how to write a medical school letter of intent

How to Write a Medical School Letter of Intent that Will Stand Out

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke

To write a medical school letter of intent, you’ll need to do the following:

1. Use a formal template.

2. Clearly state where you’re applying, why you’re writing, and your intent to attend the school.

3. Express why you’re an ideal candidate and why you’ve chosen this school.

4. Write concisely.

how to write a medical school letter of intent

If you’ve found your dream medical school, a medical school letter of intent is an important part of the application process.  This letter, sent to your preferred school, is a way to inform the admissions committee that you will attend the program, if accepted.  It expresses your enthusiasm and reiterates why you’re an ideal fit.

The writing process can be daunting, though.  The good news is that you don’t need any special skill to learn how to write a medical school letter of intent.  You just need professional formatting, passion, and an ability to proofread. Read on to learn how to write a medical school letter of intent as well as see an example letter of intent that you can reference for writing your own! 

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Step-by-Step Guide: How to Write a Medical School Letter of Intent

In some ways, a medical school letter of intent is similar to a resume; it should only take up a single page, be as concise as possible, and highlight your interests.  Like a resume, a letter of intent includes details that separate you from other candidates.  By using your words wisely, you communicate more clearly and save the admissions committee’s time.

These are the main things to keep in mind when putting together your letter:

Formatting for Your Medical School Letter of Intent

Formal Greeting

Like all letters, the first part is the greeting.  Use the formal opener “Dear…”

Paragraph 1

This paragraph is your introduction.  You’ll identify yourself, name the university, explain why you’re writing, and explain your intent to attend.

Paragraph 2

This paragraph will outline your reasons for choosing the school.  You’ll discuss your goals, achievements, and the aspects of the program and school culture that appeal.

Paragraph 3

This optional paragraph includes any important updates to your application, such as job offers, school acceptances, or new achievements.


This paragraph restates your interest and thanks the reader for their attention.


You’ll sign with a closing phrase and your name.  For US applicants, you’ll also include your AAMC ID number.

Read More: How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for Yourself

Steps to Write Your Letter of Intent

1. Open the letter with a formal greeting.

The letter will begin with a formal greeting.

You may be tempted to use “To Whom It May Concern.”  However, this is an antiquated form of address.  It’s also impersonal.

One of the most important aspects of the letter of intent is the personalization.  You need to illustrate that you’ve taken the time to research this specific school.  As such, you should use the name of the head of the admissions committee.

Use a formal address such as, “Dear Dr. John Smith.”  Follow this with the person’s formal title and the name of the university.

The entire address line should look something like:

Dear Dr. John Smith, Admissions Committee Director, ABC University,

If you leave out any of these details, it may look like you don’t care enough about the school to research the person you’re corresponding with.  Personal addresses go a long way toward making your letter stand out.

2. Write the first paragraph.

The first paragraph functions as your introduction.  A person should be able to read your first paragraph and understand exactly who you are, why you’re writing, and why you want to be accepted to this school.  It should also indicate that you will attend the program if accepted.

Some of the important information to include is:

“My name is X.  I am a current applicant for X Program at X University.  I was thrilled by what I saw when I interviewed with X Individual on Date of Interview.  I would like to inform you that I have a strong preference for your school above all others to which I’ve applied.  My most concrete goals are X Endeavors, and I believe X Details about your program overlap with them.  If I am accepted into this program, I will be attending.  I have been accepted into X and Y Institutions, but believe the culture and priorities of your school better suit my needs.”

This gives the admissions director all of the information they need to look up both your application and notes about your interview.  Other acceptances show that you’re a competitive candidate who is sought by other schools.  The details about campus culture and curriculum help to show why you’ll fit well with the existing student body.

By stating your intent to join the program, you inform the admissions committee that you’re passionate about your potential acceptance.  The more passionate students are, the more likely they are to be successful.  Universities prefer to accept students who care about their admission.

3. Write the second paragraph.

The second paragraph is your opportunity to explain your passion in more detail.  In the introduction, you’ll make broad statements about how the program intersects with your personal goals.  In this paragraph, you’ll show them how.

There are two main components to the second paragraph: your reasons for choosing the school, and the reasons you’re an ideal candidate.

