When Will Medical Schools Give You an Answer?

Medical Schools

“One last-ditch effort.”

We were recently asked:

  • How long does a medical school have to invite an applicant to submit a secondary application?
  • How long does a medical school have to respond and either invite the applicant to an interview, or say thanks, but no thanks?

The fact is that there’s no rule governing how long a medical school has to respond to your application. Some have a quick turnaround, but others seem to drag on and on – especially if you’re sitting by your mailbox awaiting a letter.

Waiting is even harder when others are receiving invitations and you haven’t heard anything. Although it might be tempting, don’t call the school to check on your status – this is sure to backfire on you. Trust that the adcom is working through the applications as fast as they can.

So when should you get worried? And what can you do about it?

If you haven’t been invited to submit a secondary, your chances of receiving one at this late date are slim. However, there is one last-ditch effort you can try, in very particular situations. If you have a very specific interest in a program, a letter to the Dean stating your case for admission can help. Your goal here is to demonstrate your unique qualities in a way that might not have come across as the admissions committee ticked off boxes on their checklists.

Your reasons for approaching the program in this way might be a local connection or a relative who is an alumnus, or they might highlight something your special fit with the program’s specialties. It requires a knowledge of the program going beyond the ordinary, and is only recommended in cases where you have genuine interest.

And needless to say, the earlier you can do this, the better your chance that it will work.

If you’ve submitted your secondary, the wait can seem interminable. It’s important during this time to focus on other interests, especially things that you are passionate about. If you finally do get invited to interview, and are asked about your recent activities, you’ll want to have more to say than “checking the mail.”

The bulk of interview invites (“IIs”) go out between October and January. The earliest IIs seem go to those who not only submitted secondaries early but who have (1) high stats and (2) very specific reasons for attending the program – this is where tailoring your secondary to each school is a huge advantage. There are always applicants who get later IIs, but your chances of acceptance decrease as the season goes on.

If you haven’t heard anything by this point, you might also want to think about putting together a letter of interest to the Dean. Again, this is only a good idea if you have a genuine connection with the school. You’ll need to go beyond what you presented in your secondary; emphasize your new accomplishments as well as your strong fit and interest in that program.

And it’s probably time to think about your game plan for the next year. Start by taking a good hard look at your application:

  • Is your MCAT competitive? Are your grades strong? Would either be strengthened through additional coursework? A master’s or postbac course could boost your chances next time.
  • Are you confident about your personal statement? Were your secondary essays tailored with specific answers for each particular program, or did you “recycle” generic answers?
  • Are your recommendations the best you can get?
  • Did you apply as early as possible in the year?
  • Did you submit enough applications? Did you apply to a wide range of schools, or are your applications weighted towards those with very low acceptance rates (Mayo, Georgetown, etc.)?

It’s not much consolation, but the AAMC reports a significantly higher number of applicants this year than ever before. Whether it’s because of recent health policy changes or the glamorous life of medicine depicted on television is anybody’s guess. But if you’re serious about medicine, and can show that in your application, you’ll make it.

If you need help arguing your case to the Dean, or if you want to make sure next year’s application is as strong as it can be, Accepted.com can help. Contact us at any stage of the application process.

Accepted Editor: Cydney FooteBy Cydney Foote, Accepted consultant and author of Write Your Way to MedicalSchool, who has helped future physicians craft winning applications since 2001.