Guide to Update Letters and Letters of Intent

A few months into the application cycle, you’re getting anxious to hear back from medical schools. You might be wondering how to let schools know they’re your top choice or that you improved your application. This guide will tell you about the different types of letters you might send a school mid- or late-cycle, when to send them (if at all), and what to include. 

What are Update Letters and Letters of Intent?

The most common types of letters you might hear other students talk about sending are update letters, letters of intent, and letters of interest. An update letter provides more information to improve your application. The improvement might be new coursework or a substantial project through one of your extracurriculars. Updates or letters of intent are most useful after a school has interviewed you. Appropriate updates before an interview might include a new MCAT score or a solid semester that might affect your GPA. Anything that’s more of the same or an activity that you just started isn’t worth sending a letter about, in my opinion, especially to schools that only accept limited communication. 

Letters of Interest

Some students will also ask about sending a letter of interest, but in my opinion, your application is your letter of interest. The time and money you spend filling out and submitting your primary application and all of your secondaries are more than enough to show medical schools how interested you are in attending their school. Sending letters of interest is just a way to create more work for yourself in an already overwhelming process. Letters of interest also don’t give you the best potential, if any, return on investment. 

When to Send a Letter of Intent

Letters of intent hold the most power after your interview and can be used even if another school has already accepted you. The key thing to keep in mind is that you should only send a letter of intent to one school because what you are saying in the letter is that if they admit you, you will attend this particular school. Whether you send your letter through a portal, email, or physical mail will depend on the school. The school’s website should give you the information to decide how best to communicate with them. If you have an update that didn’t warrant a pre-interview letter or the school doesn’t accept them, you can add it to your letter of intent. Still, keep the letter short and sweet. 

A letter of intent holds more sway than a letter of interest and can influence your acceptance because each year, medical schools will accept more students than they have seats. They do this knowing that some percentage of the students will reject their seats for many reasons. Students sending letters of intent gives the school a concrete idea of which students will matriculate if accepted and which students might attend another school instead. This is why it’s a good idea to let schools know your decision as soon as possible if you’re lucky enough to receive multiple acceptances. It lets the school know they have room to accept more students. 

The Big Picture

None of these letters are required, and some schools don’t accept them. The key things to keep in mind are always checking a school’s policy, making sure you don’t write another school’s name in your letter. Don’t feel like you have to send letters or emails to a school just because they accept them. When you reach out to a school, you should have a purpose, like asking a specific question or adding to your application in some way. It’s okay if you don’t have anything to add to your application mid-cycle. You’ve already put so much effort in to get to this point, and all you can do is hope that at least one school will decide that you’re a good fit for their next class of students. 

More Links and Resources

Check Schools’ Websites for Policies

The Premed Playbook Guide to the Application Process has more information on when and how to communicate with medical schools.

Guide to the Medical School Waitlist