If you’re applying to medical school, you may have heard of a medical school letter of intent. This blog will help you understand what this document is, what its purpose is, and the fundamentals of writing a letter of intent that is persuasive, specific, and eye-catching. A letter of intent is a specific type of document that can absolutely (positively) impact your application, even if you’ve been waitlisted. With the challenges presented by medical school acceptance rates, every student wants to maximize their chances of admission. A medical school letter of intent is a key tool for doing precisely that.
In this blog, you'll learn:
A medical school letter of intent is a document that specifically states that you will accept an offer of admission to a particular school, if one is extended, over and above any other schools to which you’ve applied or at which you’ve interviewed (or even accepted). This is a single letter sent to one – and only one – school: your Top Choice. If you’ve interviewed at a school that is truly your #1 school, writing a letter of this kind allows you to show the school that you are a serious and enthusiastic candidate.
A letter of intent is generally written after applying to med school and about a month after your interviews, especially if you’ve been put on a medical school waitlist at your top choice school (though you may certainly write a letter of intent even if you haven't been waitlisted). As the letter of intent is meant to declare that this school is your #1 choice, this must be sincere, and the reasoning behind it must be clear, yet concise. It’s best to write a bit later in the admissions season, after you’ve interviewed at multiple schools (if you have done so), so that you can demonstrate that you’ve legitimately considered all the options available to you, and that you are certain that THIS school is the one for you. Declaring your intentions to those making the admissions decisions indicates that you have given full consideration to the options in front of you, and demonstrates that you will be an eager contributor to their program and campus community.
The reason you must wait a bit into the cycle is precisely to show that you have given this serious consideration. Sending a letter of intent before interviewing, or even right after interviewing, suggests that you may be making such a decision hastily, without fully and deeply considering all of your options, which can reflect poorly on their perception of your maturity. So, be sure to only send such a letter after you’ve interviewed (and don’t send a letter if you’ve not been invited to an interview) – if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to sit down with an interviewer, your letter will come off as disingenuous.
I can't emphasize this enough: You should not send letters of intent to multiple schools.
Medical schools want students who are eager to attend, and expressing your particular enthusiasm and the priority you assign their specific program can go a long way. But, this must be genuine. You cannot tell all the schools to which you apply that they are your “top choice”. Not only is this dishonest an unethical, it will make for a good deal of awkwardness if you are given multiple offers. A letter of intent isn’t a legally binding agreement, but it is a promise, and you must demonstrate integrity and stand by your word.
It may go without saying, but if there is anything from the school indicating that they do NOT want ongoing communication or updates from applicants, then do not send a letter of intent. Go through your past communications with the school, as well as any emails they’ve sent you, to see if there is anything indicating they do not want such letters. This is generally rare – most schools are open to receiving updates, but you need to make sure that this is the case, to avoid making a faux pas.
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The letter of intent should be a well-thought out and formal letter, not a quick email. You must ensure your letter is grammatically impeccable, that you’ve spelled everyone’s names correctly, and that it is a polished, final product before sending it off. It must also be concise and backed by reasoning. If you’re currently enrolled in a pre-med undergraduate program, consider reaching out to your school’s Writing Centre for assistance in ensuring your letter is as clear, precise, and direct as possible. If you’re not currently enrolled as a student, consider calling around to local public libraries, as some may have services that can help you perfect your letter.
Your letter should be addressed to the Dean of Admissions or Director of Admissions – you’ll need to look this information up to ensure your letter is addressed appropriately and sent to the correct address. You should not send a letter of intent to the entire admissions committee or to your interviewer(s); rather, you need to write to the person actually making the decisions around admissions. Some online research and/or a phone call to the school will help you get the information you need.
Your letter of intent should be a maximum of one page, and should follow the formal structure of a proper letter. Do not send a letter that spans multiple pages. Remember, the person to whom you are writing has a hundred other duties and – in a sense – you are asking a favour of them in sending them this letter to review and consider. Do not monopolize their time. Be concise and to-the-point.
Open your letter with a formal greeting, using the addressee’s full name and title: “Dear Dr. Samuel Jefferson, Director of Admissions, XYZ University”.
Start by introducing yourself by full name, as a current applicant to a specific school or program, as well as the date of your interview. Explain your reason for writing – to establish this school as your top choice, to remind them of why you are a good fit for the program, and to offer any updates or describe any accomplishments you've had since submitting your application (if applicable). You must clearly and sincerely state that, if you are given an offer of admission, then this is the school you WILL attend. If you’ve received another offer, or multiple offers, you can state that even though you’ve been accepted elsewhere, their school remains your top choice, and that you will attend their school if you are extended an offer of acceptance.
Provide your genuine reasons for choosing this school as your top preferred school. What aspects of the program, curriculum, research opportunities or other initiatives particularly stand out to you, and why are these central to your decision to send this letter? Is there something about the school’s mission, vision, and values that is particularly meaningful to you – for example, do they prioritize global health, and that’s something that you'd like to pursue as a future medical professional? Do they have specific programs or initiatives that appeal to you, more so than those offered at other schools? Is there a particular faculty member you want to work with (and who wants to work with you)? In any of these cases, say so!
