Well, what’s a letter of intent for medical school?
You’ve completed prerequisite courses, thoughtfully chosen extracurricular activities, earned a high GPA and stellar MCAT scores, completed first and second round medical school applications, and even attended a few interviews.
Now, there’s nothing left to do but wait. Or is there?
- After interviewing or even after being waitlisted, there are additional steps you can take to strengthen your chances of acceptance (and to keep from feeling helpless as you play the waiting game).
One of the most persuasive additional steps you can take is writing a letter of intent to your first-choice school.
In this guide, we’ll explain what to include in a letter of intent and how to structure it, in addition to providing Do’s and Don’ts and answering frequently asked questions.
What is a medical school letter of intent?
A letter of intent informs a medical school that it is your top choice and that you will accept admission there if offered.
- This is not be confused with the “other” LOI, the letter of interest.
- There are, however, some similarities between the two.
- Both the letter of intent and the letter of interest convey your interest in a school, what you would contribute to that school, and why you’re a great fit based on factors like culture, academic environment, curriculum, etc.
The main difference is in the name: A letter of interest simply verifies that you’re still interested, while a letter of intent confirms your intention to enroll if admitted.
When should I write a medical school letter of intent?
Write a medical school letter of intent about a month after you have interviewed with a school if you have not yet been admitted or have been waitlisted.
- Don’t write a letter of intent to a school that has not invited you to an interview or has not shown continued interest in admitting you.
- Also, there’s no need to write a letter of intent to a school that has accepted you.
If you’ve already been invited to an interview but the interview hasn’t taken place yet, wait.
It can seem disingenuous to tell a school that they’re your top choice before you’ve had a chance to sit down with an interviewer.
Before writing a letter of intent, review the school’s previous communications with you, as well as their website and applicant portal.
- Does the school encourage updates and ongoing communication?
- Do they offer additional instructions to deferred or waitlisted candidates?
If you’re unsure, try reaching out to other medical school students or anyone you may know at the school.
- In most cases, it’s safe to write the letter unless the school directly states that they do not want ongoing communication from applicants.
If the school expresses that they do not want letters of intent and you send one anyway, it can hurt your chances by demonstrating that you do not follow directions.
How many schools should I send my letter of intent to?
One. Only one school can be your top choice, so this is the school that should receive your letter of intent.
Although a letter of intent is not a legally binding document, it is unethical to send a letter of intent to a school and not enroll there if accepted.
A letter of intent is a promise that a school is your first choice.
- This means you shouldn’t send a letter of intent unless you are certain that you would accept an offer of admission from that school—and that you would be thrilled to do so.
If you don’t want to limit your options, send letters of interest to several schools instead.
What should I include in a medical school letter of intent?
A medical school letter of intent should include:
- A clear statement that the school is your top choice and you will matriculate there if admitted
- An explanation of why the school is your top choice
- Several reasons why you are a good fit for the school/an explanation of what you would contribute
- Any additional achievements or updates since your interview (e.g. additional community service hours and their impact, anything you’ve done to strengthen areas of weakness, etc.)
Your letter of intent should not be longer than a page, so make a list of the most important information you’d like to include before you start writing.
Then, communicate your interest and fit as clearly and succinctly as possible.
A letter that rambles or is too long may be more annoying than appreciated.
How should I structure my letter of intent?
The letter of intent should be structured like most traditional formal letters:
- Address the letter to the dean or director of admissions.
If you aren’t sure who this person is, do your research.
Even if you think you know who this person is, double check to ensure that your spelling and titles are accurate.
Feel free to add a memorable interviewer that you clicked with to the email as well. Use the formal greeting “Dear” rather than “Hello,” and definitely don’t use “Hi.”
- Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself and state your purpose for writing the letter.
State your name and the date of your interview. Briefly say how much you enjoyed the interview.
Then, get right to the point: Explain that your purpose is to reiterate that the school is your top choice.
You can even say something as blunt as, “If accepted, I will definitely attend [School].”
Also mention that your letter will explain why you’re a good fit for the school and, if applicable, update the school on new accomplishments that may not be included in your file.
- Paragraph 2: Explain what you love about the school.
Give specific reasons that you’ve fallen in love with this particular medical school: collaborations with major area hospitals, opportunities for dual degree programs, unique research opportunities or student clinics, and information about the school that excited you during your interview.
Make sure the reasons you mention are specific to this school, not something that any medical school could offer.
- Paragraph 3: Mention why you’re a great fit.
If you can find a way to mesh this part into your second paragraph, that’s fine too.
Just be sure that you explain not only why you love the school, but also why you would be a great fit.
Perhaps the mission or vision particularly resonates with you based on your personal experiences, or the curriculum complements your learning style and personality well.
Briefly highlight a few reasons that you’re a unique and excellent candidate who has a lot to contribute to the school.
Make it clear that you will be actively involved on campus and plan to be an asset to the school.
- Paragraph 4: Update the school
…on any new developments, such as accomplishments at your job or somewhere you volunteer, a research publication, a leadership experience, an effort to improve upon any weaknesses, etc.
You can also discuss future plans that may interest the school.
If you have a particularly noteworthy new accomplishment and you want to be sure the school sees it, you may want to mention this in your second paragraph instead.
