How Do I Maximize My Chances of Getting Into A Residency Program Of Choice?

How Do I Maximize My Chances of Getting Into A Residency Program Of Choice?


Two words every student doctor dreams of after enduring four demanding years of education and training. By this point, we all understand why Match Day is associated with a sense of fear and anxiety. Each year, more than 40,000 students compete for a spot in 35,000 residency programs and unfortunately, this disparate ratio is only growing, making it more difficult to secure a position. The only guarantee there is in “The Match” is what you showcase in your individualized application. Presenting yourself as a desirable prospect can be overwhelming, but to make things simple, here are three elements that can raise your odds of becoming a future resident: 


Individuals who enter the field of medicine inherently have a passion for serving. No matter what specialty you choose, it is important to remember that this is the principal ingredient to being a golden applicant. There are plenty of ways to show this. Some of these include:

• Volunteering locally or internationally 
• Being involved with the community 
• Working with diverse patient populations and cultures to develop understanding of various backgrounds
Immerse yourself in areas that interest you; giving back is done best when it’s something that you genuinely enjoy. Whether this entails working in a local underserved clinic or travelling abroad to a developing country, these opportunities demonstrate sympathy, growth and altruism. Additionally, they will make interview conversations about these specific experiences more natural and effortless, too. 


PROS: Although many residency programs do not require away rotations, they are still highly recommended, especially for those who are applying to competitive specialties. This opportunity can give students the chance to introduce themselves to faculty and program directors who are involved with the admissions process. Additionally, participating in an away rotation lets you “audition” a certain program you’re interested in. Spending a few weeks at a different hospital with a new medical record system and patient population can provide you with valuable information about the daily functioning of that residency. While completing your rotation, you can also explore the city that you are considering residing in for the years to follow. Overall, an away rotation is a great way to step out of your comfort zone and discover something new.

CONS: Applying for aways can be stressful and time-consuming. The process involves a lot of paperwork that can weigh on you as an active medical student getting ready for residency applications. For some people, away rotations aren’t so feasible; it requires leaving your family and friends behind for a month and this can cause some emotional discomfort. On top of this, away programs can also be expensive. Not only are students accountable for application payments, but they are also responsible for living accommodations, food, and other miscellaneous necessities. In short, away rotations are encouraged but not necessarily considered a setback if they’re not a viable option for you. The next best thing is doing an elective or acting internship at your home institution. This opportunity can still yield a great recommendation letter and give you more exposure to the specialty of your choice.


There are a number of ways to spice up your application: doing research, being a leader, pursuing a dual degree, honoring clerkships, killer STEP scores, etc. However, something you want to avoid is padding your resumé with a long list of activities that have little relevance or meaning to your journey as a medical student. Experts suggest that this can often be more disadvantageous as students get sucked into pursuing opportunities that have no impact on individual progress. Instead, focus on including components that showcase your personal passion and happiness. Specifically, seek opportunities that stimulate mental growth; find ways to do more of what brings a sense of fulfillment. Remember to take risks every now and then. Certain pursuits may cause fear or unease such being a speaker at a seminar or tutoring a wide audience, but taking part in these activities demonstrates confidence and courage—two characteristics that are foundational to being a great physician.  

A Last Word

Applying for The Match is naturally an intimidating and trying experience, but it is also undeniably, a major milestone. It is the moment that justifies all your efforts—the fruit of your labor. Even though it is intrinsic to feel pressure, it is also important to reflect on the moments that have brought you thus far. Remember that you are not alone during this time; seek help from mentors who can provide you with their guidance and expertise. Keep in contact with students who gone through The Match as well as those who are alongside you. Finally, it is easier said than done, but HAVE PATIENCE. Some of your friends will be receiving interviews or news earlier than you, and this is okay. Each person will have their own stories and strengths, and for this reason, you have to trust your own journey and your own process.  This is the time to focus on yourself and manifest your dream career. It’s a long ride, but don’t give up. Your life as a healer awaits.

