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Tips For Your Medical Residency Application

Published on: Sep 23, 2022


Photo Credit: iStock/Cameravit

Residency applications: timeline & tips to match

While the exact application deadline varies by specialty, residency application season is well underway and deadlines are rapidly approaching.

Are you mid-application cycle, and have realized that this process is more complicated than you originally thought? Or maybe you’re already getting started for next year’s application cycle and want to begin prepping what you need.

What does the residency application process look like?

Overall, the timeline starts in the spring the year before you plan to match. Here’s a ballpark estimate of what you can expect, although it’s always best to check within your specialty and at your desired institutions.

March through August – Take the time to prepare.

  • Start researching residency programs based on the criteria that matter most to you. One advantage of using a database like FREIDA is that you can filter programs and even compare up to five of them at once.
  • Put together a CV. Be sure to include any leadership roles you’ve had, research experience, scholarships, and anything else that showcases your abilities and character. Remember that you can use your personal statement to go more in-depth about your personal experiences.
  • Brainstorm ideas for your personal statement. This is your chance to show the residency director aspects of yourself that they couldn’t glean from your transcript or CV.
  • Line up your recommendation letters. Pick the faculty members you’d like to write your letters of recommendation and reach out to them to make the request. Be very clear with each one about which qualities you’d like them to feature.

September and October – Get that residency application out the door and land interviews.

  • Submit your residency application. The exact deadline will vary based on the service to which you’re applying. There is a huge rush to submit applications before they are first released to programs to try and make sure that an application is seen before the first round of interview invitations are extended—just in case the open residency seats fill up quickly.
  • MSPEs released to institutions. Residency programs receive student evaluations, known as MSPEs (Medical Student Performance Evaluations), the bulk of which comprises  third-year evaluations from faculty during clinical rotation.
  • Interviews start!

January and February – Pick your #1 and rank the rest.

  • Write a letter of intent. Send a letter of intent to your number one choice for residency. This should not be a recap of your CV, but an explanation of what about that particular program you find attractive—and a statement that it’s your number one choice. Include personal touches that reflect the discussion you had during your interviews.
  • Submit your ROL. Build your Rank Order List (ROL) by early February when the official NRMP list opens. Curious about what other students are thinking when they rank their residency program selections?

March – Match Week.

Helpful tips for your medical residency applications

You’ve been working hard in medical school. The way you showcase that in your residency applications and interviews will make all the difference in getting accepted to the residency program of your choice. Remember to take care of yourself so you don’t burn out—or break the bank.

  • Remember the goal. Maybe when you applied to medical school, the goal was to “get in.” Now, everyone is expecting you to have a more detailed explanation of what you want to achieve with your specialty, particularly as you are now more mature and advanced in your career. Why do you want to focus on this specialty? What specifically do you value about the programs to which you are applying?
  • Ask faculty for advice. Never assume you know everything. Feel free to ask faculty for advice, whether it’s discussing where you should go or even having them review your personal statement.
  • Use a database to get organized. The advantage of leveraging a platform like FREIDA is that you have thousands of programs at your fingertips, with the must-know details, search filters, and the ability to compare programs.
  • Get organized to buy yourself time. The sooner you know the deadlines for where you want to apply, the better you will know how to plan time to  write your personal statement and CV and get the strongest letters of recommendation from faculty.
    • The Office of Career & Professional Development at UCSF offers a comprehensive guide to writing residency personal statements.
    • Similarly, the AAFP has one of the best guides on writing an effective CV for your residency application.
  • Research the program before your interview. You will make a better impression if you can cite specific features about a program that attract you. This step goes hand-in-hand with developing some core questions for each program you visit.
  • Consider common questions. Some interviewers will ask you broad questions like, “Tell me about yourself.” Have some thoughts in mind for your answers, so that you’re comfortable with what you say and come across as self-assured. At the same time, don’t worry about having a full script ready—you’ll win more “points” if you come across as natural.
  • Take every opportunity to meet other residents. If you can stay with a resident, that’s even better! This gives you an opportunity to learn more about the program, as well as a chance to leave a good impression with the people who might be your future coworkers.
  • Group interviews by region. Cut travel costs and save time by grouping interviews together based on location. Use the opportunity to get to know the area and get a better feel for what it would be like to work and commute to each program.
  • Plan travel with ample buffer time. Look up routes ahead of time and calculate commute times, leaving space to account for potential delays.
  • Use discounts wherever possible. Your institution may already have discount programs in place. If you are a student, you may be eligible for student discounts. AMA members get travel discounts too.

What is FREIDA?

FREIDA stands for Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access, and it serves as the AMA’s official search tool for accredited fellowship and residency programs. Over 12,000 programs have already submitted their program guidelines and keep them up-to-date so that you can search for your perfect fit.

But FREIDA is not just a search engine listing out different programs; it’s an interactive planning tool that helps you save time chasing down critical details around each program.

  • Use filters to drill down the program that’s right for you. You can use up to 35 filters, which include exam score cut-offs and ranges, geographic location, and salary. Save your searches so you can return to them in the future.
  • Compare programs. As you browse different residency programs, you can “Add to Comparison” to view up to five programs side-by-side and compare basic stats.
    • Leverage expanded listings to find out more details about programs. You can always visit program websites directly, but many applicants find it helpful to use FREIDA as their hub.
  • Save searches and comparisons. Residency selection is a big decision, and you have a busy life. You can store your searches to refer to later on when needed.
  • Figure out your costs. You can use a  Residency Calculator to help you estimate the costs of applications, matching fees, and interview expenses.
  • Master leadership—and interview better. The Leadership Series is a great way to quickly spruce up your interview skills so you can convey your potential for positive impact, and stand out among other candidates.
  • Use the Specialty Guide to learn what it takes. This guide goes into detail around each specialty’s selection process, required training, and professional societies for each specialty.
  • If you need an IMG- or DO-friendly program, FREIDA’s got you covered. It’s easy to quickly generate a list of welcoming programs so you can keep your application process moving forward in the right direction.

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