Saturday, June 25, 2011


Everyone wants the strongest residency application, but it's often hard to tell what a program director is looking for. People often ask me to help them choose between two options for a variety of topics, and here are some of my thoughts that might help you. While there are certainly exceptions for specific situations, I strongly believe that the vast majority of you will benefit from this advice when applying to American residency programs:
  • Participating in a hands-on externship is better than shadowing during an observership.
  • A letter of recommendation from an externship is better than a letter from medical school.
    • Recent clinical experience is very valuable! You will enhance your knowledge base and clinical skills during an externship, and that will show in your letters of recommendation.
  • A letter of recommendation from your fourth year of medical school is better than a letter from your third year.
    • The skills and confidence you develop during your fourth year will be reflected in your letters.
  • United States clinical experience is better than international experience.
  • Applying in mid-September with a complete application is better than applying on September 1 with an incomplete application.
    • I really want to emphasize this point. Far too many people rush to send out their applications on September 1. If your application has spelling and grammatical mistakes, is missing key information, or is otherwise incomplete, you have wasted your chance and you have failed to impress the program director. Take the time to have your application reviewed by a professional.
  • Describing your work, volunteer, and research experience in ERAS should be done using full sentences, not the bullet points that you would find on a regular CV.
  • Explaining your non-medical experiences in ERAS is better than having large chronological gaps on your application.
  • Leadership of an organization (such as a student club) is better than casual membership in that group.
  • Primary care specialties (internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics) are more receptive to applications from international graduates than non-primary care specialties are.
  • Making presentations and/or publications of your research is better than participating in a research project with nothing to show for it.
  • Honesty is always, always, always better than lying on your application.
Also, as you probably know, ERAS opens on July 1 to start the residency application season. If you'd like a free assessment of your residency application, I'd be happy to review what you've already prepared, such as your CV and a draft of your personal statement. I have been advising and supporting residency applicants like you for over ten years.

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