“How bad is it, Doc?”
Well, clients don’t quite ask me that. But, as they clutch their waitlist notification, they’re clearly feeling immense tension and anxiety, as though life itself hangs in the balance. Waitlisted applicants begin to wonder, “What does it all mean? What should I do? And when, oh when, will it end?”
I’m neither a doctor nor a crystal-ball gazer, but I have spent the past 25-plus years advising hundreds of medical school applicants, some of whom were waitlisted. I’ve seen, through both our clients’ experiences and those of hundreds of others with whom I have talked, what works and what doesn’t.
During this time, I have also seen some of the unfortunate blunders applicants make while on the waitlist. My encounter with these blunders has given birth to this list of “nine mistakes you don’t want to make on a medical school waitlist.”
Knowing what doesn’t work is as important as knowing what does. Both are discussed here, but the springboard for that discussion will be the mistakes – the real mistakes that real, and really intelligent, people make when waitlisted at leading medical programs around the world.
The nine medical school waitlist mistakes
- Ignoring the instructions you receive from the school
- Being modest about recent achievements
- Hiding your genuine interest in the school and your fit with the school’s culture
- Not seeking expressions of support
- Planning a one-time deluge of correspondence… followed by deafening silence
- Failing to assess or act on an assessment of possible weaknesses in your candidacy
- Complaining to the school about the agony of being waitlisted
- Providing hyperbolic apologies for weaknesses or mistakes
- Playing “hard to get”
But before we dive into our discussion of these mistakes, let’s identify which category the school that waitlisted you falls into.
The three kinds of waitlisting schools
Medical schools fall into three broad categories in terms of how they handle waitlisted applicants. Because schools change policies and might fit into different categories in different years, it is better to focus on the categories, which are constant, than on individual schools, which can change categories from year to year and occasionally even within the course of an application cycle. If you’re not sure which category your waitlisting school falls into, contact the admissions office and ask.
- Group 1: Don’t call us; we’ll call you (DCU)
These schools strongly discourage any kind of contact from the waitlisted applicant. The only thing they want to know is whether or not you want to remain on the waitlist. They don’t want updates (at least not from you). They don’t want to sit and chat with you. Leave them alone, they say, because they disregard waitlist communication. As of October 2023, the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins are examples of schools that fall into this category.
- Group 2: Show me you love me (SMULM)
Many schools fall into this category. These schools want you to keep in touch and demonstrate your interest in the program while providing them with information that adds to their knowledge of you. For instance, Rush Medical College says, “Waitlisted applicants are encouraged to upload updates to the applicant portal throughout the cycle,” while the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine says, “We accept regular updates and strongly consider letters of intent or interest.” UC San Francisco, Washington University in St. Louis, and Loyola Stritch also belong to this group as of October 2023.
Obviously, no one, not even a school wanting to be courted, likes a pest, so even for these schools, don’t call daily, waste their time with long-winded missives, or take other actions that will cause them to question your judgment or sanity.
- Group 3: Coy (COY)
These are the schools that say they don’t want to be bothered, like the schools in Category 1, but they actually do want to know about major developments or are open to hearing from you on a limited basis. They are a little mealymouthed when saying, “Don’t call us,” but they certainly are less welcoming than the SMULM schools. Some, like Geisinger Commonwealth, limit the number of waitlist updates; UNC will only accept updates that it specifically requests; and others, such as Zucker at Hofstra Northwell, welcome letters from applicants after they’ve been waitlisted, but not before.
Make sure you know what your waitlisting school wants – and doesn’t want.
For the rest of this post, I will refer to the different categories of schools by the acronyms introduced.
Now, on to the mistakes.
Mistake #1: Ignoring the instructions you receive from the school
The waitlist letter politely indicates that your below-average MCAT score and GPA are a cause of concern. You do nothing.
Or the letter suggests that you take organic chemistry. You go skiing.
Or the letter says that the adcom doesn’t want to hear from you. You start calling them once a week.
