The medical school application process starts in June of the year prior to medical school enrollment and extends to the following April. But for some applicants—those placed on waitlists—the long process extends into the late spring and summer and can span 14 months. I have over 25 years of experience guiding students to in regard to medical school waiting lists, and thus have advice to offer to those on waiting lists, along with guidelines to follow and the proper protocol.
1. Be grateful that you still have a chance! A waitlist position is better than a rejection and you still have a chance for admission. As such, start thinking about what you can do to emphasize your strong interest in a school where you are waitlisted.
2. Think thoughtfully and carefully about what you would add to the incoming class at any medical school where you are waitlisted. Express this cogently and convincingly in a letter you send to the admissions committee. If you want to move from the waitlist into the class you MUST convey your interest to the admissions committee. The only exception to this would be schools that prohibit contact–be sure to check each school’s rules before sending letters. Submit a letter soon after being notified of your waitlist status. Articulate specifically why the school appeals to you and what you would add to it. Express your enthusiasm; schools want students who are eager to enroll and who will contribute positively to the environment. If you’re certain you would accept a spot in the incoming class if admitted, you should write a letter of intent.
3. Be sure that your contact information is up to date if you’re on a waitlist and be prepared to be contacted at any time. Also be prepared to respond to a waitlist offer quickly. There are AAMC rules pertaining to waiting list protocol.
4. Do not badger the admissions office of any medical school where you are waitlisted with repeated calls or letters. Do not communicate with the admissions office more than once a month and do not pull out the “important” people with connections to the school to try to advance your case; this will only annoy admissions committees.
5. Keep the medical school informed if there are important updates to report. If you publish research, win important awards or earn honors you should keep the medical school apprised of these accomplishments.
Movement from waiting lists usually occurs in April, May, and June. Occasional spots open up in July, and can even occur up to the first day that a school starts. As a medical school admissions consultant, I advise applicants through the waitlist process. Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me to discuss your particular situation.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting
Originally posted in 2018 and updated in 2021.