One of the most important things to remember is to provide examples.  The more concrete examples you have, the more you’ll stand out from the crowd.  Vague language like, “I like the laid-back culture,” or, “I care about providing quality patient care,” isn’t helpful.  Focus on things that separate you from other applicants.  

Everyone wants to provide quality patient care – how are you different from other students?  What is it about this program that appeals to you?  Why is this program better than the others you’ve explored?  Concrete details are vital.

Some examples of details you can provide about the program include:

  • You care about the priorities of the school because there is a strong focus on your area of medicine or your preferred type of patient.
  • You believe the academic curriculum aligns more with your specific interests than that of other schools.
  • You believe the school has hands-on clinical opportunities that will offer experience you cannot find elsewhere.
  • You are passionate about certain research projects that the school has pioneered, sponsored, or worked on.

Some concrete details about your candidacy include:

  • You have done volunteer work in specific areas related to your interest.
  • You have worked in clinical or research settings under the direction of specific doctors or professors.
  • You have been given job offers in areas related to the healthcare field or the program’s core areas of study.
  • You have certain life experiences that make you passionate about healthcare.
  • Your academic work has been praised, highly graded, or published.
  • You are interested in pursuing research or healthcare positions that will be easier to achieve with this program than with others.

Avoid generic statements that could come from any applicant.  The goal here is to set yourself apart as an individual who will do the work and be an asset if accepted into the program.  You want to illustrate that you’ll work for the school just as much as the school works for you.

3. Write an optional update paragraph.

The third paragraph is where you’ll offer any updates to your application.  Since you already mentioned other acceptances in your introduction, you don’t need to repeat them here.  Instead, you can highlight things like:

  • You have received a new job offer since you applied.
  • Your academic or research work is being published in a professional capacity.
  • You have been given a new internship or research opportunity due to outstanding work in an existing program.
  • You have begun volunteering or working in a new healthcare setting.

Avoid re-stating things that are already in your application.  For example, if you’ve been published but already told the admissions board about the upcoming publication, you don’t need to tell them about the piece.  You don’t need to mention if your grades have improved or remained steady, as steady academic work is a baseline expectation.

If you’ve accrued more volunteer hours in the same setting from your original application, you also don’t need to send an update: It’s assumed that you will keep volunteering during your free time.  But if you’ve diversified your volunteering, you can mention your new projects.

This is not a time for pointing out any potential flaws in your original application.  It’s just a place to build on your existing strengths.

4. Create a strong conclusion.

Your conclusion will restate your interest, the purpose of the letter, and the basic reason for your passion.  It doesn’t need all the details of your introduction.  Instead, it should be short and quick.

Emphasize that you will attend the program, if accepted, and that the program is your top choice because of your specific interests.

Then, thank the reader for their consideration and time.  They will be taking time outside of a normal application review to read this.  It’s important that you show appreciation, as failing to do so may make you seem entitled or rude.

5. Sign the letter.

Use a formal closure and sign with your name.  For US applicants, you should also include your AAMC ID number, as this makes it much easier to find your application.

Some examples of formal closures include:

  • Regards,
  • Best wishes,
  • All the best,
  • Thanks again,
  • Sincerely,

Your choice of closure should be respectful but friendly. See more formal letter closure ideas here

6. Proofread your work.

The last step is to proofread your work.  You’re showcasing your appeal as a candidate, so it’s important that your letter is concise and typo-free.  All words should be spelled correctly, all sentences should be concise, and all grammar should be impeccable.

You can be an excellent student and still struggle with communicating your ideas on paper.  One option is to bring the draft to your school’s writing center.  The people there can offer more assistance.  A fresh set of eyes will help you detect any potential issues that you might miss yourself.

In addition to checking the spelling and grammar, you should also check the flow.  Are the sentences easy to understand?  Are the structures varied?  Do you communicate everything you need to?  Are there any run-on sentences?  Do you repeat any information unnecessarily?

These are some tips for editing a medical school letter of intent:

  • Make sure that each sentence clearly communicates a single idea.
  • Vary your sentence structure – try not to start multiple sentences in a row with “I.”
  • Remove generic language and sentiments that could come from any applicant.
  • Name the programs, clinics, internships, experts, and other specific projects you’re involved in.
  • Read the letter aloud to be sure that the sentences flow properly.
  • Double-check that you’ve included everything, such as the formal greeting, date of your interview, name of the program, and application ID number.
  • Try not to repeat details, as this wastes both page space and the reader’s time.
  • Make sure that your conclusion is concise, clear, and confident.
  • Emphasize your strengths and don’t focus on weaknesses or areas of improvement.
  • Use a different font while editing, as this makes it easier to catch typos and grammatical issues.