You might as well send the school a balloon filled with confetti that says, “I do not follow instructions!”
Right move: Follow the directions contained in the correspondence telling you that you have been waitlisted. If the school says, “Jump!” you should ask, “How high?”
School instructions generally fall into two categories:
- Contact with the school while on the waitlist
- Discussion of weaknesses in your profile
Whatever your waitlisting school’s instructions are, you should follow them meticulously. This is easy if your school is a DCU or SMULM school. If they say to contact the waitlist manager, contact them! Find out whether there is anything you can do to improve your chances of moving from the waitlist to the accepted list. Ask about the waitlist procedure and when and how frequently the list will be reviewed and culled.
If your school is of the DCU variety, then just follow whatever instructions they provide about informing them that you want to stay on the waitlist.
When your school is COY, things are more complex and nuanced. Certainly follow the directions regarding contact, but you still want to convey certain messages. Just be careful not to overdo it. Yes, let them know of significant developments. If you are not sure whether a development is important enough to merit an email or letter, then either use your best judgment, consult your premed advisor, or consider emailing admissions to ask whether the adcom would like to know about your recently published article, community recognition, or EMT position. You can also ask your Accepted admissions consultant.
School instructions regarding deficiencies
This is pure gold – and almost as rare! In this case, the school tells you what you need to work on both for your waitlist effort and for a possible reapplication. For more details on what exactly you can do, see our discussion of Mistake #6. For now, though, just know that constructively responding to school feedback shows the adcom that you are improving your areas of weakness and are serious about the school.
Mistake #2: Being modest about recent achievements
This is not the time for false modesty, real modesty, or anything in between. Put any humility on hold – temporarily. (But remember that arrogance is always out of place.)
Right move: Convince the schools that you are a new and improved applicant.
Show them that your candidacy is even stronger than when you applied. Give the school(s) more reasons to select you by informing them of recent achievements, initiatives, and success stories.
Let SMULM schools know ASAP about accomplishments, changes, and new responsibilities since you applied. Throughout your tenure on the waitlist, you should periodically update the school or your waitlist manager, if you have one, on anything of interest. Again, accomplishments, promotions, research publications, great grades, increases in responsibility (even if not accompanied by a formal promotion), initiatives, community service, and personal achievements (i.e., completing your first marathon, performing in Europe) all merit an update.
Content to focus on
Focus your updates and letters of support on three areas:
- Your qualifications, specifically your recent achievements, research, clinical experience, increases in responsibility, and initiatives.
- Steps you have taken to ameliorate any weaknesses.
- Your fit with the school.
The first two areas demonstrate that you are an even better applicant today than you were when you applied. The third reveals that you fit at your target school like a hand fits a snug glove on a cold winter day, and that you will attend if, or should I say when, you are accepted.
Suggestions for a waitlist update
- Briefly thank the school for continuing to consider your application, and mention how the school’s philosophy and approach fit your educational preferences and goals. Don’t dwell on your disappointment at not being accepted.
- If relevant, agree to take any additional courses or follow any other instructions provided.
- Discuss recent achievements. Did you earn a 4.0 in the most recent quarter? Have you led a project or organization? Volunteered? Have you taken your department, business, or club in a new direction? Have you had an article published? Earned a patent? Launched a business? Received a promotion or assumed additional responsibility? Succeeded in a particularly demanding class or project? You should highlight any recent accomplishments not discussed in your application and ideally tie them back to some of the themes or experiences you raised in your essay(s).
- Discuss how you have addressed shortcomings – without highlighting them. For example, if you enrolled in Toastmasters to improve your communications skills, inform the adcom that you joined the group and when, tell them about any awards you have won, and enlighten them as to how much you are enjoying the experience. But don’t say that you are doing all this because you are concerned about your low verbal score or substandard grades in social science courses.
- If you are certain you would attend this school, make it clear to the adcom that it is your first choice and that you will enroll if accepted.
