Student creating a medical school letter of intent

How to Craft the Perfect Medical School Letter of Intent

July 5, 2021
Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. What is a Medical School Letter of Intent?Part 3. Purpose of a Medical School Letter of IntentPart 4. What to Include in a Letter of IntentPart 5. What to Avoid in a Letter of IntentPart 6. Medical School Letter of Intent ExamplePart 7. FAQsPart 8. Conclusion

Introduction

Medical school letters of intent are important documents in the medical school admissions process. They allow you to demonstrate your eagerness to be admitted to a particular medical program. A strong, well-written medical school letter of intent can influence an admissions committee to extend an offer of admission to you.

This article will explain what a medical school letter of intent is, its purpose, what to include and what to leave out, and address some of the most commonly asked questions about medical school letters of intent.

What is a Medical School Letter of Intent?

A medical school letter of intent is a document written by you that states you will accept an admissions offer should one be made to you. It expresses your interest in that particular medical school over all other schools, so you should only send one of these letters to your top choice of school. 

A letter of intent consists of a few basic components, such as a clear statement of interest, why you want to attend the school, and your interest in faculty research or other work opportunities available through the medical school. As Princeton University noted, a letter of intent is also generally a short, one-page document, so you must consider carefully what is most pertinent to include.

Purpose of a Medical School Letter of Intent

The purpose of a medical school letter of intent is to very clearly express your intention to attend your #1 choice medical school, should they send you an offer of admission. It should also reiterate why you want to attend the school.

A letter of intent can be a strong addition to your application at your top choice of medical school. Not only does it express your interest in a particular school over all others, but it also demonstrates to the admissions committee your dedication to the school and desire to contribute to the program in a positive manner.

Although writing a letter of intent to your first choice of school will not necessarily give you a shoe-in, it could make your application more competitive and help it to stand out. Medical schools want to be able to predict their yield rates; meaning, out of all the applicants they admit, how many will actually end up attending (matriculating) the school.

This is easiest to do when they admit applicants who express a strong interest in the school. Predicting matriculation rates allows medical schools to adjust their tuition depending on whether their yield rates increase or decrease. High yield rates also make medical schools more competitive, and therefore more selective about who they choose to admit.

That said, every little bit helps when it comes to getting into highly competitive schools, especially when you consider that roughly only 41% of applicants get into the prestigious American medical schools. A letter of intent can help you stand out among the other people who also applied to your top choice of school.

A letter of intent can be sent when one of two scenarios happens during your medical school application process. You can send a letter of intent when you have finished all or most of your medical school interviews, including your interview at your #1 choice of school.

You can also send a letter of intent when you have been waitlisted at your top school after completing your interview.


What to Include in a Letter of Intent

According to Dr. Yoo Jung Kim, a letter of intent should begin with a clearly articulated statement of your intent to attend the medical school should they accept you. This is what should be in the opening paragraph of your letter of intent. Accompanying this statement should be a short introduction of yourself and the date of your interview, so the admissions committee member(s) reading it can locate your file.

The second section of your letter of intent should outline the main reasons why this school is your top choice. What about the school makes you want to go there? What sets it apart from other medical schools? Why would attending this program set you up for success, both academically and professionally? Your answers to these questions will provide the details you need to craft this section of your letter of intent.

Dr. Kim also recommends including your interest in the research and work opportunities the medical school offers to its students. If there is a faculty member conducting research that interests you and you would like to work with them, or if there are on-campus work opportunities in medical settings you want to work in, this should be included in this section. As with the previous section, explain why you want to be involved in the opportunity or opportunities offered by the medical school.

Lastly, describe what you will bring to the program. As Dr. Kim wrote, this can include your research and leadership experience. New publications you are lead author or co-author on and new volunteer work experiences are key pieces of information you should be sure to include in the letter of intent you write to your dream medical school.

According to Dr. Sarah Carlson, a vascular surgery resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, volunteer work is especially impressive to admissions committees, so if you have started volunteering at a new organization since your interview, it is a good idea to mention that in your letter of intent.

A medical school letter of intent is also a space for you to provide relevant updates about your personal, academic, and professional life since your interview. As previously stated by Dr. Kim and Dr. Carlson, these can include new research or volunteer experiences.

Be sure to only include experiences that are relevant and will bolster your application. These should also be relevant to what you wrote about in your primary and secondary applications, and what you discussed in your interview.

Top medical schools such as Harvard, Case Western, UC Davis, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and many more view your community work and lived experiences as fundamentally important as academic performance has always been viewed. This makes it all the more important to include new work experiences and its relevance to the medical school in your letter of intent.

The letter of intent is another opportunity for you to make a good impression on the medical school admissions committee, so it is crucial to display your professionalism throughout your letter. However, refrain from going into a ton of detail in this letter — again, it should only be a page long, so concision is key.

Your letter should also be addressed to the head of the admissions committee, so be sure to do your research to find out who you should send it to. One way to find the correct individual’s name and title(s) is through MSAR. If you connected well with one of your interviewers, Princeton says you may also include them when you send your letter of intent.

What to Avoid in a Letter of Intent

There are a few things to avoid when writing your letter of intent. To reiterate, a letter of intent should only be sent to a school if it is truly your top choice. Do not send multiple letters to multiple schools with the intention to receive multiple offers of admission. Doing so will reflect badly on you, and as Dr. Kim pointed out, medical schools talk to each other and it could be found out that you sent out letters of intent to more than one school. 