- Conclusion: Briefly restate your intent to attend the school…
…if admitted, as well as your belief that you are a great fit. Say that you look forward to the rest of the application process or that you hope to see them in the fall.
- Close the letter. Use a formal closing like “Best wishes” or “Sincerely,” followed by your name.
DO’s and DON’TS
Follow these steps to write the best letter of intent.
As with most rules in writing, don’t break them unless you’re supremely confident in your alternative strategy.
- Double check your letter for spelling and grammar.
It’s best to have someone else proofread your letter as well.
Make sure that you haven’t forgotten any attachments and that you’ve used appropriately formal language throughout the letter.
- Show personality.
While being appropriately formal, don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personality and use your genuine voice.
A heartfelt, persuasive letter can go a long way in helping you get accepted to your dream school.
- Use specific details.
Specific details concerning what you love about the school make your letter more convincing.
These details indicate that your interest is genuine and that you’ve spent time researching the school and envisioning yourself on campus.
- Show enthusiasm.
Use a passionate, enthusiastic tone when writing about the school. Think of it almost like a love letter, but don’t overdo it or exaggerate.
Allow your authentic excitement about the school to shine through.
- Mention other acceptances.
It’s fine to mention that you’ve been accepted to other schools by saying, “Although I’ve been accepted to other medical schools, your school remains my top choice and I will attend if accepted.”
This shows that your letter doesn’t represent a desperate plea for acceptance to any medical school, but a genuine desire to attend this medical school in particular.
- Save your letter as a PDF.
This prevents any changes to formatting. After saving your letter as a PDF, attach it an email or upload to the school’s application portal.
Most medical schools specify which approach they prefer.
- Spend too much time restating information already in your application.
Although you do want to explain why you’re a good fit and a strong candidate, you don’t want to spend too much time rehashing information the school already knows.
A quick recap of your highlights is sufficient, then focus on specific reasons you and the school complement one another.
- Sound too arrogant.
Don’t make it sound like you’re overconfident that you will eventually be accepted, and don’t imply that the school would be wrong not to accept you.
Understand that the school has plenty of qualified applicants, and simply explain why you think you’re a good fit. State that you’re honored to be considered by the school and would be delighted to attend.
- Send multiple letters of intent.
We’ve mentioned this already, but it can’t be emphasized enough. Don’t send multiple letters of intent in a bid to get acceptance letters.
Only write a letter of intent to your first choice—this is an exclusive commitment.
- Write more than a page.
You want to include several specific details about the school and why you love it, but try to limit your letter to one page.
It’s possible that the admissions director will only skim letters of intent as it is. Make a list of essential information to include, then keep your letter brief.
FAQs: Letter of Intent for Medical School
Q: Do medical schools appreciate letters of intent?
A: Yes. Unless the medical school has specifically stated otherwise, letters of intent are appreciated and can be a factor in your acceptance to a school.
Medical schools want a high yield rate, meaning they want to accept students who will eagerly attend.
It can certainly help to share with a medical school that you are sure to enroll if admitted.
Q: Should I send a follow-up letter of intent?
A: It’s acceptable to send an additional letter of intent (to the same school) about a month after sending your first letter.
This is only the case if your situation has remained the same: You are still waitlisted or waiting to hear back, and you have not yet been rejected or accepted.
Although many students fear they will come off as too aggressive or potentially obnoxious, demonstrating clear enthusiasm and a desire to attend the medical school can only help you (unless the medical school has stated it does not want additional communication from applicants).
Q: What if I’m not sure which school is my first choice?
A: If you’re undecided and don’t have a clear top choice, avoid writing a letter of intent.
If you write a letter of intent, you’re ethically obligated to attend that school if they accept you.
This means that if you’re not 100 percent committed to one school, you want to keep your options open. Instead of writing a letter of intent, write a letter of interest to several schools that have caught your eye.
Q: What if there’s no new information to add to my file?
A: It’s okay if you don’t have any updates.
Try to pursue additional opportunities and experiences after applying to medical school, and rack your brain for anything new that might make you a more attractive candidate.
But ultimately, if there’s nothing of interest to add, just skip that part of the letter.
Focus on making the other portions of your letter—like the reasons you’re excited about the school and what you’d contribute if admitted—excellent.
After all, there are letters of update for applicants with new information.
The true purpose of the letter of intent is to emphasize that a school is your first choice and you’re committed to attending if admitted.
Final Thoughts: Medical School Letter of Intent
Writing a medical school letter of intent is a great way to tell a medical school that they are your clear first choice, which can increase your chances of acceptance.
Key information to remember includes:
- Only write a letter of intent to ONE school (your first choice).
- Write the letter of intent about a month after being interviewed, particularly if you’ve been waitlisted.
- Clearly state that you will attend the school if given the opportunity.
- Include what you love about the school, why you’re a good fit/what you offer, and any new information that could influence the admission decision.
- Use your authentic voice, but be sure to keep it formal.
- Limit your letter to one page.
- Don’t send a letter of intent to a school that has given specific directions not to do so. Also follow directions concerning how the school would like the letter delivered (via email or via their applicant portal).
As always, don’t forget to proofread, and ideally, have others review your letter of intent as well.
Be heartfelt and convincing, highlighting a true passion for your first-choice school.
After all, a persuasive letter of intent can propel you off the waitlist and into the medical school of your dreams.