You should also demonstrate why you are an ideal candidate for this school and discuss the ways you could uniquely contribute to their campus community. Speak to specific components of the curriculum, to unique opportunities the school offers that match your own skills, to groups or clubs you think you can work with effectively, and so on. You don’t need to (and likely won’t have room to) speak to all of these things, but the main take-away here is to be specific. Don’t just speak to things like the prestige of the school or program – they know this already. Why are you a good fit for the school, and why are they a good fit for you?
In putting together this section, another thing you may want to consider is this: at this stage of your education, you will be getting a lot out of the university, but they’ll be getting a lot out of you, as well. Help them see why you would be a beneficial addition to their culture and a strong ambassador for their program after you graduate and their degree is on your wall. Consider looking at the school’s mission statement, so that you can speak at the level of intersecting values. How will you go on to live such values as a practicing professional, after your education has concluded?
Paragraph 3 (Optional)
Provide any updates since your submitting your application and interviewing, or give information on upcoming plans, if applicable. Do you have a new publication, or one about to be released? Have you had any acknowledgements or accomplishments in school, work, volunteering, etc.? Are you presenting at an upcoming conference? Is there anything that’s happened since they last reviewed your candidacy that you’re just dying for them to know about? This is your place to tell them! Don’t repeat accomplishments already provided in your application, though. This is the place to offer new information, that they haven’t yet considered in evaluating your application.
Reiterate your interests and offer sincere thanks for taking the time to review your letter. Close professionally with something like “Sincerely”, “All the Best”, or a similar formal closing. If you are a U.S. applicant, you can include your AAMC ID number beneath your name in your closing.
You can type your message into an email, or attach the letter as a PDF. Don’t use a specialized format like .pages – ensure it’s an attachment type anyone can open (PDF is the safest bet, and this will ensure your formatting stays exactly the way you want it). The email subject line should be your full name followed by “Letter of Intent”. In your letter, ensure you include the date of your interview, and – if possible – the name(s) of those with whom you interviewed (this won’t be possible with a multiple mini interview or some types of panel interview).
Finally, if an advisor, professor, research supervisor, etc., is willing to write or call to emphasize your “good fit” for the school, that is also helpful and usually welcomed.
Dear Dr. Samuel Jefferson, Director of Admissions, XYZ University,
My name is Sandra Student, and I am a current applicant to XYZ University’s ABC School of Medicine. It was a joy and a privilege to visit your school, to learn more about your campus community, and to discuss the intersection of my own goals and those of your medical program, during my interview with Dr. Sarah Parker on September 15, 2018. I write to you today to express my strong preference for attending your institution, and to provide an update to my submitted application materials. As someone passionate about bringing healthcare to underserved populations, and with my own background serving rural communities in my volunteer work and physician shadowing, the priority your school assigns such efforts has left me certain that your school is my top choice. If offered acceptance to your program, I can say without doubt that I will accept it. Though I have already received offers of acceptance from ABC University and MNO University, I feel strongly that the values, curriculum, and priorities of your institution match my own goals as an aspiring physician.
I am pursuing the medical profession largely based on my own experiences working with underserved rural communities in a healthcare context. As noted in my application, for the past 3 years, I have been doing extensive volunteer work in [geographical region] through a mobile clinic, which has exposed me to the existing gaps in care that currently leave many rural patients without the access to treatment they require. Working alongside a small staff, under the guidance and leadership of Dr. Sylvia Wong, and hearing about their experiences in this kind of clinical context, has given me a rare glimpse into the complexities and challenges of rural medicine. As well, speaking with rural patients and having the opportunity to regularly shadow Dr. Wong in her patient-physician interactions has given me a sense of mission and drive to devote my life to directly confronting the inequities of our existing system. After I have completed my education, it is my goal to establish a similar mobile clinic, to expand Dr. Wong’s vision of accessible care. With coursework, clinical opportunities, and campus organizations that all address these issues and challenges in various ways, the curriculum and vision of XYZ University’s ABC School of Medicine will help me pursue that goal in ways unmatched by other programs.
As a brief update to my existing application materials, I also wanted to inform you that I recently received notice that an essay I’ve co-authored with Professor Wilma Rice, Ana Chartres, and Asad Khan, [“Title of Essay”] has been accepted to [Journal Title], and will appear in their upcoming January 2019 issue. As well, next semester, I have been hired as a Research Assistant in Professor Rice’s lab, where we will be building further on the work detailed in the aforementioned publication.
Thank you for your time in reviewing this letter. I hope that you are able to review my application favorably, and that I am able to become a member of your campus community. If granted the opportunity, I will most certainly accept. Should there be any other information I can provide, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Want to see a video about writing a medical school letter of intent? Check out this one:
Medical School Letter of Intent Sample: #2
Dear Dr. X, Director of Admissions, XYZ University,
My name is Wendy and I am currently applying to the [name of university] School of Medicine. It was a privilege to discuss my goals and learn more about your DO program during my interview on [date of interview]. I am writing you this letter to express my intention to rank your program as my number-one choice and to provide you with a brief update to my application.
