Tips for Applying to Residency After Medical School
Notes For the Medical Residency Application
Graduating from an accredited medical school—such as American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC)*—earns you a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, but it is not the end of a physician’s education. MDs must attend a post-graduate medical residency for a minimum of three years (and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination®) before they can begin practicing medicine. Most medical school graduates obtain a residency, but the medical residency application process can be a bit tricky. Below are some tips on medical residency selection criteria, and guidelines to help you create an application that stands out from the crowd. So what do you need for a residency application? Let’s find out.
Medical Residency Application Tips
Medical residency selection criteria include four major parts:
- Curriculum vitae (CV)
- Medical school performance evaluation (MSPE)
- Letters of recommendation (LORs)
- Personal statement
By the time you are wondering how to apply for medical residency, your CV and MSPE are already well formed. But your personal statement has yet to be written, and you can still play an important role in getting strong letters of recommendation. There are so many bright applicants to residency that good grades and extracurricular activities are not enough. Follow these tips to meet deadlines and make your strongest case to secure an interview.
Letters of recommendation
LORs require careful planning. First, be sure you understand each residency program’s requirements, because each can differ significantly. One might require a letter from a particular department, while another might specify that you submit four letters, including one from a non-physician. You won’t know unless you check! Also, get your letters from attending physicians instead of residents, partly because these will be rated stronger but also because some programs require it.
The secret to getting strong LORs is to plan ahead and follow a process. Remember, your letter writer probably has a stack of letters to write by medical residency application season. If you wait too long, you may not meet the deadlines—or you may get a hurried effort from the letter writer. To avoid complications, follow these recommendations:
- You should begin the letters at least one month—if not earlier—before you need them for your medical residency application. The more time you give your letter writers, the better.
- Choose your letter writers carefully. This person should have worked with you directly, so they know your potential, and they should have a positive opinion of your potential.
- Make the request formally, in writing. A verbal request may be forgotten, and it will lack detail. A written request shows you are serious, provides valuable information the letter writer can keep at hand, and it serves as its own reminder.
- Provide your CV, photograph, and personal statement with your LOR request. It will help the physician write their letter if they have all your information.
- Request a meeting with your writer. Even if it lasts only 15 minutes, you can discuss any questions and concerns you or the letter writer have. The meeting also serves as another kind reminder for your letter writer to get the job done.
The part of your medical residency application you control most is your personal statement. Unfortunately, many students don’t dedicate a lot of time to their personal statements, and their applications suffer for it. But by following a few simple tips, you can create a well-crafted statement to help sell you to a residency committee faced with more qualified applicants than residency spots. Keep the following things in mind:
- Cheaters never win. It can be easier to cross the line into plagiarism than you might realize. If you are reading other personal statements, or trying to find inspiration in speeches by famous doctors, be careful that your words are your own. You should assume that residency program coordinators will run internet searches for the contents of your statement. If they find sections that match word for word, you won’t make the cut. If this is a concern, run an internet search on your draft yourself! Along these lines, do not exaggerate or try to fake things in your statement. Program coordinators read dozens upon dozens of applications, so weak or inauthentic “passions” tend to stand out. Also, you are hoping to land an interview, so what will you do if you are questioned about a passion you claimed that was really just a bluff? Applicants often get themselves into trouble when trying to cover up for a deficiency, but it is better to acknowledge deficiencies—and describe how you will overcome them—honestly.
- Transform setbacks into lessons. All of us experience setbacks. If you had to retake a class or were faced with other challenges, mention the incidences briefly in your statement. The residency program will notice whether or not you call attention to setbacks, so you look better taking on issues head-on. Don’t make excuses. Instead, describe the setback briefly as a way to explain what you learned, and how it made you tougher or more committed.
- Personalize your personal statement. Residency applicants have a tendency to become impersonal in their personal statement—probably out of discomfort or a fear of exposing too much about themselves. So get personal, and focus on your passion for medicine. You are putting in long years of hard work to become a physician. Why have you chosen this difficult path? Many people avoid the sick, and some are upset by the sight of blood. But you run toward that trouble, to serve people. Make a case for why your values and passion make you a strong candidate for the residency program. Be sure to tie your statement to the specialty you have chosen, so the residency program can see that your passion is tied to them specifically.
- Proofread, and then proofread again. No one plans to let a sloppy mistake make it into their personal statement, but unfortunately it happens. We all stop seeing errors when we have read the same text too many times. Here is where friends and even family members can help. Seek input from people who are good at editing and writing. Most importantly, get input from faculty who know the specialty. Faculty readers can point out gaps or problem areas others may miss.
Now that you have some good tips to make your medical residency application the best it can be, you have a better idea of what it will take to continue your education after graduation from a school of medicine. If you are a prospective medical student, investigate AUC’s MD program, and if you’ve already decided that a career as a physician is for you, apply for admission to AUC today!
*American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM, www.accredmed.org), which is the accreditor used by the country of St. Maarten.