My anecdotal experience about letters of intent:
I interviewed at BCM early in the application cycle in September. I enjoyed the interview much more than I anticipated and was really impressed. My original aspiration was to go to the Mayo Clinic, but after my BCM interview I decided that I would be ecstatic to go to either BCM or Mayo.
More interviews came and went, and eventually I got accepted to the University of Maryland in Baltimore and the Medical College of Wisconsin. I sent an update letter in January explaining what I was up to, although at that point I didn't feel comfortable describing my intent as I was still interested in Mayo.
Here is where my story gets a bit unique: my wife and I were seriously considering joining HPSP to pay for medical school. HPSP is the military scholarship that pays your tuition and gives you a stipend, but you serve the military in return. However, due to BCM being a lot cheaper, we were thinking it wouldn't be worth it to join the military at Baylor. BCM also has tons of other academic and career opportunities that would be hard to take advantage of in the military. Military recruiters are super ancy to get you to sign your life away, so we thought it would be really helpful to know my status at BCM. Thus, in March I contacted the dean of admissions at the time, Dr. Eddins-Folensbee, and explained the situation. I told her that knowing if I still had a decent shot at BCM or if it was unrealistic would greatly help our family decide whether or not to joint the military. She replied that BCM was certainly in my range, but I should give them some more time and contact her again in 2 weeks. I contacted her 2 weeks later and she replied that she was sorry but couldn't give me any information, although they still had about 50 spots.
In April, I received notice that I was placed on the final wait-list at BCM. By this point, Mayo had rejected me and my hopes were pinned on BCM. In late April, we decided not to join the military, so I told Dr. Eddins-Folensbee this and explained BCM was our top choice.
In mid May, we were leaving for a 5 week trip to China. I contacted Dr. Eddins-Folensbee via email and explained we would be out of the country for 5 weeks, and that I would be available to communicate via email while in China if they needed to contact me.
A week before returning home, I decided to play a little trick. After being in China for 4 weeks and hearing nothing from BCM, I thought I had decent pretense to call the office and ask for an update and make sure I didn't miss anything being out of the country. It seemed that most people got accepted to BCM on Monday evening, so I figured there must be some sort of meeting Monday afternoon. I figured if I called Monday morning from China to express my interest, the office might be somewhat moved by my sincerity and give me enough brownie points to merit an acceptance. I made the call, and low and behold I was accepted the next day (June 14th)! Coincidence? You decide!
Possible morals of the story:
- Find a good reason to get in contact with the dean of admissions. Joining the military and going to China are pretty unique, and this probably made me stand out a bit.
- It probably helps to have already been accepted to one medical school when you write letters of intent. This gives you a bit of leverage and proves that you aren't just desperate to get in anywhere. I don't think it's too much to say: "Right now I am set to attend school X, but I would decline their acceptance and attend here if you accept me."
- Honestly, can it really hurt to let a school know that they are your first choice? If you pester them every week, maybe, but not if you are mature about it. You can't prove that you are being honest, but I would guess they would believe you.
- If you have some sort of major accomplishment (not just good grades) that happened after your interview, this is a good excuse to contact the admissions office.
- Even if it doesn't help, you will feel satisfied knowing that you tried your best. You will never have to wonder what might have happened if you had tried harder to stay in contact with the admissions office.