Keep the letter short and sweet – two pages max. Don’t succumb to the temptation to rewrite or even summarize your life history or essay(s). Stay focused on what you have accomplished since applying. And while frequent, relevant contact is a good tactic (see Mistake #5), even a good tactic can become damaging when abused. Don’t send the adcom nonsense or meaningless drivel. Don’t waste their time by writing when you have nothing to say. Don’t call daily. If you aren’t sure whether a development warrants an update, follow the instructions for handling COY schools under Mistake #1.
For COY and DCU schools, you will have to be more circumspect and rely more on your fan club (see Mistake #4) to convey the information you want the school to know. I’ll discuss tactics to address this situation later in this post.
Mistake #3: Hiding your genuine interest in the school and your fit with the school’s culture
You probably discussed your reasons for wanting to attend this school in your secondary essays and your interview.
Or, perhaps you aren’t really sure why you want to attend this school.
Or, perhaps you have been rejected everywhere else, so this is your last hope.
There’s no point in elaborating on your interest. Right? Wrong.
Right move: Reinforce the idea that this is the best school for you to achieve your goals.
While your qualifications relative to those of your peers are primary in admissions evaluations, “fit” is a major factor. The adcom members want to know that you will do well in their school not only academically but also in terms of the school’s culture and values. The last thing they want is to admit someone who will drop out – or graduate and later bad-mouth the school.
The adcom also wants to know that their program supports your goals for two additional reasons:
- If the school’s program and strengths support your goals, you will have an easier time matching for residency, which will make the school will look better overall. And yes, appearances count.
- The more the program supports your goals, the more likely you are to enroll, which would make the school’s “yield” go up, or at least not go down.
But wait… what is yield?
Yield refers to the percentage of accepted applicants who matriculate, and it plays a significant role in admissions. It is one measure of a school’s competitiveness and desirability, and of how well an adcom recruits and admits applicants. Adcoms, like all human organizations, want to look good.
So, for a host of reasons, it behooves you to demonstrate your fit with the school, repeatedly and in a variety of ways:
- Visit the school. If you haven’t taken a tour (in person or virtually), attended a class, and taken advantage of whatever else the school provides prospective students, then do so now, if at all feasible. Even if the school doesn’t weigh visits in making admissions decisions (and most do not), visiting campus is a concrete demonstration of interest. Furthermore, the visit provides you with material that you can include in an update, discussing how the visit or virtual event reinforced your interest in the school.
- Highlight your fit with SMULM schools in your letters and updates. When appropriate, relate your experiences and achievements to your reasons for wanting to attend your target med school. Grab the opportunity to discuss that relationship, and reinforce the idea that you really want to attend and will matriculate.
- Get letters of support from your fan club. A letter of support is typically a one- or two-page expression of someone’s endorsement of your candidacy. To be effective, these letters must add value to your application. They should not merely rehash your resume, earlier letters of recommendation, or your essays; they should inform the adcom of events that have taken place since you submitted your application or present another/new facet of you. As long as your school does not discourage additional letters from others, expressions of support should have two main goals:
- Discussing your qualifications and preferably adding new material or a new perspective on material you already presented
- Highlighting your fit with the school
And, as with letters of recommendation and essays, including specifics that illustrate and support claims will help persuade the admissions reader and add to the letter’s effectiveness. Claims that aren’t backed up with anecdotal evidence sound empty.
Mistake #4: Not seeking expressions of support
This misstep is very similar to Mistake #2. Now is not the time to sit around, hoping people will offer to help you. This is a time to get off your duff, network like mad, and…
Right move: Solicit expressions of support from your fan club.
Take the initiative so that the school receives a steady stream of substantive recommendations. Each one should add information about your qualifications, reinforce your fit with the program, and endorse your candidacy.
At an SMULM school, your fan club is helpful, but it can be critical at most DCU and COY schools for one simple reason: your fan club is not bound by the schools’ instructions. As fans, they want to help you, and they haven’t been told, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” Alumni and students of your waitlisting school, in particular, can attest to your fit and can also mention recent achievements in their letters of support, thus giving these schools – which would otherwise remain regrettably ignorant – more reasons to admit you.
