When medical school applicants start getting decisions from medical schools that put them in a “hold” category or on an alternate or waiting list they often wonder what action they can take to move their candidacy forward. Certainly they will need to communicate with the school in question to indicate that they are interested in remaining under consideration; that’s the first order of business. In addition, they will need to keep the school updated as to new developments (publications, honors/awards, job changes, new activities, new grades, etc.) as the application process unfolds. In addition, they may want to write a letter of interest or intent.
A letter of interest conveys an applicant’s very strong interest in a school. It would stop short of stating that, if accepted, they would enroll. However, the letter should be articulated in terms that show, very specifically, why the school appeals to the applicant. The letter should make references to curricular aspects, research opportunities, and other school-specific programs the applicant would want to participate in. Make the school visualize you as a contributing member of the incoming class; that’s what a letter of interest should do.
A letter of intent, on the other hand, does all of the above but goes a step further. It states that if fortunate enough to be offered admission, you would enroll. Obviously the specific reasons for wanting to enroll must be expressed, as with the letter of interest. The letter of intent is even stronger — in terms of content (i.e. why you want to go to a particular school) and intent — than the letter of interest. Because you are stating that you will enroll, the letter of intent should be written for only one school, for obvious ethical reasons. Most applicants do not write a letter of intent until later in the application process, after they have had the opportunity to interview at multiple schools; the letter of intent has more authenticity/perspective at that stage of the application process. But situations vary from applicant to applicant—sometimes a letter of intent is written earlier.
If you want help with a letter of intent or interest—or if you want to discuss your situation—please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant