After submitting your supplemental applications, it is normal to experience a lull before you receive your first interview offer. Most applicants find this waiting period unsettling, especially if they are participating in a rolling admissions process and had to hold themselves to early timelines for submitting their application materials. Rest assured that your early application timing is putting you in the best possible position for the current application cycle. Early applicants can have their applications reviewed many times over during the application season, and each review gives you an opportunity for an interview.
For instance, among medical school applicants who submit their common application in June and complete the last of their supplemental applications by the end of July, it is completely normal to receive a handful of rejections at first and to receive your first interview offer in November or December. If, by the end of January, you still don't have an interview offer, it is time to start planning ahead for the next application cycle (if this happens to you, hang in there and schedule an individual advising appointment to talk strategy) . . . but do your best to find your peace with the wait until then.
Many applicants ask us about sending additional correspondence to schools during the application season. Read on for guidance on this topic:
Generally speaking, update letters are appropriate only under the following conditions:
- You have not yet been invited for an interview or you have completed an interview. If you have an interview coming up, do not send an update letter; simply tell your interviewers about your new activities when you meet them in person.
- The school has indicated they are open to receiving additional correspondence beyond the supplemental application. (If a school indicated they are not interested in receiving additional correspondence, you will harm your candidacy by choosing not to follow directions. Instead, simply wait out the application cycle.)
- Since sending in your supplemental application, you have become deeply involved in a new activity that addresses a clear area of weakness in your original application. If you aren't sure if your new activity falls into this category, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your new activity simply the next logical step in a series of experiences where you have already demonstrated strength? If so, that's going to be taken for granted and won't be seen as a reason for the admissions committee to take special notice. In this situation, an update probably is not warranted.
- Have you taken a new direction with your clinical work and gained meaningful new insights? Have you received a major award? Have you had a research article published in a peer-reviewed journal? These experiences are probably worthy of an update at schools that will accept them.
- Have you gained new perspective on the school and your fit for it (from interview day and/or talking with people affiliated with that school)? If so, include these new insights in your update letter.
Logistical tips regarding update letters:
- Before sending an update letter, verify that the school is open to receiving additional correspondence.
- Use sparingly, if at all. An update letter sent with little relevant content is generally seen as an inconvenience to the admissions committee.
- Updates should be written with professional language that is concise and clear. Update letters are typically one page long. Provide the update on your activities and express your continued enthusiasm for the school's program, identifying clear links between specific aspects of their program and your experiences and interests.
- If you have taken on a new job or role that addresses a prior gap in your preparation, one additional letter of recommendation from your new supervisor may be appropriate in the course of the application cycle, if the school is open to accepting it.
- Determine how the school wants to receive additional correspondence: via email or through their applicant portal.
- Keep copies of everything you send.
1. After an interview
The way to send a "Letter of Interest" is to send a Thank You message after each interview. Aim to send your Thank You messages at the end of your interview day (but later is better than not sending one at all).
When writing a post-interview Thank You letter (which serves as your Letter of Interest), keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Follow directions:
- If you were directed to send your Thank You letter directly to the Office of Admissions (or to upload it to your Applicant Portal), then this message will be considered your "Letter of Interest."
- If you were directed to send Thank You messages directly to your interviewers, then we recommend sending an additional Thank You message (to serve as your "Letter of Interest") to the Office of Admissions (or to upload it to your Applicant Portal), but only if the admissions team has indicated that they are open to receiving direct correspondence from applicants.
- In this case, make sure each message is personalized to the recipient, in case all of your interviewers forward your Thank You notes to the Office of Admissions. Don't send the exact same message to each interviewer.
- Topics to include in your Thank You letter/Letter of Interest:
- Thank them for considering your application and for offering you the opportunity to interview at their school. Include the date of your interview.
- Tell them why you are excited about their program. Be specific! Potential topics include:
- How their approach to the curriculum is a great fit for your preferred learning style
- Special programs or opportunities available at that school that are a wonderful match your professional interests
- Ways in which you appreciated the students and faculty you met at the school
- . . . And, if you mention the location, do so in a secondary way. Your primary focus should be on the school, not its location.
- If you were asked a question that stumped you, provide a thoughtful, organized response in writing.
- If you can include any specific noteworthy details from your interview conversations, that will help the interviewers remember their conversation with you.
2. Before being offered an interview
- Most schools are NOT interested in receiving a Letter of Interest before they have decided to interview you; on your supplemental application to that school, you were given space to express the reasons why you are interested in that specific program.
- That said, some schools are open to receiving a Letter of Interest; contact the Admissions Office to ask if they would be open to receiving such a letter.
If a school is open to receiving a Letter of Interest before they have decided to offer you an interview, follow these guidelines:
- Highlight any updates to your file
- Express your continued strong interest in the program, citing specific reasons why their program is a good fit for your learning style and interests. (What you say should match up with the information provided in your application.)
- DO NOT send multiple letters of interest to the same school.
Are you on the waitlist at your top-choice school? If so, it is wise to send a letter of intent but, again, only if that school has indicated they are open to receiving further correspondence from applicants. A letter of intent is not appropriate in any other situation.
The goal of a letter of intent is to let the school know they are your dream school and that you definitely will attend if accepted off of the waitlist. You should reiterate why the school is a great fit for you and, if applicable, you can provide an update on any significant new developments in your preparation. If you have been interviewed/accepted at other schools, you may want to include that information in your Letter of Intent.
Please be aware that some admissions offices maintain a ranked waitlist; for those schools, a letter of intent will not change your place on the waitlist. Other schools use discretion in determining whom is selected from the waitlist; for these schools, a letter of intent may make a positive difference.
(Timing strategy for MD applicants: We recommend that you wait until late April to send a letter of intent. Rationale: AMCAS waitlist movement does not begin until mid- to late-April. Until then, the medical schools are focused on reading applications and running interviews. By sending your letter of intent in late April, you will catch their attention at a time when they are starting to think about the people on the waitlist.)
- Using standard business letter format, save your letter as a PDF. Be sure it includes your handwritten signature.
- If sending via email:
- Use a subject line such as "Letter of intent to enroll at [insert school name] if accepted"
- In the text of the email, use formal greeting and closing lines. Keep the text simple, such as: "Please see attached for my letter of intent to enroll if accepted."
Thanks to Kate Fukawa-Connell, Pre-Health Advisor at Princeton University, for her contributions to this article!