How to Get Off a Medical School Waitlist

Updated: July 1, 2020

After students attend medical school interviews, they normally receive one of three results; acceptance, rejection or waitlist. Even though it's a huge accomplishment to be waitlisted, sometimes being put on a waitlist can feel worse than medical school rejection because of the uncertainty that surrounds waitlists. This blog will help clear the fog surrounding medical school waitlists by answering some of your most frequently asked questions. It will also provide you with 4 tips to help you get off the waitlist and get accepted.

This blog will cover the following questions and topics:

How does a medical school waitlist work?

Why have I been waitlisted?

How many of us are waitlisted?

Where am I on the waitlist?

How long will I have to wait?

When are acceptances sent to waitlisted students?

How many students get accepted from medical school waitlists?

What factors are considered when deciding who should be accepted from the waitlist?

I'm waitlisted and have no other acceptances, what should l I do?

How can I get off the waitlist? 4 Tips to get accepted

Would you like us to help you get into medical school?


How does a medical school waitlist work?

By mid-March, allopathic medical schools in the US have to send out acceptance offers at least equal to the number of students in its entering class. Most schools, however, will send out many more acceptances than available positions to account for the number of students that will reject their offer. Even though schools send out more acceptances than available positions, there is often still spaces available in the entering class as schools can't determine how many students will accept or reject their offer. To fill this void, medical schools create waitlists so they have another group of quality students ready to take the place of those that were ahead of them.

There are two different types of medical school waitlists; the pre-interview waitlist and the post-interview waitlist. The latter is the type of waitlist discussed above, while the former is a waitlist that occurs before students make it to the interview stage. Some schools have a certain number of available interview spots, but again, they don't know which students will accept their invitations so they send out more invitations than spots. As students turn down their requests, they begin taking students off the waitlist for interviews.

Why have I been waitlisted?

It's a huge accomplishment to be added to a waitlist considering the thousands of students that apply to medical schools each year, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. In general, there are two main reasons why you may have been waitlisted. The first is because you applied to medical schools too late. The admissions committee may have already filled their interview spots when they receive your application. This is why it's so important to apply well ahead of medical school application timelines, ideally at the beginning to middle of June. The second is because you are considered a great candidate, which is why you haven’t been rejected, but you didn't completely blow away the admissions committee in all areas of your application or interview. While you are seen as a strong candidate, others may be seen as stronger. This could come down to the strength of your medical school personal statement, medical school secondary essays, GPA and MCAT score or even your interview performance.

How many of us are waitlisted?

It is nearly impossible to know how many students have been placed on a waitlist because this number will vary between schools and can change year after year. Some schools put a few hundred students on their waitlist, such as the University of Virginia, which placed 175 individuals on their waitlist last year, while others won't indicate how many may be waiting.

Where am I on the waitlist?

This question also totally depends on the school as each has its own procedure for how they assess waitlisted applicants. Some medical schools rank their waitlisted applicants, let students know what position they hold, and notify them when their position changes. Other medical schools assign students to different groups based on certain qualities while many don't rank their waitlist at all. They simply review each applicant on their waitlist when the time comes to determine which candidates should be offered admission.

How long will I have to wait?

For students that have been waitlisted after their interview, the amount of time they'll have to wait can vary from weeks to months. Some schools, like the New York Medical College, clear their waitlist by mid-July, while other schools maintain their waitlist right up to orientation day. Due to this variance, it's difficult to know exactly how long you'll be waiting for before you receive an acceptance or rejection.

When are acceptances sent to waitlisted students?

While acceptances can be sent at any time to waitlisted students, the majority of acceptances are sent in April – May due to AMCAS Traffic Rules. In accordance with these rules, all applicants should be notified of their acceptance on or after mid-October. By mid-March, schools have to issue acceptance offers at least equal to the number of students in it's entering class, but as previously discussed, they will likely send many more. By mid-April, students who received multiple acceptances will have to narrow down their choice to three or fewer schools and withdraw their acceptance from other schools. After the end of April, students are not allowed to hold multiple acceptances, so they must accept one school and release other acceptances. Due to this process, most waitlisted individuals will begin gaining admission leading up to the end of April, as previously accepted students decline offers. At the start of May, medical schools have a pretty good idea of how their incoming class is shaping up and can identify any unfilled positions, so many will start sending acceptances after this time to fill empty seats. Plans change and some students still withdraw their acceptances up until orientation day, so many schools keep their waitlist open until this time.