If you’re not sure how to do all of this, your school’s writing center can help.  It’s a good idea to get outside feedback, since this can only make your letter stronger.  Outside help also illustrates how much you care about making a good impression.

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Letter of Intent Medical School Example

Dear Dr. Eliza Wong, Director of Admissions, Medical University,

My name is Jane Doe.  I am currently applying to Medical University’s Specific School of Medicine.  I was overjoyed to visit the school, learn about the campus culture, and discuss how my personal goals overlap with the medical program’s endeavors when I interviewed with Dr. James Paddington on October 1, 2019.  I am writing to inform you that I would prefer to attend your institution above all other options, and to update my application.  As I am passionate about bringing healthcare to underinsured groups, and as I have done volunteer work with poor communities while physician shadowing, I am pleased by your school’s healthcare priorities.  If accepted into the program, I will undoubtedly attend.  I have received other acceptance offers from Medicine School and Prestigious Academy, but I feel that your institution more strongly matches my future goals as a healthcare provider.

I first became interested in working as a physician when doing volunteer work for underinsured elderly people as a teenager.  As my application states, I currently volunteer in downtown Philadelphia at a clinic designed for uninsured patients.  This has made me even more familiar with the complex healthcare needs of poor individuals, and I’ve become passionate about providing people the preventative care they need.  By working closely with Dr. Emma Jenner, I’ve met patients from all walks of life.  I want to provide care for those who are often left behind by our current healthcare system.  After I have finished school, I want to run a similar clinic for underprivileged individuals.  Since Medical University focuses so strongly on education regarding systemic inequality, I believe that the coursework, campus organizations, and clinical practice will help me further this goal.  Other universities cannot compare.

To update my existing application, it’s important to note that I was recently informed that my essay, Title About the Content, is being published in Scientific Journal.  It will appear in the December 2020 issue.  Next semester, I will also be doing research assistance in Dr. Jenner’s lab to further the insights into this topic.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I hope that you will allow me to become part of your school’s community.  Because your institution has so much to offer, I will certainly accept.  Please contact me if I can provide any other helpful information.

All the best,

Jane Doe

AAMC ID #123456

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FAQ: Medical School Letters of Intent

When should I send the letter?

The letter of intent should be sent one month after your school interviews.  This gives you time to tour other schools and determine your top choice.  It also gives the school time to review your application without taking so long that program decisions will be finalized.

It’s especially important to send the letter early if you’re on a waitlist.  Different schools have different approaches to their waitlists.  For many, if you send a letter of intent, you’ll be moved to the top of the waitlist.

This is because the administrators know that you will accept an invitation, so they don’t have to worry about another waitlist candidate rejecting the offer.  It’s important for administrators to fill their programs.  More students mean more income for the school.

Even if you haven’t been waitlisted at your top school, you can still write a letter of intent.

Writing after you’ve done several interviews helps to boost your case.  It shows that you’ve considered other available options and concluded that this school is the best fit.  By looking at other schools, you demonstrate that you’re serious about attending medical school and that this institution is different.

In job interviews, people are often encouraged to send a thank you email immediately after the interview.  But it’s better to give yourself a few weeks of consideration with your letter of intent.  This shows that you’ve given mature thought to the issue.  You’ve arrived at a logical conclusion, and you won’t be hasty in your decision-making.

If you send your letter before you’ve given your interview, the action may reflect poorly.  You haven’t had a chance to consider everything you learn about the campus during your visit.  Such an action can make you look desperate, anxious, or flighty.

Even sending the letter directly after the review can reflect poorly.  Doing this indicates that you made a hasty decision based on your first impressions of the school.  It may make you look like you’re reacting emotionally rather than making logical decisions based on thorough contemplation.

What is the difference between a letter of intent and a letter of interest?

A letter of intent and a letter of interest have one main difference: the level of commitment.  A person’s letter of intent is more committed than a letter of interest.

As the names imply, a letter of interest states that someone is interested in attending a certain institution.  A letter of intent states that they will attend that institution if they are given an acceptance.

