Medical School Applications: Three Things to Do In November

Posted by Nikita on 11/14/16 6:22 PM

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By this point, most of you are up and running in the application process, and either have already had an interview or have some lined up. Sometimes, though, the scariest part of this process can come after the interview. At that point, all there is left to do is wait. The interview typically is the last part of this journey that is “in your hands” -- afterwards, your entire file sits on a magical hidden desk for review, until one day you get an email or phone call telling you whether or not you have been accepted to a medical school’s entering class. For those of you who feel like there is still more of your story left to tell, today I’m going to discuss the process of following up or sending update letters to schools after you’ve interviewed. Make sure to also check out this blog post from last year, which can help guide your decision to send an update letter before you have an interview.

1. Thank you letters

In today’s online and fast-paced world, there is always a lot of discussion about the merits of sending a thank you note after an interview. When I was interviewing at colleges (which wasn’t THAT long ago!), hand-written notes were always the right thing to do. By the time I applied to medical school, four years later, thank you emails had become much more popular for one very important reason: time. Most likely, the person or people interviewing you are speaking with dozens of students per day - either other interviewees, students in lectures, or medical students on the wards. Much as we like to think we always make an impression, the 4-5 days that elapse between an interview and between when even the most punctually sent card would arrive can be enough for your interview to be out of mind (many interviewing faculty will complete their recommendations or take notes the same day!). I know some people who still pride themselves on their stationery and penmanship, and should by all means feel free to send a nice note, but in order for your thank you note to seal your impression in someone’s mind, it has to be sent quickly. If you would like to send a follow-up, keep it brief and to the point (no one likes a long, wordy email!). Thank them for taking the time to meet with you, include a couple of lines about how you enjoyed discussing your interests in “X,Y,Z” and how the school’s mission aligns with your career goals, and that you hope to have the opportunity to work with them in the future.

2. Professional Updates

As I mention in last year’s blog, there are some types of professional and/or academic updates that are worth mentioning to medical schools. To recap, any new grades or degrees, large-scale honors or awards, or major changes from your application should certainly be mentioned. If you anticipate that several of these things will occur at once (ex. you are about to get your transcript from the fall semester but are also awaiting a reply about a submitted manuscript), save the update letter to write one large, impactful one, rather than several small ones. Although it is possible that submitting several small letters will require someone to ‘pull your file’ more frequently, more likely it only means that someone reviewing your file will have many documents to read through and will give them all only a cursory glance.

3. “Letters of Intent”

While many students consider sending these types of letters after they have been wait-listed at their top-choice school, it’s possible to send one after the interview season as well. If you have completed interviews at a number of schools and decided that there is one school that you would absolutely attend over all others (regardless of cost!), you can send a letter that says that, along with any other updates that may have occurred since your interview. This may seem obvious, but you can only send this letter to one school! There is no official binding process in doing this, but if you later decide to attend another school, you will definitely burn some bridges.

All that being said, after you interview at a medical school, you certainly don’t HAVE to send an update. Schools typically aren’t expecting you to, and will completely review your file before coming to a decision regardless of whether or not you include an update or thank you letter. Unless you have something to add that will specifically contribute to your application, you’re better leaving it out. Congratulations to everyone in making it this far through the application process!

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