How many students get accepted from medical school waitlists?

Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how many students are accepted from medical school waitlists because no one, not even the schools themselves, can predict how many withdraws they'll receive throughout the admission cycle. Ivy League schools may accept fewer students from their waitlist as many who have applied to these schools have them ranked as their number 1 choice. Other medical school entering classes are comprised of many students from the waitlist, while others only contain a handful – it totally depends year after year.

What factors are considered when deciding who should be accepted from the waitlist?

Medical schools often don't reveal exactly which factors they consider when deciding who should be accepted from the waitlist, but many look at individuals holistically and review applicants like they are part of a separate admissions process. The current composition of the entering class is likely taken into account as well, so they can access which students best fill any voids. Medical schools may consider the in-state vs out of state ratio of the incoming class, grades, test scores, AMCAS work and activities section, letters of recommendation, and interview scores when making their decisions. 

I'm waitlisted and have no other acceptances, what should l I do?

It's difficult for students to decide what to do if they've been placed on a waitlist, especially if they've been on that waitlist for months and don't have any other offers of acceptance. If it's still early in the admission cycle, there are steps discussed below that students can take to help improve their chances of getting off the waitlist. If it's late into the admissions cycle, some students accept that this year wasn't for them and begin preparing their applications early so they can re-apply in June. Other students consider employment opportunities or other academic programs to pursue for the year, before re-applying the following cycle. There are no right or wrong answers when deciding what to do but it's important to think about future plans early, so you don't find yourself unprepared or unintentionally taking a gap year before medical school.

How can I get off the waitlist?


Being waitlisted for medical school can leave applicants feeling hopeless like there is nothing left to do but wait to find out if they will be admitted or not, but this isn't necessarily true. While it is true that the final decision rests in the admissions committee's hands, students that are waitlisted still have the power to improve their chances of getting off the waitlist and getting accepted. The most important thing you can do is to get off the waitlist is to demonstrate your continued interest and commitment to the school. You can do this by keeping in touch with the school by sending them extra pieces of information they should consider while reviewing you as an applicant. Before you begin crafting any documents to send, be sure to review and adhere to each school's policy on contacting the admissions committee via email or phone. While many schools welcome update letters, additional documents, and letters of intent, some schools do not permit them. Here are four things you can do to help you get off the waitlist:

1. Send a medical school letter of intent.

A letter of intent tells the admissions committee that their school is your number one choice, and upon receiving an acceptance letter, you will attend their school wholeheartedly. This is crucial as schools are not only looking to fill their available spots with dedicated individuals but it also helps them eliminate the risk of sending an acceptance only to have it rejected, leaving the same place unfilled. It's important to note that you should only send a letter of intent to your number 1 choice, it's unethical and unprofessional to send letters of intent to multiple schools.

2. Send relevant updates.

Update letters are another great way to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you haven't forgotten about them, and are still passionate and motivated to gain acceptance at their school. If you've accomplished or completed anything noteworthy since sending in your original application and completing your interview, let the admissions committee know right away. This new information can be used in their consideration of you as an applicant. Additional letters of recommendation, publications, experiences, improved grades, and test scores are all excellent updates that warrant contacting the admissions committee. Some schools may limit the number of documents you send them, while others, like the Georgetown Medical School, accept unlimited letters of interest, right up until orientation day.

3. Demonstrate dedication.

In addition to sending new information to the admissions committee, you should also use your time on the waitlist to visit the school and attend any open houses. Any time you're on campus for an event allows you the opportunity to meet members of the student body and potential members of the admission committee. Be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet, ask questions and introduce yourself where appropriate. Participating in these events shows your continual interest in the program and determination to attend their medical school.

4. Keep your contact information up to date.

Making sure your phone number and email address are correct and up to date is essential to getting off the waitlist. Before the end of April, schools must give applicants at least two weeks to accept offers of admission, however, after this period, medical schools can give less notice. It's up to the school to determine how much time they want to give, but the admissions committee may give students only a few days to respond to an offer of admission. If your contact information wasn't up to date, or you weren't checking your emails often, you could easily miss this opportunity.

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