Should You Write a Letter of Intent for Medical School?

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Waiting to hear back from one of the medical schools you’ve applied to can be an excruciating experience. Still, you’ve done all you could. You have finished all of your pre-med course requirements, passed your MCAT test with flying colors, and you have a GPA to match. Additionally, you’ve probably even beefed up your applications with a few pertinent extracurriculars before you sent them out.

If your applications were impressive enough, you may already have gotten called in for some interviews. After all that, you just need to sit back and wait for the acceptance letters to come rolling in. However, there is one last thing you can do to improve your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.

If you’ve been placed on the school’s waiting list after your interview with the admissions committee, there is a way to express your eagerness to join the school. In this article, we’ll discuss what a letter of intent for medical school is and how you can go about writing one.

What Is a Letter of Intent for Medical School?

Before we talk about how to approach writing a letter of intent for medical school, we need to know what that document signifies. Firstly, let’s point out the difference between a letter of intent and a letter of interest. The latter is a letter you can send to any school you want to attend along with your application. In it, you explain why you believe the school would suit you and why you’re the right fit for it. Additionally, you can write about other interests that may have influenced your decision to apply to the school.

Your letter of intent for medical school can include all of those things as well. However, it’s meant to let the school know that you would be willing to enroll if a position opened up. A letter of interest doesn’t express that kind of commitment. But why would you send such a letter — does it make any difference to the admissions committee?

In a word — yes. Medical schools generally want as many of their students to graduate as possible. You don’t get that kind of high yield rate by accepting applicants who are less than enthusiastic. In that sense, writing a letter of intent can really show that you’re ready to work hard. On the other hand, some medical schools discourage applicants from sending letters of intent. So if you want to avoid a blunder, check the school’s site before you sit down to compose your letter.

How to Write a Letter of Intent for Medical School

As with any other formal missives you will write in your life, there are some set rules for writing and sending out letters of intent. First, let’s talk about when it is appropriate to start composing one.

When to Send Your Letter of Intent

As you now know, some medical schools don’t want applicants to send letters of intent under any circumstances. So first and foremost, you should find out whether the school is receptive to exchanging communication with applicants. They may even have instructions on their site that might shed some light as to whether sending a letter of intent would be appropriate.

However, that’s not the only reason why you may want to avoid sending one. Indeed, there are several times when a letter would be unnecessary. If you haven’t heard back from a school since you sent your application, you may want to forgo writing a letter. Ideally, you should wait for them to signal that they’re interested in you before you start composing the letter. When in doubt, wait to send the letter after your interview with the school.

On the other hand, there’s also no reason to send a letter of intent if you’ve already been accepted into the school. But if you haven’t been accepted yet, and you’ve already had your interview — there’s no reason not to make your preference known. That is, you should feel free to send your letter if the school hasn’t expressly stated that they don’t want you to. And if you weren’t able to find out whether or not the school accepts letters of intent online, you can always ask someone who already goes there.

The Contents of the Letter

Once you sort out whether the school wants you to send a letter in the first place, you can start writing it. Altogether, the letter should be just about one page long. So you should make sure that your thoughts are as concise as possible. After all, the people who will read your letter will likely read hundreds of others, so every word counts. Generally, a letter of intent for medical school should include:

  • A brief segment in which you’ll explain why you’re the ideal candidate for the school
  • An expression of interest and a solemn promise that you intend to enroll in the school if the position is offered to you
  • A section explaining why you want to go to the specific school you’re writing to
  • Any additional information you may not have mentioned in your interview

Of course, like any other professional correspondence, letters of intent should also follow a certain structure.

Proper Formatting

Firstly, you’ll need to address the letter to the person in charge of admissions. You can look for the dean or director of admissions on the school site or call the school to ask who you should address. Alternately, you can simply write “Dear Sir/Madam” — but whatever you do, avoid any other kind of introductory greeting.

After the formal greeting, you should introduce yourself and remind the reader when you had your interview. You can also recall something that happened during it, though that’s not necessary. Following that first sentence, you can go over the items we have discussed above. Explain why you want to go to the school in question. Also, make sure to clearly state that you intend to enroll if accepted.

Next, you can impress upon the reader the importance of attending that particular school. Perhaps mention favorable statistics, famous alumni or professors, or a program that doesn’t exist anywhere else. After that, you can also try to sell the reader on the idea of accepting you into their school. Here’s where you can let some of your personality shine through — but not enough that you’re deemed unprofessional.

Lastly, you can reiterate some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of, or add any information you felt was overlooked during your interview. End the letter with another statement of intent, and close with a formal greeting such as “Best regards,” and your name.

