Medical School Update Letter: What, Why, When, & How

By November 5, 2019November 17th, 2020Update Letters & Letters of Intent

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! The season is still only halfway done, and 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. In this blog post, we’ll go over the key tips and facts about your med school update letter, and how sending these letters may improve your chances.

Download our sample Medical School Update Letter example down below


WHAT: Medical school update letter vs. Medical school letter of intent (LOI) — 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 the two is that medical school update letters disclose updates on achievements, awards, and endeavors to the admissions committee, whereas a medical school letter of intent reaffirms and strengthens your interest in the school. There is no distinct line that separates the two 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 interest of going to that specific medical school. The key factor is whether you have notable things to update.

Upworthy Mentions:

  • Noteworthy projects or milestones that you have not yet mentioned in your application, including:
    • 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.

Unworthy mentions:

  • 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 coursesAs with above, this is not worth mentioning UNLESS it portrays a drastic improvement in your GPA.

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WHY: Why are medical school update letters useful?

Simply put, 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 info@crackingmedadmissions.com.

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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WHEN: When should I send a medical school update letter?

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 update letters 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. 
HOW: How should I format the medical school update letter or medical school letter of intent?
  • Before sending your letter, call up the school to confirm the email address.
  • Attach your update letter as a PDF to the email, NOT as a word document.
  • In the body of the email, state that you are an applicant, include your name, AMCAS ID, and a brief message detailing your update letter.

We often get requests from applicants about how to write an update letter for medical school.  A medical school update letter example is provided below.  Our Cracking Med School Admissions team can help you with edits!

KEY TIP: Before you send in a letter of intent medical school, do your homework:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Rachel Rizal, MD

Have Questions About Update Letters?

Rishi Mediratta, MD, MSc, MA

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