So, who are the members of your “fan club”? They are friends, acquaintances, and professional colleagues who can write letters of support on your behalf.
- A+ fans
The best fans know you well, have worked with you, and are students at or recent alumni of your waitlisting school. They can attest to your strengths and accomplishments and reinforce that you have the attributes the school values by drawing from personal experience and using examples. These are your A+ fans.
- People with knowledge of the program
This group of fans primarily includes students and recent alumni but could also include research colleagues and professors. For instance, if your cousin’s girlfriend completed an MD or DO at your waitlisting school, call up your cousin, tell them about your waitlist news, and ask whether their girlfriend could help you out with a letter of support. Then meet your newfound supporter and tell her what you have been up to, emphasizing recent events and experiences that are not yet a part of your file. Give her your resume/CV and a synopsis of what you would like her to spotlight.
- People who know you well, either from work or a community service/nonprofessional setting
Peers, professors, physicians you have shadowed, and bosses can all submit additional letters of support for you. Your official recommenders can also update their recommendations with more recent material. If you are involved in a community service organization, sports group, club, church, political organization, or trade group, ask someone from this part of your life to write a letter of support on your behalf.
These people will probably know less about the waitlisting school than the students or recent alumni, so be sure to offer them some guidance with respect to the school’s values or the qualities you would like them to highlight. The AAMC’s list of Professional Competencies might be helpful for them to review before they sit down to write. These recommenders will usually be able to comment more on your interpersonal skills than on your academic qualifications, and that’s fine.
On the other hand, who should never contact a medical school for you, even if they really want to help you? Your parents and grandparents.
How to submit letters of support
If you have received instructions on how and to whom you should direct correspondence, follow those instructions. Be sure to pass these instructions along to any supporters who will be writing or calling on your behalf.
People who have connections at the schools should send their letter to their connections and cc the admissions office or waitlist manager. If your supporters are most comfortable making a phone call, let them. Remember, they will know better than you how to use their network.
Although your fan club isn’t bound by school instructions, if any of your waitlisting schools say they don’t want letters, don’t ignore this preference. Contact your waitlisting school to learn its specific policy. A number of top medical schools explicitly state that they won’t consider letters of support. If they don’t want them, don’t submit them.
How often to send updates
See Mistake #5.
Mistake #5: Planning a one-time deluge of correspondence… followed by deafening silence
By now, I’m sure you realize that passivity while on the waitlist is a recipe for rejection. So you might be itching to flood the adcom with follow-up materials, especially if you are trying to gain acceptance to a SMULM school. Resist that urge! You don’t want to dump wheelbarrows of mail on them, followed by total silence.
In fact, don’t dump anything on them at all.
Right move: Plan a campaign of steady, substantive contact.
You want to maintain contact, demonstrate interest, and keep your name in front of the adcom in a constructive and positive manner. Pursue the golden mean between poisonous passivity and nagging nuisance.
Depending on what time of year it is and what’s going on in your life, once a month is a good guideline. If you are waitlisted early – let’s say in November – your correspondence initially will be less frequent than if you are waitlisted in March. The waitlist shrinks much more quickly as the application season rolls on.
Here are a few sample schedules for hypothetical applicant profiles. You probably won’t match any of them exactly, but they should give you an idea of different factors to consider in developing your waitlist campaign.
Ali is waitlisted at an SMULM school in January. They have great stats but have worked as a lab assistant with little opportunity for leadership and minimal clinical exposure during the two years since they graduated from college. However, they recently became a team lead at work and started volunteering at a local organization that serves children with cancer. The following table outlines their plan.
Action Date* Target Date** Action
January 01 January 7 Respond with a waitlist letter to placement on the waitlist. Update school about new responsibilities and volunteer initiative. Inquire about ways to improve profile. Reiterate reasons for wanting to attend.