Stylistic Tips

Once you finish writing your letter, you should double-check the spelling and grammar. You can even get someone else to proofread it if you don’t think you’ll be able to catch the mistakes yourself. Aside from looking for typos, you should also mind that the tone is professional, but not boring. Even though this letter should be formal, there’s no need for it to be dull. Instead, infuse it with your wit and enthusiasm — those things can go a long way.

Additionally, you should steer clear of general statements in your letter. Instead of talking about why you want to study medicine, focus on why you want to study it at that particular school. Use details to show that you’ve done your research.

In the final segment of your letter, you can also mention any acceptance letters you might have received since your interview. If the school sees that you’re a desirable candidate, you might get a response faster. However, it’s also okay if you don’t have anything new to share with the admissions director. In that case, just focus on the other parts of the letter.

Throughout the letter, make sure that your statement of intent is as clear as it can be, even at the cost of sounding blunt. If you don’t make the purpose of the letter clear, it could get lost in translation.

Alternately, if you don’t want to write a letter of intent for medical school at all, but you have updates the school should know about, you can just type up a letter of update. Those are similar to letters of intent, without hinting that you’re committed to the school.

Mistakes to Avoid

Now, before you save and send your letter of intent, there are some basic mistakes you should look for. Most importantly, you don’t want to come across as conceited, which often happens when you’re trying to “sell yourself” in school applications or professional resumes. There’s a fine line between highlighting competence and bragging without being able to back up your claims.

To that end, you should avoid making the letter too wordy and lengthy. The admissions director may not read the letter carefully, anyway. So make the words you’ve got count. That is also why you don’t need to reiterate things from your application in great detail.

Finally, there is one last mistake you ought to avoid, and that’s writing letters that are too general. Most people who do this are planning to send the same letter to multiple schools after changing a few key details. However, that’s generally considered a bad idea.

Even though it’s not technically a legal document, your letter of intent for medical school is still a commitment. You’re making a promise to the school that you’ll enroll if they offer you the position. That’s why you’re only supposed to send one letter — and make it specific to the school you’re sending it to. On the other hand, if you really want to leave your options open, you can always send letters of interest instead.

Send the Letter

After you’ve made sure that your letter isn’t too pretentious or cold, you’ll be ready to send it out. If you want to make sure that everything stays just where you put it, export the letter into a PDF format. Before you send it, check the school site to confirm how they want you to send the letter. While most schools have a dedicated email address for this kind of correspondence, some of them have special application platforms or portals you should use.

Follow Up

Once you send out your letter of intent for medical school, all you’ll have to do is wait. If you’re not a particularly patient person, that might cause you to feel helpless and anxious. But this time around, you’ll know that you’ve done all you could do. After a few weeks, you might even find yourself wondering whether you should just go ahead and commit to one of the schools that already sent you their acceptance letter.

However, even if the school doesn’t get back to you immediately, there’s still no reason for concern. As long as you haven’t received a rejection letter, there’s still a chance for you to end up in the school of your dreams. Still, if you want to reiterate your desire to attend said school, there’s one last thing you can do.

It’s perfectly appropriate to follow up with the school about a month after sending your first letter of intent. You don’t need to worry about seeming overly pushy, either. If you set the tone of your letters is just right, your follow-up missive will come across as enthusiastic and (hopefully charmingly) anxious, rather than annoying.

Now, your follow-up letter doesn’t need to be as detailed as your first letter of intent. Instead, you can use it to politely remind the admissions director who you are and why you are excited by the possibility of going to their school.

On Writing Your Letter of Intent for Medical School

Medical students having a discussion while looking at a computer

So let’s offer a brief summary of everything we’ve just talked about. Most medical schools want students that are eager to attend classes and do well. Therefore, showing your enthusiasm in the form of a letter of intent certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting accepted. Indeed, if you’re on a waitlist, a letter of intent for medical school could tip the scales in your favor. However, there are strict rules you should know before you start writing.

For one, you should know that a letter of intent is something you can only send to one school. Even though it’s not a binding agreement, you’d be ethically obliged to enroll in the school if the offer comes.

You can only send the letter if you had your interview, preferably after waiting to see if you’ve been accepted. Generally, you should know after about a month.

The letter should be formal but also interesting and personal, which is admittedly a tough balance to strike. You don’t have to go over all of the segments listed above, but it would help the school determine your level of enthusiasm. However, you don’t want to drone on either — keep everything confined to a single page.

Most importantly, you must remember to state the purpose of the letter two times at least. If you forget to express your commitment to the school, the text won’t read as a letter of intent, which might make the admissions director overlook it.

Lastly, remember to follow the school’s instructions precisely when it comes to sending the letter. Don’t let an avoidable clerical error ruin your chances of getting into the school you like!

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