How to Get off a Medical School Waitlist

Welcome to limbo; a place no one loves to be. It can feel disheartening and demoralizing to be placed on a waitlist for a medical school, especially if it is one of your top choices. Being waitlisted can be a very anxious place, as you are so close to an acceptance and yet so far.

Remember: You are a Competitive Applicant

Although it may not feel this way, keep in mind that if you are waitlisted by an institution, they do consider you a competitive applicant. Most medical schools accept somewhere between 5-15% of its applicants. It is okay to mourn the fact that you were not accepted to the school outright, but the key is to not give up, and focus on being proactive on trying to get off of the waitlist.

First, realize and reflect on the fact the admissions committees are comprised of real people with real thoughts, emotions, judgments, motivations and incentives. Their goal is to find candidates which will fulfill the mission of their school and, if we’re honest, improve the reputation of their school. Your job is to convince that committee that you are the right person for the job. Again, remember, if you are on the waitlist, the school has already determined that you are qualified to be there.

Stay in Touch

Since admissions committee members are regular people, they aren’t going to help but be influenced by an applicant who stays in good contact and who expresses clearly their desire to attend their school and why. The person who is proactive and stays in touch is almost always going to have a better chance of getting off of the rank list compared to a candidate who stays quiet.

There is a caveat to the “stay in touch” rule if you on a medical school waitlist. There is a line between showing sincere, consistent interest and being pushy, obsessive and, quite frankly, annoying to admissions committees via your communications. Most applicants will naturally and intuitively avoid crossing this line. If you are unsure, have a friend, family member, mentor or advisor read through your messages and give their honest take. If you learn you’re overdoing it, don’t beat yourself up. This is a high stakes process and you are under a lot of pressure. It just means you care! And that’s okay.

Letters of Intent

If you are certain that you want to attend a school you are currently waitlisted for, one important card you have in your arsenal is a letter of intent. In a letter of intent, you express in no uncertain terms that if you were to get off of that school’s waitlist, you would definitely accept their offer of admittance and will attend.

Now realistically, is there anything preventing you from sending letters of intent to multiple schools? Absolutely not. Do we advise you do it? That’s a strong NO. It is extremely dishonest and the reality is, admissions committees do talk. Should you be accepted to a school you wrote a letter of intent to and ultimately don’t attend, you are starting off your medical career on the wrong foot. Don’t be that person — no matter how tempting it may seem.

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