After your medical school interview, it is appropriate to send thank you’s to all of the people who helped you throughout the day. These days it is rare to receive a thank-you card. You can easily set yourself apart by sending out handwritten notes. If, like most people, you only have time to send a thank you via email, I am providing some helpful guidelines.
A thank-you email begins and ends with gratitude. It contains many of the same formalities as any other electronic correspondence—a greeting, an explanation for why you are writing, body content and a salutation. Thank you’s differ in important ways from other emails—if written well—they can inspire an emotional response, create connections and foster the development of relationships. When I think back to some of the best professional mentors in my life, these relationships often started with my expression of heartfelt gratitude and an outspoken interest in learning more about their particular area of expertise.
To help you write better thank you emails, here are some guidelines:
1. Use a respectful greeting.
Regardless of whether you decide to use a traditional greeting, like “Dear Pat” or not, always err on the side of caution in addressing the person formally—using their appropriate title, like Dr. Jones. Even if the person asked you to call them by their first name, it’s better to be more formal in written correspondence as a demonstration of respect.
2. State the reason why you are writing.
Immediately after the greeting, you should state the reason why you are writing. If you can’t think of a good reason, it may be better for you not to write. Don’t be coy here. Have a good reason for writing and state it. For example, “I’m writing to thank you for our conversation on Monday.” Or “I’m writing to thank you for showing me around campus/the lab/the clinic.”
3. Explain what their assistance or kindness meant to you.
Describe the positive interaction that you had with the person. Explain what it meant to you. If written well, the reader will appreciate your honesty and take your compliments more to heart.
4. State reasons why it made a difference.
Give specific reasons for why their contribution made a difference to you. Did you learn something new about the school? Did you discover an opportunity that you didn’t know existed? Or did the person share a similar interest or disability that you now see differently?
5. Follow-up with any information you offered to share or with any questions that you have.
Follow-up on any points or areas that you said you would. It’s appropriate here to ask any pressing questions that remain for you. I don’t recommend making up a question just to have something to ask. It’s easy to spot fluff.
6. Provide any relevant or necessary updates.
These updates could include information such as sharing the news of acceptances you have received to other schools as well as any new publications, awards or grades. If you have to wait a day or two to send your thank you to be able to include an update, hold off for a day or two.
7. Restate gratitude.
People learn through repetition. Don’t hesitate to reinforce your expression of gratitude through repetition. Find another way to state it by the end of the email!
It is best to send thank you emails as soon as you can, so try to send it within a week of the event so that the person has not (completely) forgotten you or the event. Have fun with these emails! Be yourself, but be appropriate and keep in mind the purpose of the email.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!