Letters of Intent vs. Letters of Interest

After applying, candidates often experience anxiety over the waiting period. Many applicants believe that all you can do is wait to see if you receive interviews and ultimately a Match. However, there are some methods that can be used to increase chances at an interview, or a successful Match. Letters of Interest and Letters of Intent are great tools to help your application stand out post applying!

What is the difference between a Letter of Interest and Letter of Intent?

While they may sound similar, there is a big difference between a Letter of Interest and a Letter of Intent. The overall end goal of matching is the same, but these two letters need to be employed thoughtfully and crafted carefully. 

Letters of Interest are typically sent out about a month after the ERAS application gets released to programs. If applying late, you should wait at least 1-2 weeks. The goal with a Letter of Interest is to get your application reviewed further and, in turn, secure more interviews. You can send these to your top 5-20 program choices, but make sure each letter is specific to the program you are sending it to.

Unlike Letters of Interest, Letters of Intent are intended to be sent after an interview, informing a program of your intent to rank them highly. These should be sent approximately 2 weeks before the Rank Order List opens to 2 weeks before the Rank Order List Deadline to the top 3-7 programs on your Rank Order List.

Tips on Writing a Letter of Interest

To begin, every single residency Letter of Interest needs to be mostly focused on the specific reasons for your interest in the residency program. It should be about 200-500 words. Keep it concise, specific, and engaging. Remember, it’s best to send to both the Program Coordinator and Program Director.

Remember, these reasons should not be generic or vague. For example, don’t just focus on the program’s Mission and Values, or the fact that they foster an atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie. Only discuss these if you can vouch for such attributes through personal experience.

Of course, the more details you can add, the better. These could include specific research projects, training tracks, elective rotations, special opportunities, resident programs, and geographic preferences, as examples. Don’t forget, make sure to explore any topic you bring up in detail and how it relates to you personally, rather than just listing attributes.

You should include the below details:

  • Opening with the specific names of those addressed
  • Most importantly, the specific reasons for your interest in the program
  • Next, the experiences and strengths you’re bringing to the table
  • Then, how you plan to contribute to the program
  • Finally, an invitation to look further into your ERAS Application and hopes for interview consideration
  • In signature, include:
    • Your Professional ERAS Photograph
    • Your AAMC ID
  • You may attach a version of your CV in the email for quick reference if you’d like

Tips for Writing a Letter of Intent

The goal for a strong Letter of Intent is to inform a program that you have already interviewed with of your intent to rank them highly. This is intended to increase your shot at a successful Match! Make sure to keep your subject line clear and to the point (ex. A Letter of Intent from John Smith).

You should open with a reminder of when you had your interview and an announcement of your intention to rank highly. Next, you should address specific details you like about the program (that you have not previously mentioned), and any strengths that you would bring to the program. In closing, reaffirm your decision to rank the program highly and your desire to work with them in the future. In total, it should be about 200-500 words.

You should include your ERAS photograph and your AAMC ID in the signature area. This will make it much easier to identify you.

Important Mistakes to Avoid

It is important that each Letter of Interest or Intent that you write is NOT from a template, or recycled between programs. 

Do NOT send a Letter of Intent if you do not intend on ranking the program or are unsure if you will. Additionally, don’t send Letters of Intent to residency programs that may be on your Rank Order List, but you have a number of other programs you would strongly prefer to Match with.

Unless you are ranking them Number 1, do not specify the number you will be ranking them. Never ask a program how they are ranking you.

If you’d like assistance putting the polishing touches on your Letters of Intent or Letters of Interest, Residency Experts is here to ensure maximum impact. Sign in or Register with Residency Experts for Professional Optimization! Questions or comments? You can call (858)-221-8580 or send an email to support@residencyexperts.com.