I am pursuing a career in osteopathic medicine because I strongly believe my life experience and cultural background resonate with the holistic approach of osteopathic medicine. During the time I volunteered in [name of countries], I witnessed how advancement in medical diagnosis technology helped medical providers fight healthcare disparities in rural communities. As well, as much as I enjoyed contributing to the research effort in advancing medical diagnosis methods, I felt that research lacks the humanistic component that I want to embrace in my career. During my discussion with [name of doctor], we talked about how [name of university] envisions graduates to practice medicine with humanity in mind. I agree wholeheartedly with the vision and I aspire to partner with my future patients to tackle their illnesses and to bear the burden of struggle together.
I am a strong believer in collaboration and have been very lucky to meet many mentors and colleagues who nurtured my growth and helped my career development through my upbringing. During my years at [name of institutions], I enjoyed working together with my colleagues for the common goal of making the world a better place. In fact, during my campus visit during the [name of conference] and throughout the application cycle, I am truly thankful for all the tips I got from [name of university] staff and students. I could not help but notice how genuinely staff, faculty and students care about each other in the effort to train competent graduates to serve the community. The type of collaborative environment is what I see myself striving in with my peers in the next few years of my career in medicine. One day, when I become more experienced as a practicing physician, I aspire to mentor younger medical students to pay it forward.
In conclusion, I would like to provide a brief update to my application materials. Back in [month, year], I was invited to give a presentation on [name of research] to an audience of approximately one hundred people at the annual conference of [name of conference].
Thank you so much for your consideration. I would be honored to become a member of your campus community. If granted the opportunity, I will most certainly accept the offer. I hope to see you and the rest of [name of university] community soon.
1. When should I send my medical school letter of intent?
It's best to send your letter of intent approximately a month after your interview. You want to be able to show the Dean of Admissions that you have taken the time to really consider your options, and even though you may have interviewed elsewhere, you are still selecting their school as your number-one choice.
2. Why can’t I send it right after my interview?
Please note that schools do want to see that you have actually thought through which school is your number-one choice. Sending this right after your interview may show that you are being hasty and not really reflecting on the other schools you applied to and interviewed at. So, don’t feel you have to rush and send this in immediately after your interview; rather, really take the time and ask yourself what your number-one choice is and why.
3. How should I send my letter of intent?
For the most part, you can email your letter of intent to the Director or Dean of Admissions. In some cases, schools may provide a portal for students to upload their letters to instead. Ensure that you check program requirements beforehand. Don’t just send it to [email protected], as it may get lost in the countless emails a school receives every day; take your time to ensure you are sending it to the correct person.
4. Are there situations where it is not acceptable to send a letter of intent?
Yes, firstly, you should only be sending one letter of intent to your top choice school. If at the end of the interview season you're not really sure which school you want to attend most, then it's better to not send a letter to any school. Most importantly, do not send multiple letters of intent. Secondly, it's important that you check your school's requirements before you decide to send a letter of intent. While most schools accept letters of intent, some schools do not wish to be contacted at all after the interview season. In this case, you must follow the school's instructions by refraining from sending any correspondence.
5. What is so bad about sending a letter of intent to multiple schools?
Everything you do as a medical school applicant will reveal who you are as a person, and whether or not you're suitable to become a doctor. Sending a letter of intent to multiple schools is both dishonest and unethical – remember you are giving your word that you will attend a program if you are accepted. Lying in any part of your application materials completely ruins your credibility, integrity and trustworthiness. Plus, you never know which admission committee members or Deans are connected and may find out what you did. Even if you're not caught, what will you do if you receive multiple offers of admission and don't uphold your promise to attend these schools? Take our strong advice here, do not send multiple letters of intent!
6. Will a letter of intent guarantee me a spot in my top choice school?
Unfortunately, no, but it can certainly improve your chances of admission, and isn't it important to do whatever you can to do just that? The purpose of a medical school letter of intent is to let your top choice school know that they're your top choice and therefore, will attend their school if given the opportunity. It's very difficult for medical schools to determine which candidates will accept their offers of acceptance and which will not. Sometimes, even by accepting waitlisted applicants, schools are left with spots unfilled due to this very reason. So, sending a letter of intent may give you a competitive edge over other applicants because you're letting a school know that if accepted, you're a guaranteed student in their entering class.
7. Can I send a letter of intent if I haven't been waitlisted?
Of course! Medical school letters of intent are not only suitable to send if you're on a waitlist, but they can also be sent after your interviews, even before you have received a response regarding admission.
8. I was just about to send a letter of intent and received a rejection. What should I do now?
This can be upsetting, but receiving rejections are a normal part of the application process. First, scrap the draft you were about to send. If you have already received a rejection, you should not send a letter of intent to that school. Instead, you can follow up with the admissions office and seek feedback for why you did not get accepted; some schools provide written or verbal feedback while others do not. Next, take the time to think through the other schools you have interviewed at and which one would be your first-choice program now; re-draft a letter of intent to that program and send it in a timely manner.
An honest letter of intent can absolutely influence your chances of acceptance – schools want students who are enthusiastic about being there. If you are certain that one particular program is the best program for your particular needs, interests, and passions, then consider reaching out and making your preference known!
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