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Medical Student Perspectives: Overview of the Residency Application and Interview Process

How to Apply

  • Complete the Electronic Residency Application System (ERAS): You can begin filling out your ERAS paperwork on July 1 and submit your completed application by September 1. After submitting your application, you will receive e-mail invitations for interviews, which occur between late November and January. After interviewing, take time to rank your choices for a residency program. The magical match day will occur in March.

  • Apply Early: It is important to submit your application as soon as possible. Some programs have a rolling application process, meaning interviews could begin as early as November. Other programs offer all their interviews at one time so be certain to visit each program’s Web site for their interviewing schedule.

  • Write and Update Your Curriculum Vitae (CV): Continually updating your CV will help simplify the ERAS application process by allowing you to cut and paste from your CV directly into the application. Include any clubs or national committees that you are a member of as well as any papers you have had published. Many national organizations like the ACP hold meetings where they invite medical students to present their research. Participation in these meetings is also an important addition to your CV and ERAS application. If you do not currently have a CV, have no fear. Many Web sites are available to help you get started and most student affairs offices have sample CVs that you can examine.

  • Construct a Good Personal Statement: Your personal statement should explain why you chose your prospective field of medicine. It should not exceed 1 pages, and it should not be a regurgitation of your CV or ERAS application. One suggestion is to include a brief explanation of challenges you faced while volunteering or working with various organizations and how you overcame these challenges. For more information on writing a personal statement, visit the September 2006 issue of IMpact.

  • Choose What Programs to Apply to: Know what you want and research each program. If you want to be a clinician, you should be looking at programs with particularly strong clinical teaching. If you are interested in research, you should focus on academic medical centers where research is emphasized. Visit the program’s Web site to learn more details about that program. Independently run Web sites like www.scutwork.com and www.studentdoctornetwork.com can also help you learn about a program, but should be used with caution. One unhappy resident may not accurately represent the entire program. If you are interested in pursuing a fellowship after residency, investigate what percentage of applicants get into fellowships from that program. Most residency programs in internal medicine publish their fellowship matches on their Web site.

  • Decide if You Want to do an Away Rotation: An away rotation is not required for an internal medicine residency program so you should carefully consider whether or not you choose to do one. If you decide to do an away rotation at the program of your choice, it allows the program to see your work ethic and put a face and personality to your application. Another benefit of doing an away rotation is that it gives you the opportunity to see what you like and dislike about the program. Things you should observe while on your away rotation include the interaction between residents and faculty, resident interaction outside work, and the amount of time set aside for learning in the day. Away rotations can be difficult if you do not have an outgoing personality, so before making your decision be confident that you can easily transition into new surroundings.

How to Have a Successful Interview

  • Dress in Appropriate Attire: Make sure you have an interview suit that is both comfortable and professional. Try on your suit before you begin interviews so you have plenty of time for any necessary alterations. It is important to look your best and make a good first impression. Appropriate attire is essential, you do not want anything to distract the interviewer from what you are saying.

  • Be Prompt: Show up early or at the very least on time. Arriving late could affect your chances of getting in the program.

  • Be Polite: Say please and thank you, hold the door for others, and wait for them to sit down before you. You are being interviewed and observed the entire day by residents, faculty and staff so be polite to everyone.

  • Do Your Research Beforehand: You do not want to ask questions that you should already know the answers to. For instance, if you are applying for an internal medicine/pediatrics combined residency, do not ask your interviewer about the difference between that and family medicine. These types of questions show poor preparation and research. Instead, have a few good questions prepared to ask the interviewer.

  • Have Confidence in Yourself: Be proud of your accomplishments and abilities.

  • Be Honest: Most interviewers have been interviewing students for a number of years and can see through falsehood.

  • Prepare for Open-ended Questions: You should be prepared to answer the following questions. Why do you want to be an internist? What do you like to do with your free time? What are your best qualities? What are your worst qualities? If you need some time to think, ask the interviewer for a minute or two.

  • Be Sensitive: Avoid being overly political or taking a radical stand on any hot-button issues. You do not know the personal views of your interviewer and you do not want to appear offensive.

  • Allow Yourself Some Time After Interviews: Do not schedule interviews on back-to-back days. They are more exhausting than you would think, so you should take at least one day off before the next one.

How to Follow-up After the Interview

  • Send Thank You Cards: Send cards to each person who interviewed you, including residents. Be sure to personalize each card.

  • Journal Your Thoughts: When you get home from the interview, immediately write down your thoughts and impressions of the program. Have a checklist of things you want in a program to help keep you focused.

  • Rank Potential Programs: Do not include any programs in your ranking that you would not want to attend. If you cannot see yourself at a program, eliminate it from your list. Rank your most desired program first, and see what happens.

Good Luck!

Tony Tarchichi
CSM Representative, Central Atlantic Region
UMDNJ, New Jersey Medical School, 2007
e-mail: tarchitr@umdnj.edu

Back to December 2006 Issue of IMpact

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