Jan 15 February 1 Ask boss to send a letter of support confirming new responsibilities and qualifications.
February 15 March 1 Ask Harry (who attends the med school) to write a letter of support.
February 20 March 1 Contact school about visiting in early March, or register for virtual event.
March 5 Visit school/attend virtual event. Meet with students on campus or virtually. Attend class. Take tour.
March 6 Send thank-you notes as appropriate to the tour guide and/or students who provided their email addresses.
March 7 April 1 Ask head of pediatric group to write letter of support referencing work with sick children.
Write adcom to highlight ways in which school visit confirmed interest in the school.
Write school and update them regarding success of community service and challenges of working with people from different cultures.
April 25 Ask colleague from work to write letter of support. Focus on interpersonal skills.
* Date applicant acts.
** Target date for others to carry out request.
Ali is accepted on May 10!
Robin is waitlisted on April 1 at a COY school. They served as captain of their NCAA team, participated actively in their Greek house, and worked part-time. Their grades show that they didn’t spend much time on their studies: 3.4 GPA overall; 3.2 in science courses. Their work experience is strong: they worked for four years at a biotech firm and have been a team lead on engagements in the United States and abroad. They also founded and serve on the board of a foundation that helps people suffering from a rare hearing disorder – one that afflicts their mother. They have a 517 MCAT score, evenly balanced. Their grades are clearly their Achilles heel. As a result, they have retaken organic chemistry and microbiology in the fall and spring semesters. They earned an A in organic chemistry this time and have As on microbio tests in their current course.
Action Date* Target Date** Action
April 7 Follow instructions for informing school they want to remain on waitlist.
April 10 April 15 Talk to supervisor about letter of support. Contact friend who is a student at COY, requesting letter.
April 20 Contact COY rep to ask whether academic news is something they would want to know about. Answer: Yes.
April 25 Send one-page letter to adcom informing them of academic progress and interest in this school.
May 15 June 1 Consider visiting school again.***
May 15 June 1 Talk to CEO of foundation about sending a letter of support.
June 1 June 15 Ask teammate to send letter of support focusing on teamwork skills.
June 1 June 10 Ask community college to forward transcript showing A grades in organic chemistry and microbiology. Enroll in genetics class for summer.
June 5 Send in requested update.***
June 10 June 25 Ask peer/COY school graduate to send letter of support.
* Date applicant acts.
** Target date for others to carry out request.
*** Robin decides against a second visit, because they already visited, and the adcom made it clear that they don’t want to meet applicants. Robin hears about a reception in their area aimed at next year’s applicants and decides to go to that event (June 3). There, they talk to an adcom member and mention a change in responsibilities. The adcom member asks for a written update.
On June 26, Robin hears that their name has been removed from the waitlist, but they are strongly encouraged to continue taking classes and reapply next year.
Charlie is waitlisted in May in the middle of their last set of finals. They have already been accepted to School Z but would rather attend the DCU school that has waitlisted them – unless they get an offer of financial aid from School Z. They have no obvious weaknesses in their profile and rich multicultural experience, having moved to the United States from Asia in their early teens. Charlie realizes they really need to make use of their fan club for this school, because the school has not commented on submitting letters of recommendation.
|Follow instructions informing school of desire to remain on waitlist.
|Ask close friend who is a student at the school to write a letter of support.
|Ask supervisor to send in additional recommendation.
|Ask colleague at not-for-profit where Charlie volunteers to send letter of support.
* Date applicant acts.
** Target date for others to carry out request.
On June 25, Charlie receives a letter from School Z with a substantial aid offer. They decide to attend School Z and request that the DCU waitlisting school remove their name from the waitlist.
Don’t treat these schedules as set in concrete. If you know when your school will cull its waitlist before a specific decision date – for instance, right after deposits are due from accepted applicants – you might want to submit an additional letter or update, even if one isn’t scheduled. If a supporter is a little late or early with a letter of support, don’t get overly upset. Just thank the writer and move on. The adcom doesn’t know your schedule.
