Picking a Residency Program
Selecting the programs to apply to for residency can seem like a daunting task. This is also a very personal process that will involve incorporating many unique considerations in your decision making process. Many times students have specific geographic preferences such as a partner or family members living in a certain part of the country that will narrow the search.
It’s important to recognize that there are many programs that would serve your educational and training needs. With over 400 programs to choose from you should resist the notion that there is only one perfect program for you. The sheer volume of programs, however, can pose a challenge in terms of identifying the right programs for you.
The following advice is intended to help lend some structure to your search and introduce you to some of the resources and information that is available to assist you.
The American Academy of Family Physicians website has a very functional website with a listing of all the programs in the country. You can sort the list in various ways to help narrow your search. More detailed information can be found on the individual program websites. Remember, a program may be wonderful yet have a sub-optimal website – so be careful not to too harshly judge a program by its website cover. Spending some time looking through this listing will help familiarize you with the types of programs and some of the many differences including number of resident slots, location, salary and so on.
Your peers are a great resource to share observations and questions with during the interview season. You should absolutely try and reach out to your colleagues who have already matched to get their advice before they disappear into the graduation sunset. The Family Medicine Match Day Party (March-April) is a great place to find them and chat them up about their experiences. Many of you will be interviewing at the same programs and sharing notes is a good way to get a better perspective on a program. We are in the process of creating a database of all the programs our students have interviewed at in the past. Student reflections (also in the works) on these programs can help paint a more personal picture of a program. We are also compiling a list of programs that UVA students have matched at in the past (also available on the Student Source). Look for this new information on the family medicine website in the coming weeks.
Residency Student Advisor Advice
After reviewing the information available on the web and chatting up your peers you should make a preliminary list and share it with your Residency Advisor. He or she will provide some additional thoughts to consider. Your advisor will also share your list with the Residency Advisory Group (RAG) in our department to provide some additional feedback on the relative competitiveness of the programs on your list. Please recognize that any attempt to rate the relative competitiveness of individual programs is an extremely difficult and a subjective endeavor fraught with numerous limitations that greatly limit the accuracy of the process. It is important to attempt to do so, however, to provide some estimation of whether the programs you have selected are comfortably within your reach or a bit of a competitive stretch for you. Your advisor will help you make these distinctions and suggest an appropriate number of programs for you to apply to – usually between 10-20 (sometimes more).
You can add programs to your list at any point during the Match (until it closes). Practically speaking, however, you should try and avoid this as this will place you at a significant disadvantage in terms of securing a potential interview slot. Do your research upfront and decided what programs you wish to apply to prior to ERAS opening. Ultimately, you will rank the programs you interviewed at from top (first choice) to bottom and submit this information as your finalized list to ERAS.
Every program has their own timeline, but generally speaking you should start to hear from programs in early October. Some programs will extend invitations to interview shortly after ERAS goes live, while others take their time sorting through hundreds of applications. Many programs receive hundreds of applications and some programs receive close to 1000 applications for 6-10 spots. Programs have a relatively fixed number of interview slots to offer so it is absolutely advisable to act on an invitation to interview as soon as possible. Programs definitely have an initial and then secondary wave of invites that they send. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the first wave will go out. As a rule of thumb if you haven’t heard from a program in 8 weeks after ERAS opened you were likely not included in their first round. Secondary invites will trickle in as the interview season goes on and programs sort out who has accepted their initial interview offers.
Should I Contact a Program if I Haven’t Heard About an Interview?
On the one hand you have nothing to lose, but you want to make sure that you are giving the program enough time to process your application and avoid appearing pushy. As above, if it has been 8 weeks and you have heard nothing you may choose to contact a program. A simple email to the Program Director (copy the Program Coordinator) to let him or her know that you are still very interested in the program and would love to interview is all that is needed. Keep it relatively short – remember they have hundreds of applicants to process. You might also touch base with your Residency Advisor to get some guidance about the timing and content of this communication.
Cancelling an Interview
In some circumstances it is appropriate and totally fine to cancel an existing interview. As the interview season progresses you may arrive at the conclusion that you do not need or want to do any additional interviews. “How many interviews is enough” is a question that can only be answered in the context of a specific student and the unique set of circumstances related to that student’s situation. Please be sure to check with your Residency Advisor to make sure that cancelling an interview is indeed the best course of action for you! When canceling an interview give the program as much notice as you can. Send an email to the Program Director (copy the Program Coordinator) with a short but thoughtful email that conveys that you appreciate the offer to interview but your plans have changed, you no longer wish to be considered for a spot in the program and you are sorry for the inconvenience. Again – before you cancel any interviews check with your advisor first!