Additionally, sending multiple letters of intent is viewed as a dishonest and unethical practice. A letter of intent is you making a promise to attend a school, and it is not possible for you to fulfill that promise if you send a letter of intent to more than one school. A letter of intent demonstrates your commitment to a school and you cannot be committed to multiple medical schools.

As a general rule of thumb, a letter of intent should be about one page in length. Avoid stuffing your letter with information the admissions committee will have already learned about you from your interview. You want your letter of intent to be short and to the point.

The letter of intent will leave an impression on the admissions committee, and therefore should be free of grammatical, punctuational, and syntactical errors. It would be beneficial to you to have a trained professional review your completed letter of intent before you send it.

Though letters of intent are common, it is important to look into the specific policy of the school to which you wish to send them. As Johns Hopkins University notes, some schools do not want applicants to send letters of intent at all, and if your school is one of them, do not send them an unwanted letter as it may do more harm than good to your application.

Medical schools who do accept letters of intent sometimes have different methods of accepting them. Some schools may request letters of intent be sent through traditional mail, via email to a specific address, or may even have a space to upload them to the application portal. t is important to look into where you should send your letter of intent. Incorrectly sending your letter may reflect poorly on you.

The format of your letter also matters. Written text may be the only requirement for a letter of intent that you upload to the school’s portal, but emailed letters require additional considerations. Emailed letters should be added as an attachment to the email. PDF is the safest file type to use for your letter, as they are easy to open on all types of devices and your formatting won’t change.

If, for example, you write your letter using the newest version of Microsoft Office but the Dean of Admissions opens your doc. formatted letter in an older version of Microsoft Office, some elements may shift around and your letter won’t appear the way you thought it would.

Medical School Letter of Intent Example

This is Dr. Kim’s example of a sample letter of intent

Dear [name of the dean of admission]:

My name is Yoo Jung Kim. I am a medical school applicant who interviewed at the Stanford University School of Medicine this past October, and now that I have completed my interview season, I would like to express that Stanford is my No. 1 choice.

Stanford will allow me to pursue my goal of becoming a skilled physician-investigator through its resources in biomedical research and patient care. I am particularly drawn to Dr. X’s work on pancreatic cancer, and I hope to contribute my experience in pathway analysis to further the field of cancer development research by taking a research year through Stanford's MedScholars program. Furthermore, the Stanford Cardinal Free Clinics and the educational opportunities at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center will give me the skills to take care of underserved patients. Ultimately, I hope to become an academic physician that Stanford will be proud to call its own.

Finally, I would like to provide a list of peer-reviewed publications to which I have been accepted since I submitted my medical school application:

Julia M. Chandler, Yoo Jung Kim, Justin L. Bauer, Irene L. Wapnir "Dilemma in Management of Hemorrhagic Myositis in Dermatomyositis,” Rheumatology International, 12/23/2019.

Yoo Jung Kim, Gun Ho Lee, Bernice Y. Kwong, Kathryn J. Martires, "Evidence-based, Skin-directed Treatments for Cutaneous Chronic Graft-versus-host Disease," Cureus, 12/25/2019.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,

Yoo Jung Kim

AAMC ID: [#######]

FAQs

1. At what point in the application process should I send a letter of intent?

It is best to send a letter of intent after you have had your interview with your first choice of school, and have completed the majority of your interviews with other medical schools. This way, you can be sure your #1 choice is still at the top of your list.

Alternatively, you can also send a letter of intent when your top school has notified you that you have been waitlisted. Demonstrating interest in that particular school may improve your chance of receiving an offer of admission should other applicants choose to decline their admissions offers.

Medical schools are more receptive to letters of intent that are sent closer to the end of the interview season because it better demonstrates the interest a student has in attending a specific school and the careful consideration the student has taken in making this decision. Sending it too soon after your interview or after you have been waitlisted can come across as you seeming desperate rather than genuinely interested, and will not make an admissions committee more likely to accept you.

2. Can I send a letter of intent before I’ve had my interview?

It’s best to wait until after your interview to send a letter of intent. Your interview experience will give you a very good idea of whether the program is still your top choice.

If you have a poor experience with your interviewers but have already sent a letter of intent, you may end up in a position where you have to decline an admission offer that you previously said you would accept. This will not reflect well on you, so it’s best to wait until you have at least had your interview.

3. If my top choice of school does not want a letter of intent, should I send one anyway to show I want to go there?

No, it is unwise to send a letter of intent to a school that states they do not want to receive this type of correspondence. It would reflect badly on you in the same way that sending out multiple letters of intent would.

4. Why should I send a letter of intent if I am on a waitlist?

Sending a letter of intent after being placed on the waitlist of your top school will demonstrate your ongoing interest in attending that school. If you send a letter of intent after being waitlisted, it will show the school you still want to go there, and may increase your chance of receiving an offer of admission later on.

5. Can I email my letter of intent, or should it be sent via snail mail?

Normally letters of intent are sent using the postal service, but email submissions of letters of intent are becoming more common, so it is important to check with the school prior to sending your letter.

6. Should I go into detail about all the reasons that make me a strong candidate for their medical school in my letter of intent?

No. The letter of intent is not an appropriate space to recap all of your achievements and all the reasons why the school should accept you. Only include new updates that have occurred since your interview and since you submitted your primary and secondary applications, along with a concise statement of why you are a good fit for the school.

Conclusion

Letters of intent are important documents that, if crafted thoughtfully and with care, can have a positive impact on your application to your dream medical school. A letter of intent should be short and only contain the most pertinent information that will set you apart from other applicants.

If you have questions about medical school letters of intent, contact us here and we can help.

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