Okay, finally you have researched all viable programs and decided on a specialty that is a best fit for your interests and personality. Now it’s time to apply and make every possible effort to match with the competitive specialty that you are considering.
One of the major goals of a medical school is to prepare you for residency. There are a number of things you can do throughout your medical school journey to set yourself up for the residency program of your choice.
Just as you want to apply to the most competitive medical specialty, program directors and faculty want residents who will perfectly fit in with their training environment. If truth be told, the residency application and interview process are all about gauging that fit so you can succeed in your training.
You can put your energy and efforts towards focusing on factors that can help you land the residency of your dreams. Here are a few important things that matter most for a residency match and that program directors look for in a residency applicant.
Program directors show a proclivity for a simple, to-the-point and an inspiring personal statement that truly describes your personality and the reason why you have chosen this specialty and why you want to pursue a career in that particular challenging medical field. In essence, it is used as a screening tool that helps the program directors decide which applicants to call in for an interview. Your residency personal statement is a great opportunity to highlight your strengths, qualities, and skills set, and explain why you are a perfect match for the intended specialty and how the residency program can help you meet your career goals.
Regardless of whether you are interested in cardiology, dermatology, neurology or primary care, more than 60% of program directors consider your clinical grades in the desired specialty when it comes to deciding who to interview. A large number of program directors take clerkship grades in the chosen specialty a pertinent factor. In addition to earning the best scores in clinical clerkships, try to hit impressive preclinical grades, since some program directors also take your grades in basic science into account when making the final decision.
Having research experience is important when it comes to applying to residency. According a survey by ‘The National Resident Matching Program’, more than 41% of program directors surveyed considered research experience when deciding whom to interview. In some competitive specialties, research experience that leads to peer-reviewed presentations and publications is an important factor that greatly influences the choice of candidate and rankings. If you don’t have the necessary research experience or time to participate in research projects, consider putting your energy and efforts towards finding some research opportunities and developing strong research skills.
Another crucial factor that greatly influences an applicant’s ranking is USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 scores. If you are a preclinical student, your ultimate goal should be to perform well and earn ideal USMLE Step 1 scores. Because your Step 1 scores matter the most for your residency selection and guarantee you an interview invitation . In competitive residency programs, there is a target score which every applicant should earn on step 1 in order to increase their chances of getting interviewed. The more competitive the specialty, the higher the USMLE target score which applicants have to earn if they want to get selected for that particular residency program. Program directors won’t consider applicants who have failed, so, prepare well and study hard to get outstanding scores.
Students with strong leadership and problem-solving qualities have brighter chances of landing a residency of their choice. Medical school is not just about learning medical knowledge and clinical skills, it’s high time to grow as a professional and cultivate essential leadership, problem-solving and interpersonal skills. Joining a student group or community health center is indeed the best way to learn about a field, take initiatives and demonstrate your commitment and dedication to the profession.
Believe it or not, your recommendations can make or break your residency application. So, choose your references wisely. Your references should ideally be people who know you best, your work and can portray you in the best light. To ensure getting a good letter, provide your potential reference with more information so that they will be able to give you a strong recommendation. In addition, letters of reference in the specialty are very important as they summarize your performance during the clinical clerkships.
So, these are a few most important factors that every medical student should consider when preparing for a residency match. It is always a great idea to carefully check in advance what residency program directors are looking for in residents, so you can be better prepared for the residency match.