Waitlisted for Medical School

Applicants who have been waitlisted for medical school have two main questions:

  • What are my chances of acceptance from the waitlist?
  • What should I do now?

The answer to the first varies widely depending upon the school. Some schools fill much of their class with applicants from the waitlist, while for other schools, the chances of admission are slimmer. Complicating the situation is the fact that a school that dug deep into its waitlist one year may have another year during which there is little movement on the waitlist. In addition, some waitlists are ranked, with applicants assigned a number and receiving an offer in order as spots open up. Other lists however, are unranked, meaning that the committee has a list of alternates that they can choose from when a position opens up, but there is no pre-assigned ranking, or they may use a looser system consisting of groupings with more competitive applicants together in a “high hold” category. While some schools give specific information about an applicant’s position on the list, many do not reveal specific details regarding waitlists. You can inquire with the admissions office, but be prepared for the possibility that the school will not release information about the list.

While the very word “waitlist” implies that your role is limited to checking your e-mail and voicemail obsessively for word from the school, there are steps you can take in the coming weeks and months that may help your case. Specifically, keep the school apprised of your latest activities and achievements by sending an update letter and use that letter as an opportunity to reiterate your reasons for wanting to attend the school.  A new shadowing experience, award, publication or research project are examples of information to give the school. You do not have to wait until you have a major achievement; you can focus on new developments that are part of existing activities, such as rotating through a different department in a volunteer position. The letter, in addition to apprising the school of your accomplishments, will help to demonstrate that you are actively interested in the school. While most schools accept such letters and may even encourage them, occasionally a school will state that they do not want to receive additional information. In that case, respect the school’s wishes and do not send a letter.

Since admissions offices are extremely busy, using written communication is often the most effective strategy and also helps ensure that the new information will end up in your file. However, there are times when a phone call to the office of admissions is appropriate, such as when you have a question that requires the type of immediate back and forth discussion that can be most easily achieved verbally.  Try to  limit your calls to no more than about once a month if you are calling only to check on your status.

If you are waitlisted early in the cycle, it can get discouraging as the months go by. However, keep in mind that there is often not much movement of the waitlist until May 15, at which time applicants are only supposed to be holding one acceptance. By that date, applicants with multiple acceptances need to relinquish additional spots they are holding, which frees up places in the class. Schools usually fill those spots from the waitlist and some waitlists continue to move until the day class begins.  Not getting in immediately does not necessarily equate with not getting in at all. That call could come at anytime, so while you might need to make some plans for “just in case” don’t give up hope – after the seemingly endless waiting the good news may finally arrive.
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For help with your medical school application from an M.D. and experienced admissions advisor contact Dr. Eaton at (626) 768-2154 or info@prehealthadvising.com to schedule a  free 20 minute phone consultation.

1 thought on “Waitlisted for Medical School”

  1. I have made plans to work on a Public Health project in Africa and India over the next year. I thought that I would be able to defer should I get off the wait list (on at 2 schools), but I just got confirmation that I couldn’t. What would you suggest I do in this situation. Stick it out?

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