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Residency Match Strategies

Understanding your own competitiveness and that of the specialty you are applying to is the most critical strategy in your preparation for residency application. If, after self reflection and faculty advising, you feel confident in your ability to successfully match, it is now time to move onto the next step.

The second step in this process, which should begin in the spring of your MS3 year, is investigation of residency programs (FREIDA is an online database of program information). You need to consider many key elements as you discern one program from the next. Considering the following program characteristics should be part of your discernment process: program characteristics, program quality, national reputation, hospital financial stability, educational structure, program type, clinical duties, research and teaching opportunities, evaluation process and location. Though having family and friends near you is not a requirement, it is certainly nice to have the support of family and friends during this next training chapter.

The third step is the application. This step has three components:

  • completing the application
  • compiling the requested materials
  • participating in interviews

More than 95% of US residency program use the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) for application. For details about other Matching programs please refer to the FAQ section. Attend the CV and Personal Statement workshops to improve and strengthen your application. Make sure you are collecting your letters of recommendation. All letter requests should be done in person. You should obtain a letter from a faculty within the specialty for which you are applying. You should not solicit letters from residents, preclinical faculty and non-physicians. Give your letter writers at least 4 weeks notice. ERAS has a letter request form/cover sheet that you should give to your letter writer to assist them in format and submission.

One of the most important aspects of the process is interviewing. Please refer to the FAQ section on some interview questions you may hear. Please dress professionally at all times. Though a suit is not required, it is strongly recommended. Show the program that you take this process seriously. Remember this is a job interview and you are there to impress. Show enthusiasm for each program whether it is your top choice or your safety program. Attend the Mock Interview night and interview workshop to get some feedback about your interview skills. Always show respect for the support staff you interact with during this process. Mistreatment of members of the team could make a program wonder what type of resident you’d make. Be sure to send a thank you after the interview. It shows the program that you are professional and courteous. Do not hesitate to contact a program to ask questions especially if they contact you first. Second look interviews are acceptable, especially if you need further clarification about a program, but you are not required to attend. If you are invited to a recruitment dinner and have interest in the program, you should feel free to attend but DO NOT consume alcohol during one of these events. There is nothing worse than an incapacitated or inappropriate residency applicant. Consider your budget in the planning of your interviews! The Alumni Host Program may also help with expenses if you interview out of state.

The final step in this long process is your rank order list. Neither you nor the program can demand to know where you will be on the rank order list. The rank order list is confidential for both the student and the program and must be submitted by the end of February (dates vary from year to year). The student’s wishes are the basis upon which the computer makes the choice. You should put your number one choice at the top of the list. You can list more than one specialty and you probably want to if you are applying to a competitive specialty. You need to include a spectrum of programs from highly competitive to your safety programs. Do not rank a program you would not want to attend if you matched. The match is a binding agreement.