With a letter of interest, the person may accept an offer from a different school if one is extended.  With a letter of intent, the person is expressing that this is their top school choice, and that they want to attend at all costs.

A letter of intent functions somewhat similarly to an engagement.  You are making the promise that you will attend that school, no matter what other acceptances you get.  You’re making a formal commitment to the program.  Going back on a letter of intent will reflect poorly on you.

With a letter of interest, you can send multiple letters to multiple different institutions.  But you won’t state that you will attend if accepted.  You will just state that you’re interested in attending the school if accepted. More on letters of interest here

Other than that, letters of interest can include everything you’d put in a letter of intent.  You can explain why you’re a good candidate and offer details about why you’re interested in that particular school.

Because of this, letters of interest shouldn’t be form letters.  They should be just as personalized as a letter of intent.  Each should be addressed to the head of the admissions committee and include details about the specific program you’re applying for.

Since letters of interest are less commitment-based, you can send them not long after your interview.  With letters of intent, you should generally wait until you’ve received acceptances and waitlist notifications from other schools.

How many letters of intent should I write?

You should only write ONE letter of intent.  That goes to your top school.  Do not send multiple letters of intent.

You can, however, send multiple letters of interest.

A letter of intent tells the admissions board that you will attend the school if accepted.  It states that you care so much about acceptance that you will ignore other program acceptances for the opportunity to attend this school.

If you send multiple letters of intent and receive multiple acceptances, you’ll have to break your promise to one of the institutions.  In addition, admissions committees tend to communicate.  If you send multiple letters of intent, the schools may find out.

The letter of intent is a promise.  It’s important to follow through on this promise.  Doing so shows that you have integrity and stick by your decisions.  If you fail to follow through, it will reflect badly on you in that school’s admissions circle.  If word gets around, it might also reflect badly in other academic settings.

It’s also important not to send multiple letters of intent to a single school.  One is enough.  If you send several letters, you may come across as desperate and needy.  You may also frustrate the admissions board because you’ve wasted their time.

A single letter should contain all the relevant information and be written strongly enough to communicate your intention.  If you don’t think you can accomplish this in a single page, talk to the people at your school’s writing center to get help with editing.

There is a difference between an update letter and a letter of intent.  If you need to update your application following a letter of intent, you can send a new message with the new information.  But if you don’t have any vital application updates, hold off on sending multiple correspondences.

Does a letter of intent guarantee admission into your top medical school?

A medical school letter of intent will not guarantee admission into your preferred program.  However, it may give you an advantage, especially if you’re on a waitlist.  It’s also important to note that a letter of intent will not compromise your chances elsewhere.

Other school admissions boards will still consider your application even if they hear about your letter of intent.  You can also send letters of interest to multiple schools, indicating that you are interested in attending their programs should you be accepted.  These letters are not binding and do not contain any promises.

It’s hard to tell how much a letter of intent will affect your chances.  A lot depends on the school and its procedures.  Some schools give letters of intent high priority.  Others make most of their decisions based on a student’s application alone.

With that said, sending a letter of intent helps ensure that you’ve done everything possible to improve your chances.  It tells the admissions board how much you care about this opportunity, and it keeps you from being a generic face in the crowd.

One note is that you shouldn’t send a letter of intent or a letter of interest if the school has expressed wishes against this.  Doing so will indicate that you don’t care about following instructions or respecting the admissions board.  It may even make you look like you expect special treatment.

At your interview, you can ask the interviewer what format the school prefers for update letters.  Some prefer hard copies sent through the mail, while others prefer for updates to be sent through email.  Asking helps to ensure that you communicate effectively, and it shows that you care about following school procedures and guidelines.

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Writing a medical school letter of intent is one of the best ways to communicate your interest in a school.  If you’ve fallen in love with one of the places you’ve interviewed, it’s important that you let the administration know.  You may be intimidated by the process, but you don’t need to be.

As long as you format the letter correctly, use the proper polite wording, and highlight the reasons for your interest, your application will be noted.  To stand out from the crowd, make note of the goals and achievements that separate you from the average applicant.  Always be sure that you express what you like about the school, and what sets it apart for you.

A letter of intent will not guarantee admission to your dream school.  But it will increase your chances of acceptance.  At the same time, the letter will not harm your chances of admission anywhere else.