Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Patience. That thing that forces you to slow down. That annoying lesson that reminds you that life won’t go according to your meticulous plan. That simple word that is so hard to actually be.

My Lithuanian grandma was right when she told me:


“The hardest thing to learn in life is patience.”


Applying to medical school will take you on quite the ride. After you’ve spent years compiling your best possible application, you hit the submit button with excitement and anxiety.

It’s finally time!

And then you wait. And wait. And…ugh…

Soon, you start to hear back from programs and excitement comes when you see _________ School of Medicine in your email headline only to find out it’s an email telling you how to submit your secondary application. And oh, don’t forget that additional fee.


More money…


Fastforward to the latter half of the application cycle and let’s say, after an amazing interview, you’ve been waitlisted. You’re so close, but you’re not quite there. Yet…

It’s totally normal to have mixed feelings or even to be upset, especially if everything up until this point has gone pretty well. Rather than having a definitive answer, you’ve been told to sit and wait as the program moves you to the “may be” pile as if they’re playing with your emotions saying:


“Hey, we like you but we can’t give you the golden ticket quite yet but we haven’t fully crossed you off the list either. Wait to hear back from us. When? Oh, I don’t know…”


And now the waiting game turns into agony. Every *ping* from your email alert turns into a frantic, “Did I get off the waitlist? Oh no, it’s just from Amazon.”

So here you are, stuck in this grey zone waiting to hear something. Anything! 

  • What should you do?

  • What’s your next move?

3 TIPS FOR THE WAITLISTEE (is that a word?)

Assume that you’re not getting in.

Wait, what? Yup. Have the mindset that being waitlisted equates to a rejection so you don’t rely on it. This process is too unpredictable and you know the competition. Come up with a backup plan now.

Don’t wait to hear back from the program. The next application cycle is around the corner and will come much faster than you think. You want to come back stronger. If you wait around, time will tick and you’ll be sitting at the computer with the same exact application that didn’t get you an acceptance. No bueno.


Call programs.

It’s hard to decide your next step if you don’t know why you weren’t accepted. Make a list of at least 3 programs to call, particularly programs that you’re really interested in but received that dreaded rejection letter. They may tell you point blank what your application was missing or what they are specifically looking for in an applicant. That’s golden information!

Example questions to ask:

  • What did they consider to be your strength(s)?

  • Did something in particular lead to a rejection? (MCAT score, GPA, lack of medical experience, etc.)

  • If you could only improve/focus on one thing, what would it be?

    • They’re basically telling you the limiting factor to your application i.e. what you should focus on to strengthen your application. And now you know where to focus your time ; )


Save your current application.

You’re busy, right?

The last thing you want is to lose access to your application and have to start all over.

Hello, palpitations.

Do yourself a favor and save a copy of your application, so if you have to re-apply, you won’t literally be starting from ground zero; you’ll just be adding/tweaking.

Star your personal statement especially if you have many drafts so you know which one you submitted. If you need help on improving your statement, I got you. Check out 5 Steps to Writing the “Award-Winning” Personal Statement.

Chins up future doc. If you were placed on a “to be continued” waitlist, don’t turn that into defeat. You’re close and you may tip over into the next matriculating medical school close! But remember, don’t assume anything. You just keep running your race. You’ll get to your finish line.

Just. Keep. Going. 

– Dr. Trot