Neepa Patel is a third-year medical student at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. I am interested in pursuing either family medicine or PM&R; these fields attract me most because of the physician-patient interactions and comprehensive care they provide. Outside of medicine, I enjoy cooking, weight training, and writing. I am also an advocate for human rights, diversity, and public health.

Peter Edemekong, MD, MPH, UTMB Health Provider Assistant Professor is proud to serve in a broad scope of Family and Preventive   Medicine. He has been practicing in the urgent care, preventive and family medicine settings and enjoys being able to provide holistic care to his patients. 

He has numerous publications and has provided multiple presentations in his career at both a macro level with the CDC and micro level with small workshops and lectures. Dr. Edemekong has a passion for being involved in community education and has dedicated himself to medical missions on an annual basis. Dr. Edemekong offers an ability to serve his patients with a truly integrative approach.

Dr. Edemekong offers Primary Health Care, HIV Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Occupational Medicine. With a background in Family Medicine and completed training in Preventive Medicine, Dr. Edemekong has experience working with at-risk patient populations. His passion continues in areas of Clinical Preventive Medicine, Global Healthcare, Acute Disease Epidemiology (HIV, TB, Hepatitis, STIs) and Health Disparities as well as Maternal-Fetal Healthcare.

He offers basic and routine health care needs with a sensitive and unbiased approach for preventive care, physical exams, and Infectious disease treatment. He promotes health equity by striving to eliminate preventable diseases and educating his patients regarding healthy behaviors across all life stages. 


Scott Dulebohn, MD; Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, East Tennessee State University

Getting into a residency program is a difficult process. It involves much more than studying for the USMLE® Steps 1-3 or COMLEX® Steps 1-3 or getting good grades in classes or rotations. You must be more than a good student; you must also have the ability to negotiate a system designed to select the very best. You should be aware that much of the selection process for residency programs is arbitrary and capricious. Like it or not, the personality you display in your application or interview may make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

If you have concluded that getting into a residency training program of your choice is as much an art as a science, you are ready to discover the true nature of the medical profession. Medicine demands that you be a self-motivated student for the rest of your career. It is not without sacrifice. To get into a top residency training program, you must put your career ahead of enjoying your free time and family. You must be persistent. Many patients present with a difficult diagnosis, and only through your diligence and hard work will the etiology of their illness be revealed. Similarly, the hard work of getting into a residency should not be something you fear, as the hours of a physician are long and arduous. This is a test of your mettle; if you can put forth the effort to get into a great residency program and work hard to complete the training, you will most likely succeed at becoming an outstanding doctor. 

Calvin Coolidge had one of the best thoughts on being successful.

     Press on: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

     Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

     Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

     Education alone will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.

     Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

As you progress through your medical school training, do not be afraid of a difficult course or rotation, as it will ultimately help you learn something that will make you a better physician. Delaying an arduous opportunity to learn may be appropriate to the “game” of getting into medical school, but never purposely select the easy road when an opportunity to learn more presents itself.

I had no idea I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I was planning on radiology followed by a neuroradiology fellowship, but unfortunately, that elective was not available. As a result, I selected a month of neurosurgery despite all my classmates telling me it would be very long hours and a ton of work. Much to my surprise, I loved it. Yes, it was hard to match, and I had to gut out a year of general surgery and another year of research, but eventually, a training spot opened up. Extra work, extra persistence, but the result was a lifetime of getting to practice in the field of my choice.

Do not be afraid to face a challenge that, although difficult, provides you a better learning opportunity. If you have the energy and passion to become a physician, no course or training program challenge should present a problem if you give it your best effort.

Keep your priorities straight. Medical school is an opportunity to learn study skills that help you to become a good resident and successful physician. Social activities that help you to become a better person are important as the job of a physician demands that you understand and relate to people from all walks of life. Remember, it is the human qualities that make a good physician; they cannot be found in any book. You must bet out and learn them!

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