Hello aspiring Physicians,
I have had a lot of great questions. I hope this site continues to add to your education and clarity of the medical training process. Thank you for the positive comments and I will get to your individual questions as quick as I can. I would like to address some common questions that I have received about residency matching.
A couple of the most common questions that I get are:
What are the most competitive residency specialties?
What is the process like when applying and matching to a residency program?
How can I make my application more competitive or stand out?
Would if I do not match? What next?
Okay, let’s start. The most competitive residency specialties when I was in medical school were Orthopedic Surgery, Plastic Surgery, ENT, and Dermatology. I will say that I do not think that has changed. Nowadays I would add Radiology (specifically Interventional Radiology) and Neurosurgery. What makes a specialty so competitive? It’s not that it is a better specialty than all the others. First, it just means that there are a lot of applicants that apply for a limited number of spots. Second, the stats show that these specialties either make a lot of money or the lifestyle is great and you make a lot of money. But remember these specialties are not for everyone and money should not be your driving force. If money is the reason you want to be a doctor then you will be disappointed. You really must love the core of what being a doctor is all about and that is joy of taking care of people. Sure money is important to everyone but please don’t let that be the deciding factor on what specialty you choose.
What is the residency matching process? There are many websites that go in depth on the matching process but it really boils down to a computer algorithm. During your 4th year in medical school, you will apply to programs all over the U.S. and hopefully get picked to interview with most if not all of them. If you are trying to get into a competitive residency specialty I would advise to apply broadly and apply to many programs. This will enhance your chances of getting more interviews. After you completed all of your interviews, you will rank your programs and the programs will rank the applicants. This goes into a computer algorithm and then you will find out where you matched on “Match Day”. Match day is usually a Friday in the Spring. That Monday you will be notified if you matched into any programs but they will not tell you which one until Friday. On Match day, you will receive an envelope stating which program you matched into. This is a special day for medical students. You may or may not have matched into your top choice. If you did not match into any programs you will be notified the Monday prior to match day. Then you will enter into what is called a “scramble”. That means that there will be unmatched openings at residency programs that you will try to match into during that week. Sometimes you will not be able to match into the specialty of your choice. We can got into that a bit later.
How can you be more competitive or give yourself the best chance to match? Here are my tips: Apply broadly, apply to numerous programs, do research that is within the specialty that you are interested, get to know 2-3 attending/faculty in your field well and get letters from them, do well on your rotations home and away, and obviously study hard for the Step exams.
If you don’t match at all and you are not able to match through the scramble process – Don’t lose hope! It is really important to go back over your application with somebody else and see where there are areas where you can improve. It’s hard to come back the next year after not matching but I know many who did and are fantastic doctors. It happens so make your application better for the next year. Ask for help and don’t give up.
I hope this helps. Keep the questions coming. Study hard and Be safe.