The Urge To Do Something (A phrase I totally stole from Carol Hagan!)

By Anne Reedstrom

This particular time in the medical/dental school application process can be a tricky one. Your primary and secondary applications are completed, your letters of recommendation are in and you’ve done everything you can be the best possible applicant. Now there’s nothing else to do but wait – for interview invitations, admissions decisions, or some kind of correspondence from schools letting you know where you stand. Just wait. Wait some more. Obsess a little. Wait. Go on line and read posts from others about their processes (We know you do it. We just wish you wouldn’t because no good will come of it.) And then you wait some more.

And then it happens. You are struck by TUTDS. The Urge To Do Something. (Carol Hagan, 2012)

TUTDS is indeed a powerful force and is very common amongst pre-health students during their application year. The challenge is to wield it carefully so that it becomes a force for good, not evil.

Another "powerful force for good."
Another “powerful force for good.”

TUTDS can take on many forms, all of which involve contacting medical or dental schools in some fashion, with wildly varying results. Channel yours in a positive way by thinking about the goal of your proposed communication and trying to see it from the perspective of an admissions officer.

Your goal, of course, is to receive an elusive interview or, the even rarer offer of admission, so think about what kind of information an admissions officer might consider useful when making this kind of decision. Remember that they do already know a great deal about you from your application materials.

Would it be helpful for them to know how much you LOVE their school? Maybe, but lots of students LOVE lots of schools, so it’s not really going to help you stand out in any way.

How about “If you admit me, I will absolutely, positively enroll. I promise.” Much to everyone’s amazement-no. This is not helpful information because no matter how much you mean it at the time, you are a fickle bunch and change your minds as often as the wind changes direction.

So what is helpful then? A substantive update that adds something new to the pile of information they already have can certainly work in your favor. A new publication, a presentation, a promotion, taking on a new project, leadership position or activity, or an honor or award—all of these kinds of things are useful pieces of information to share, especially if done with an upbeat, concise and informative manner. (more from Carol!)

By all means, add a couple of sentences to your update regarding your interest in the school. It’s a nice way to round out the letter/email, which, by the way, should be no more than a couple of paragraphs. We are happy to provide feedback on update letters/emails.

The Urge To Do Something is difficult to resist, especially at this point in the application cycle, but if you do succumb, use the power for good and for the benefit of your candidacy.

Please also see Facing Winter Break without a Medical School Interview, a blog by Carol Hagan.

Author: Claire Klieger

Claire Klieger is an Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates. She earned her Ed.D. from Penn and did her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. Fun Fact: Claire spent 11 years in the Middle East and North Africa.