Graduating from med school is only the first step toward becoming a physician. Post-graduate medical care training is critical to becoming a licensed physician and achieving board certification.
Matching with a residency program is a competitive process, though, and not all med school graduates match on their first attempts. The process can be stressful, and students often struggle to find the best ways to make their applications stand out.
However, matching with a med school residency program is not just about making yourself a quality candidate and showing you know how to take blood pressure. This process is also an opportunity for you to figure out which team of medical professionals will best help you pursue your career. Having a team of fellow cohorts can make or break the residency experience, so it is important to find a place where you can see yourself grow and enjoy working with your colleagues.
Although you have several factors to consider when searching for a residency, these four tips are among the most crucial to achieve success.
Your Personal Statement Matters
When applying to any residency program, your personal statement is your sales pitch. It needs to explain what you hope to gain from a med school residency and why you’re pursuing your particular path. Demonstrating passion is critical. In other words, if you’re seeking a residency in family medicine, your statement must focus on why you’ve chosen that specialty and highlight your mission within that context.
A personal statement should convey who you are as a person as well as a future doctor. What makes you unique, and what do you do outside of med school that ignites your passion?
It could be a hobby or a life-changing trip or event. Whatever it is, the personal statement should reveal that you’re “more than medicine.”
Finally, have as many people as possible read your statement to ensure it hits your target. While it’s helpful to get feedback from fellow students, faculty, and program directors, ask people from outside the field to review it as well. More perspectives ensure your story comes across the way you intend.
Show a Passion for Family Medicine (Or Your Chosen Specialty)
Med school offers the chance to explore different specialty areas and find the one that best aligns with your passions. But, in their determination to match with a residency, some aspiring family physicians apply to multiple programs.
Applying to programs outside your chosen specialty — for example, an obstetrics program when you want family medicine — makes it harder to show you’re a good fit and provide the best patient care. In contrast, if you focus on family medicine, you can tailor every aspect of your application to family medicine.
Not to mention, settling for a second or third-choice specialty can harm your residency experience. For instance, if you want to work in internal medicine and provide health care to older patients, a family medicine residency in primary care practice where you see pediatric patients isn’t a good fit.
Approach the Interview from a Personal Perspective
While many students expect that interviews for a family practice residency will be technical, that’s rarely the case. Program directors are more concerned with how potential residents communicate, which is critical in working with patients. Patients don’t want to hear medical jargon, nor do program directors. When you attempt to present yourself as someone you’re not during the interview, the truth will reveal itself during the residency.
So don’t spend too much time “brushing up” on technical information. Instead, focus on being personable and creating a connection with the interviewer. Remember, you will spend upwards of 80 hours a week for three years with your cohorts as a health care team during your residency, so the interview helps determine your compatibility.
Interviewers want to know that they like you and can develop productive working relationships. Be personable, share stories, and be ready to discuss your hobbies, service projects, and other interesting aspects of your experience and personality.
Attend Social Events
Most social events for residency applicants moved online during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still a critical aspect of the residency matching process. Current residents, faculty, and program directors attend social events to give applicants a chance to meet and get to know each other. Students can provide solid advice for the application process and insight into the program, and the people you meet can even vouch for you.
Events also give you the chance to get a better sense of who you’ll be working with and whether the program is a good fit. Remember, the interview process is also for determining whether you want to match with a program.
Learn More About Med School
To learn more about what to expect from the med school matching and application process, call Saint James School of Medicine at 800-542-1553 to speak with the admissions team.