Mistake #6: Failing to assess or act on an assessment of possible weaknesses in your candidacy
Let’s face it, being waitlisted means you’re qualified. The school wants you, just not as much as they want someone else. Because most schools evaluate applications on a holistic basis, and admissions is a highly subjective process, it is difficult to say definitively why someone is waitlisted. However, a waitlist decision generally results from a combination of the following factors:
- The school saw a deficiency in the applicant’s profile and would prefer that others enroll. In the event that those accepted applicants do not accept the school’s offer of admission, the school will offer someone a spot. (You want this offer to come to you!)
- The application was poorly executed. Failure to clarify one’s reasons for wanting to enter medicine or attend the target school are among the most common execution errors.
- There are many accomplished applicants with similar profiles, and the adcom can’t admit them all. The frontrunner(s) was (were) waitlisted.
In targeting your response to your waitlist status, you need to know where you stand.
Right move: Assess the reasons for being waitlisted and respond accordingly.
Again, if you are lucky enough to receive feedback and direction from your waitlisting school, you have your marching orders. Follow them. This is simple and straightforward. While following these instructions, also provide information about new achievements, fit, and so on to ensure that you are handling all possibilities.
However, if you don’t receive any guidance – which is much, much more common – then you must do your own assessment (or ask for our assistance). You need to assess what combination of the three listed factors contributed to your waitlist status.
Weaknesses in your profile
When your GPA and/or MCAT score are at the bottom end of or below the school’s 80% range, those numbers probably contributed to your waitlist status. You need to address the weakness(es) through additional coursework, a higher MCAT score, and/or a demonstration of the relevant skills in some other way.
A low MCAT score is tough to mitigate. Presumably, if you increased your score in August, the school already knows. You can retake the MCAT in September, but the results come out so late that they are of little benefit to your waitlist campaign. Still, they could help a possible reapplication effort.
Additional coursework – earning A grades in those courses – is really your only hope when there is a concern about your academic stats. Retaking science courses in which you performed poorly can mitigate low grades or perhaps even a less-than-hoped-for score in one area of the MCAT.
If you believe that your extracurricular activities are qualitatively less than compelling, you need to highlight recent activities that will change that perception. You can also coach your fan club to highlight achievements that counter any perception of weakness.
Problems in execution
If your stats and volunteer/work experience are competitive, look at your essays, recommendations, and resume. They might have kept you from receiving an acceptance notification, and now is the time to fix any problems in these areas. If you failed to clarify your reasons for wanting to go into medicine or for seeking acceptance to this particular program, the waitlist gives you a second chance to do so. Grab it. Certainly for SMULM schools, make sure the reader of your waitlist correspondence knows exactly why you would attend the school and how it will help you achieve your goals.
Finally, if you are confident that you are competitive and your application presented you well, but you are a member of an overrepresented group in medicine, realize that the school simply cannot admit every applicant like you and end up with a diverse student body. You should stress your high level of achievement and interest in the program. If you have unusual experiences, hobbies, or interests that you neglected to mention, let the school know about them so that you can earn a few diversity points.
Mistake #7: Complaining to the school about the agony of being waitlisted
Don’t wax eloquent about the pain and shock of being waitlisted, the agony of a pseudo-rejection, or the embarrassment of telling your friends and colleagues. And for heaven’s sake, don’t even think for a second that the adcom made an incredibly stupid, unthinkable mistake because you’re God’s gift to the medical community!
Right move: Thank the adcom for its continued consideration.
Period. End of story. Move on. Discuss your qualifications, fit, and so on instead.
Mistake #8: Providing hyperbolic apologies for weaknesses or mistakes
Why bother with an exaggerated apology? All that overblown apology will do is shine a spotlight on your flaws and failings.
Right move: Stress the positive.
I have encouraged you throughout this blog post to address weaknesses in your profile. At the same time, you don’t want to draw undue attention to those imperfections. Am I contradicting myself? No. You need to address weaknesses and stress strengths – without emphasizing the negative.
