grades? Write about how this is a byproduct of your persistence to excel, in spite of poor grades in the past.
If your medical school update letter can further add to who you are, what you offer, and what you will bring to the school, then it will be noticed, and it will improve your chances of hearing back from the school.
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How To Write A Medical School Update Letter
KEY TIP: Before you send in a letter of intent medical school, do your homework.
Make sure you are allowed to send additional materials:
- Some medical schools explicitly note that they do not want medical school update letters, medical school letters of interest, or additional materials. If that is the case, DO NOT send them any additional materials. These policies are pretty strict, and rather than viewing your letter as the exception, the committee might perceive it in a negative light.
- Look up online or call ahead to inquire the name of the medical school dean, director, or admissions coordinator. Then, address your update letter specifically to that person. It will show that you’ve gone the extra mile than just addressing the letter to “Admissions Committee” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Be polite and cordial: each medical school has a point of contact for all admissions inquiries, and if you are crafting a letter of intent to your top school, being warm and affable will make a positive difference. And everyone in admissions talks! Your attitude—both good and bad—will be noticed.
- While the general framework for the medical school update letters can be used for multiple schools, make sure that each letter is tailored specifically to each school.
Convince the school that you want to go there:
One common mistake we find when reading drafts of medical school update letters and letters of intent is that they are not specific enough. How do you write a more convincing medical school letter of interest and medical school letter of intent? Give specific professors you want to work with, classes you want to take, and activities you want to pursue. Talk about how the mission of the school is aligned with your interests and how you are a great fit for the medical school’s culture.
Read our Cracking Med School Admissions team’s blog posts and examples how to write a strong “why this medical school” paragraph using these resources, including sample paragraphs.
- 3 examples of different applicants and “why this medical school.”
- How to answer “Why this medical school?” and how to answer it well
How to format a medical school letter of intent, medical school letter of interest, and medical school update letter:
- Address the letter to the Admissions Committee or Dean of Admissions
- Attach your update letter as a PDF to the email, NOT as a word document.
- In the email, make sure to include your personal information. State that you are an applicant, include your name, AMCAS ID, and a brief message detailing your update letter.
- For letters of intent and letters of interest, include the date you interviewed at the medical school.
We often get requests from applicants about how to write an update letter for medical school. You can download a template of a medical school letter of interest and medical school letter of intent here. Our Cracking Med School Admissions team can help you with edits!
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When Should I Send My Medical School Update Letter & Letter of Interest?
One way med school update letters, letters of interest, and letters of intent is the timing of sending them.
Medical school update letters and medical school letters of intent are best optimized if sent around the following timeline:
- Starting mid-November. For medical schools you really want to attend, but you haven’t heard back for an interview
- 1-2 weeks after you’ve been placed on hold for interview at the school.
- 1 month after you’ve interviewed at the school but have not yet received a decision.
- After you’ve received a waitlist decision from the school. The optimal timing to send an update letter is a case-by-case basis based on: the specific medical school that put you on a waitlist and when you interviewed. Contact us if you are in this boat, and we can help you strategize when to send a medical school update letter or medical school letter of intent.
Over the past few years, our rule of thumb for sending updates letters to medical schools has been this: the optimal timing for sending med school update letters is on a case-by-case basis.
There are NO strict deadlines or number of weeks after secondaries that you should be sending update letters. Nevertheless, the most common question we get from medical school applicants is, “when should I send my update letter to medical schools?” So, we’ve come up with general guidelines. Again, if you have any questions about when you should send your med school update letters, feel free to contact us.
Medical school applicants get nervous while waiting in the applicant cycle. So, starting in October, we start receiving questions about update letters. Which brings us to another common question:
When is it appropriate to send an update earlier than November?
Remember, you do not want to be a nuisance to the admissions committee.
Here are times when we thought it was appropriate to send an update letter. We want to stress that it’s all about the context and timing, so if you have questions about your case, please email us at email@example.com.
- A major life event or disaster that may affect the dates you are available for an interview. For example, some students in the past have had to travel abroad to visit a sick grandparent during interview season.
- Awarded a prestigious award, such as a Fulbright, Marshall, or Rhodes Scholarship.
- First-author publication in a major journal or a feature in a major newspaper, such as the New York Times.
- A new, much higher MCAT score.
- When you think the update will significantly improve your application.
Download our sample medical school update letter.
When Should I Send My Medical School Letter of Intent
The purpose of the medical school letter of intent is to persuade the medical school admissions committee that you are a great fit for the medical school. And, if they accept you, you will accept the admissions offer and contribute to the medical school. Timing is extremely important with sending a medical school letter of intent. You send a letter of intent when you are waitlisted to a medical school and you are absolutely certain you will matriculate if you get accepted off the waitlist. If you interviewed at your top medical school and you were waitlisted, you can send a letter of intent within 1-2 weeks of being waitlisted. The earliest our students have sent a med school letter of intent is December. If you were waitlisted at one of your top medical schools but you would still like to wait on other medical schools’ interview invites and admissions offers, then you should wait to send your med school letter of intent. Remember, your letter of intent has to convince the admissions committee that you will definitely matriculate and be happy at the medical school. So, if you have even a tiny bit of doubt that you may choose another school, then you should write a med school update letter or med school letter of interest instead.
Download our medical school letter of intent example.