Wow, This is What Residency Programs Look For!

I'm going to do things a bit differently today.


Let's talk about what happens once you're already in medical school and the next steps in your career.

Some of the students who I've been advising for their medical school applications have asked me questions about applying to residency programs out of curiosity. 

Here's some insights.

Recently, I had the chance to speak with two residency directors from prominent programs in New York City. 

What they had to say about getting into a residency to begin your training in your preferred medical specialty was rather eye opening. 

One critical piece to your residency application is your Board scores. Think of this as the equivalent to your MCAT exam. They said you do not need to have out of this world scores unless you're aiming for the Big Dog programs where they only care about your numbers and how you can improve their national standing.

Otherwise, you want to have numbers that keep you competitive or slightly above the national average. 

The reason being is most programs use filters for Board scores so if you don't meet the cutoff value no one is ever going to see your application. The same applies for the MCAT and is why I make a huge deal about doing well. You need to be above the threshold so you can a fair chance.

Just a one or two points can make all the difference of whether you get past the computers or not.

Most programs set cutoff values using round numbers so in Boards a 229 won't make the cut but a 230 does. The same logic applies with the MCAT where a 504 won't get you in the door but a 505 will. 

That pesky topic you've been avoiding concerning Physics, Biochem, Sociology or CARS can make all the difference between you getting into medical school or not so put in the studying time to learn everything you need to for MCAT success.

Residency Personal Statements
The program directors said, "Personal statements are a joke." 

They expect them to be good and rarely is anyone going to say anything that negative about themselves in their personal statement so residency programs do not place a lot of weight on them.

However, a personal statement can actually do more harm than good when trying to secure a residency position. 

If you come across the wrong way in your essay it can totally kill your application. So you still need to take the writing of your personal statement seriously and make sure it's good enough.

Now as a premed student trying to get into medical school the complete opposite is true.

Your personal statement is the deciding factor between two equally qualified medical school applicants. Plus, it's the number three (3) factor that goes into an admissions decision after your MCAT and GPA. I've seen students get into medical school based on the strength of their medical school essay.

If you need a compelling medical school personal statement or just don't know how to position yourself, I can help you

Letters of Recommendation
There are code words found in your Letters of Recommendation. 

When it comes to residency programs who writes your LORs matters. You need to have someone who is known in the field and carries a lot of weight. Otherwise, a no-name writer is not going to do much for your application.

Here's what may be shocking.

You don't get to see
your LORs when applying to residency programs. But that's just the beginning. Some residency program applicants have been trashed in their LORs by their writer. 

How can that happen?

You have to have commonsense and know what type of relationship you have with your LOR writer. If you don't have the social wherewithal to know that your relationship is not as tight as it should be then its absolutely your fault you got a horrible letter.

The residency directors say that's an immediate red flag and we are going to pass on your application to avoid the trouble of having you in our program.

As a premed you can pick and choose who writes your LORs and even have specific writers for specific programs so use this to your advantage.

Personal Story...

I have a mentor who is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist whom I met on my 3rd year rotations and we are like best friends. Although, I'm still leery to call him by his first name even though he insists that I do.

Here's the problem.

He once wrote something for me that was used for school so I had the chance to read/see it before it was submitted and to put it lightly it was not the best writing.

Which means I cannot use him as one of my LOR writers for residency programs despite how familiar he is with me. A program director would take one look at the LOR and toss it aside.

See these are the calculations that you have to make at every stage of your career. Don't take anything lightly when it comes to getting into medical school. Oftentimes, students ask are there certain portions of the medical school application that are more important than others? This is the wrong approach to have. 

You have to remember every portion of the application matters otherwise AdComs would not require you to complete it. These are busy people so why would they give themselves extra work just for the sake of making you work harder, they wouldn't. 

There You Have It
These were some of the key takeaways exploring the process of applying to residency programs. I tried to incorporate details about how it relates to being premed and getting into medical school too. As you can see there are some differences but overall the process is competitive no matter what.

Don't think that once you get into medical school life is all roses, you still have to prove yourself so you can land a residency program.

The great debate of what type of medical schools you should apply to.

The residency directors stated generally you are ranked as follows:

  • U.S. citizen attending MD medical school

  • U.S. citizen attending DO medical school

  • U.S. citizen attending foreign medical school

  • Foreign citizen attending foreign medical school


I get that question asked from time to time about what are the best types of medical schools to attend. 

Oh, you'll like to know some of the financials too.

If you go to a foreign medical school be prepared to rack up an insane amount of debt. Talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those who attend international medical schools typically incur the most medical school debt.

Did you know?

You are actually paying $200 a day to be a medical student. 

This is if you take the overall cost of attendance divided by the amount of hours in lecture and engaged in clinical activities obviously excluding personal study time. 

Study Wisely!

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Jason's Blog.