Snaggin' A Residency

Snaggin' A Residency

Here's the scoop on how to snag a residency...this is advice from past 4th year students.

DISCLAIMER: The following is a compilation of opinions (nothing more!) gathered from the experiences of the Class of '99 and is meant to assist others in the residency application process-GOOD LUCK!


  • Requesting application materials: Despite the convenience of ERAS, it's still a good idea to request apps from or checkout the website of all places you're interested in for purposes of confirming deadlines, #'s of letters of recs, & answering or addressing specific issues in the personal statement. Modes of communication: email (cheapest), postcards, form letters. Shoot for the top--don't underestimate yourself or your USB education!
  • Scheduling subinternships: If you need a letter from a Sub-I, do it early. You can find out the attending on service that month ahead of time.
  • STEP II: Verify that your programs do not require Step II scores for a completed application. Here are some pros & cons to taking it earlier vs. later in the year: EARLIER-Pros: the material from 3rd yr. is fresher, you're done with the last major exam of 4th yr! Cons: studying when you have major senioritis, a lot of material to cover (there's a drop-off in recall for subjects you're not exposed to in 4th yr).
  • Away Electives: Great idea but need to start early if an affiliate agreement is not already in place with the institituion. See Karen Geyer for info and access to website   listing those places with which we have affiliate agreements. Take advantage of your elective time, explore, have adventures--for ideas, see file cabinet in Student Computer room across from Student Affairs office.
  • Auditioning:


    • Opportunity to get letter or an interview
    • Can boost a weak applicant "on paper"
    • Opportunity for you to check out the area/living situation and do interviews in that area
    • If done after a month at USB, can really shine at a "reach" program
    • Can increase exposure to fields that have small departments at USB (i.e.ENT)
    • Better exposure to faculty and co-workers
    • Can emphasize your interest/committment to that residency program
    • Good source of comparison in assessing the type of program at which you'll be most comfortable


    • Opportunity to have personality clashes
    • More time for them to scrutinize you and find reasons not to like you
    • A candidate they haven't met potentially seems better
    • Can look bad if knowledge base is weak
    • Trying to impress may trun people off


  •  Deadlines and Fees: Interview offers will come as soon as your portion of the application is complete (i.e. PS, CV, and Letters). You can submit portions of your application as they are completed. Print out receipt -pay ASAP, don't let programs be notified of payment default, request NRMP to officially apologize to programs if an error was made on their part. (Don't confuse the NRMP with ERAS!)
  • Personal Statement : Start early...pick a couple of friends and critique each others' essays.
  • Letters of recommendation: The better the person knows you, the better the letter-the relationship you have with that faculty member is more significant than their title. If you hit it off with an attending, continue to cultivate that relationship regardless of who they are/what field. Be prepared to follow-up on your recommenders to make sure the letter gets to the Dean's office. Keep in touch with recommenders--they may be willing to make a phone call on your behalf when the final days approach.
  • Keeping in touch with programs: Consider voice mail (available through Pronet), email/laptop if traveling alot. Programs need a consistent way to contact you despite the fact that you're moving around.
  • Multiple applications: You can apply to more than 1 field if you're undecided...

III. Couples Matching

IV. Early Matching (Neurology, ENT, Ophthalmology, Urology, Neurosurgery)

V.  Interviewing: (October through February)

  • Travel: Expense; see bibliography for websites on discount travel airfare. Accommodations: many programs will make arrangements for you to stay with residents if you request this. Can be a great way to learn about the program! Don't forget about USB alumni, friends, family, youth hostels (see bibliography).
  • Scheduling: Leave at least 1 day between interviews: 1 month off to interview can be enjoyable or hectic depending on # of interviews/where and with whom you're staying; Most people max out at 12-15 interviews so be prepared to schedule extra interviews and then cancel the ones least interested in; Schedule "practice/warm-up" interviews earler; Interviewing later in the season (Jan/Feb: can leave you fresh in their minds; Weekend interviews can be more casual however less exposure to residents/faculty/clinics and facilities; the more "away" interviews you have, the more time off you'll need to accommodate travel; Can stagger interviews during "easy electives".
  • Communication: Keep in touch with programs, make it easy for programs to contact you, don't underestimate the power of the secretary and good phone etiquette! If you don't get offered an interview at a program you're very interested in, contact them, see if an error was made, and if not, let them know of your desire to go there(via phone/e-mail). They may re-evaluate your application.
  • The night before: Review materials (brochure, web-site) and compose questions, review directions to hospital (better too early than late!)
  • The day of: Be prepared to answer certain key questions:
    • Why do you want to come to this program?
    • Why did you choose this specialty?
    • What patient/case did you find most interesting/challenging/etc?
    • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
    • Tell me about yourself. Be prepared to ask plenty of question....Note: Your questions will reflect your personality and interests. Certain ?'s may be more appropriate for residents rather than faculty or chairperson. (See bibliography for? resources).
  • General Tips: Know about the program and its strengths /weaknesses, be familiar with USB faculty as you may be asked about them, be comfortable talking about USB--good point/bad points, be prepared for personal questions (even those in violation of NRMP regulations!)
    If given the option, go out to dinner with the residents. Check out the surrounding area, take a driving tour if offered. Make sure you have written down names and numbers/addresses of interviewers and residents for thank-yous and follow-up questions.

VI. Follow-up:

  • Thank you letters: Don't forget to personalize! Keep in mind that all programs have different ranking processes: the residents may have equal say in who gets ranked.
  • 2nd Looks: Recommended for programs you're considering ranking highly--shows your interest and helps you re-evaluate them. Keep Jan/Feb as flexible as possible to accommodate 2nd visits. Even returning the day after your interview if you're still in the area makes a good impression.

VII. Rank List:

  • Contact your top programs (either a letter, call or visit) Let 'em know you're interested!!
  • Rule #1: Rank based on your preference rather than on where you think you'll get in
  • Rule #2: Only rank programs at which you'd really be happy
  • Suggestion: Put list in 2 weeks early and let it sit...pretend it's real and resist the desire to make changes daily...after 1 week, make any necessary changes. Note: The computers may be logjammed that last day so don't wait until the very last minute (literally) to submit your rank list.