Once you’ve submitted your medical school secondary applications, comes the hardest part of the application process: anxiously, hopefully, awaiting interview invitations. You are likely to wonder if there’s anything else you can do during interview season to strengthen your chances of admission—and obliterate that nagging sense that it’s now out of your hands.
Good news: if you have yet to receive an interview invitation from a school, or if you’ve interviewed and not heard back, you may have the option to send an update letter! In such a letter, you would inform the program of significant updates since you applied, as well as reaffirm your interest in and fit with the school. The content of such a letter can include “hard updates” (such as a new job, a research publication, or an award) and/or “soft updates” (such as a new skillset acquired through your work or advances in extracurricular activities that are not directly related to medicine but show leadership, compassion, and teamwork). Update letters should be sent about six to ten weeks after you’ve submitted your secondary essays, typically in October and November, or one month after your interview if you’ve had one.
But there’s an important caveat: not all schools allow update letters! If a school isn’t open to receiving such a letter, don’t send one: you’ll negatively affect your candidacy if you do. For the schools that do accept update letters, research and discretion are warranted: schools vary in terms of the following:
- how many letters they are up for receiving
- the maximum length of such letters
- the timing of the update letters
- the type of information permitted
- the mechanism by which they want to receive them (i.e. by email or through their portal)
So be sure to check medical schools’ websites and secondary portals for their policies, and make a spreadsheet to keep track.
Below, we outline several medical programs’ differing policies on update letters to give you a sense of the variety of stances toward this document.
Open to update letters:
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is open to updates submitted via email:
“We are happy to receive updates to your application and add them to your application file for review and consideration …Please send this additional information in a Word document or PDF file via email. We ask that you limit your updates to those that are significant and relevant to your application.”
- Yale School of Medicine accepts updates uploaded as PDFs via their secondary application portal:
“If you wish to submit an update to your application at any time throughout the application season (before or after an interview), you may upload a .pdf document using the Document Upload tab in the Secondary Application.”
- Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons also accepts PDFs via their portal:
“Any updates or corrections to the Secondary Application should be sent as an Applicant Update (in PDF) via the ‘Status’ tab of the Secondary Application.”
- Tulane University School of Medicine also only accepts updates via their portal:
“You may send all updates to the Office of Admissions via uploading documents to your secondary portal. These documents will become a part of your file. We do not accept updates via mail or email. All updates must be digitally uploaded.”
- Weill Cornell Medical College encourages letters that share significant updates, and provides instructions via email as to how to submit them:
“Send updates if something significant changes in your application (e.g. major award or publication). We are open to receiving substantive and occasional updates.”
Forbid update letters, or only allow them in rare circumstances:
- UNC School of Medicine doesn’t accept updates unless they’ve explicitly requested them:
“We do not accept updates to your AMCAS or Supplemental application post-submission (e.g. new experience, job, letter of intent, etc.). The only exception is if someone from the Office of Admissions has requested an update.”
- UW School of Medicine does not accept updates about activities, only grades:
“The UWSOM does not accept written activity updates. Grade updates (i.e., official and unofficial transcripts) for future and in-progress coursework are required. Additional letters of recommendation and changes in contact information should be sent through AMCAS. If you are offered an interview, you may share any updates with your interviewers at that time.”
- Georgetown University School of Medicine significantly limits updates:
“To ensure timely application review, post-submission updates will be limited to text updates submitted via the online Secondary Application portal. Emails – and any associated attachments – sent to the Office of Admissions will be disregarded and not be uploaded to your application.”
- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is not open to update letters at all:
“The JHUSOM Office of Admissions does not accept updates to your AMCAS application or for the secondary application.”
- University of Minnesota Medical School only accepts update letters from candidates invited to interview, three days before the interview date:
“Once you have submitted your secondary application, you cannot add or delete information, nor can the University of Minnesota Medical School. If you are invited to interview with us, you will receive an email 72 hours prior to your interview day with instructions on how to provide an update letter. We cannot otherwise update your application once submitted. Please do not send additional information to the Office of Admissions unless you have been instructed to do so.”
Applying to medical school is a complicated process, and navigating update letter policies is no exception! Please contact Collegiate Gateway if you would like guidance on any aspect of the application and admissions process. As always, we’re happy to help!