For example, if you scored 125 on the biology section of the MCAT, have a liberal arts background, and took the minimum premed requirements in college, earning a 3.2 in those classes, don’t start apologizing for your “weak” science foundation. Without mentioning the MCAT score or your mediocre performance in undergrad science courses, say that you have enrolled in a genetics class to prepare for medical school. Oh, and for the same reasons, you retook organic chemistry last fall and just found out that you earned an A.
If for some reason you must refer to a negative, don’t exaggerate it. I recently read an essay in which the applicant went on and on about his “dismal grades” and “dreadful performance.” This is not the place for inflated language. Minimalism, please. Similarly, don’t refer to your “lengthy absence from volunteering.” If you must refer to an “absence,” limit it to that word alone, or better yet, simply tell the adcom that you just started volunteering or shadowing a physician – or anything else without reference to the gap and the negative.
Mistake #9: Playing “hard to get”
If you think you can impress your waitlisting schools by telling them that you have other offers or suitors, you are sorely mistaken. Such a tactic can backfire completely.
If School B hears that you have been accepted at School A, the School B adcom might become concerned that you would prefer School A, which means that accepting you could hurt School B’s yield. Alternatively, they might believe that their school is higher ranked or more desirable for any number of reasons and resent your ploy as an unwelcome pressure tactic showing a lack of judgment. Again, trying to play one school off another is completely counterproductive.
Right move: Only inform your waitlisting school of other acceptances if you are at a point where you will remove your name from the list if you don’t receive an acceptance.*
When time has passed and you have reached a point of no return, or are close to it, you have nothing to lose by approaching the school. You have made your best effort, and time has marched on. You must commit to one school or the other.
Because you will accept the offer of admission at the first school if you don’t hear positively from the second/waitlisting school and would prefer to attend the latter, contact the admissions office. With humility and modesty, explain your situation. Ask the human being on the other end of the line if they can help you.
The adcom member might say, “I’m sorry. I appreciate your situation, but we don’t have a spot for you now and won’t be evaluating the waitlist again for another two weeks.” If that’s the case, thank them for their time, and accept the offer to attend the other school.
On the other hand, the adcom member might say, “We met this morning, and you’re in!” Or, “We are meeting this afternoon. Can I call you after we meet?” In this case, your phone call paid off.
* If the school asks you directly whether you have been waitlisted or accepted at other schools, answer the question honestly.
In all cases, follow AAMC’s Traffic Rules, and use the Choose Your Medical School Tool wisely.
The right moves
Now that we’ve reviewed the nine waitlist mistakes, let’s take a moment to review the nine things you should do as a waitlisted med school applicant:
- Follow the directions contained in the correspondence telling you that you have been waitlisted. If the school says, “Jump!” you should ask, “How high?”
- Convince the schools that you are a new and improved applicant.
- Reinforce the idea that this is the best school for you to achieve your goals.
- Solicit expressions of support from your fan club.
- Plan a campaign of steady, substantive contact.
- Assess the reasons for being waitlisted and respond accordingly.
- Thank the adcom for its continued consideration.
- Stress the positive.
- Only inform your waitlisting school of other acceptances if you are at a point where you will remove your name from the list if you don’t receive an acceptance.
Accepted’s admissions experts are ready to help you get off the waitlist and into the med school of your dreams. We’ll help you identify areas you can highlight in your waitlist letter, assist with strategy, and support you in editing your letter so you can be sure it makes the best possible case for your admission. Check out our waitlist services, and let’s get started.
Since 2001, Cydney Foote has advised hundreds of successful applicants for medical and dental education, residency and fellowship training, and other health-related degrees. Admissions consulting combines her many years of creating marketing content with five years on fellowship and research selection committees at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She’s also shared her strategy for impressing interviewers in a popular webinar and written three books and numerous articles on the admissions process. Want Cydney to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!