Medical Students are now able to take advantage of PracticeMatch's Career Resources! It's never too early to start career planning. Whether you know what specialty you plan to practice in or are still deciding, PracticeMatch has you covered.
During medical school, students are working on starting their careers in medicine. Medical students have four years to decide what area they plan on practicing after medical school. This is the time where students can focus on their strengths while finding their passion.
The first two years of medical school can be similar to undergraduate school in that you will be spending time in classrooms and labs. Medical students will focus on different areas of the body and further understanding of the different areas of medicine. The material will be presented at a faster rate so learning new study strategies is essential. In undergraduate you might have been used to choosing what time your classes were, but in medical school you will have a fixed schedule with increased demands for what is expected. It is important to utilize time management tools to retain the information that will be presented to you.
Medical students will have to pass the Step 1 exam to move on to the third and fourth years of medical school. You should expect to spend these last two years in hospitals and clinics doing rotations of all the fundamental specialties. After doing rounds of each specialty, medical students will have an idea of which specialty they want to pursue and begin the process of applying to residency programs. Residency program applications are a long process and should begin no later than the third year of medical school. The goal after medical school is to finally put MD after your name and maintain the highest level of achievement.
There are many residency programs around the United States, but which will be the best fit for you? There are many things to consider when applying for residency programs and choosing which specialty you want to pursue. One of the biggest decisions a medical student will make is determining what specialty they will practice in. Know your strengths and understand what your weaknesses are before making any decisions. Find out what your career goals are and go from there. Are you someone who enjoys working with patients directly? Then consider Internal Medicine or Family Medicine to build lasting relationships with your patients. Looking for something with less contact? Radiology & Pathology have the minimum contact! Another thing to consider is what your desired lifestyle looks like. Certain specialties require around the clock care while others have the availability to clock in and clock out like Dermatology & Plastic Surgery. Another thing to consider is the salary. Many physicians are uncomfortable to admit that is something important to them. Lastly, find out how competitive your potential specialty is. Orthopedic Surgery & ENT are two of the hardest residency specialties to match.
As you are preparing to apply, you will be in charge of your application and getting all the necessary documentation and information to apply. Make sure that you look up important dates and deadlines for applying and set reminders for yourself to ensure no delay in applying, nor missing a deadline. Every specialty will be different in terms of competitiveness and difficulty to get accepted into. Students may consider attending programs based on the location, where their significant other is attending, finances, and work-life balance.
Students will start deciding on which specialty they might want to pursue in the last two years of medical school after doing rounds of each of the fundamental specialties. Once decided, students will apply to residencies based on several criteria. If you have not already determined which specialty is best for you, you may be looking at multiple specialties. To begin your search, find the top programs for the specialty or specialties of your interest. If a specialty is very competitive then it is important to apply to as many programs as possible. It is better to apply to many and have the chance to cancel interviews than have to go back and apply to more later on.
Residency applications must go through ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service). You will need to log into your student portal on the ERAS website to begin your residency application. Before you apply, be sure you have everything required. You will need the following: medical school transcripts, USMLE or COMLEX score, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and any other additional information requested. During this time, it may be tempting to reach out to residency program coordinators or other staff to check on your application status. Keep in mind since they are also using ERAS, many will not be back in contact with you about your application status. You will need to check on the ERAS portal for that information.
After you have applied, continue researching the programs you chose. This will help you further narrow down your decision on which program(s) will be the best fit for you. One way that you can do this is to go directly to the program's website. You can find a lot of useful information on items like about the area, what residents do in their spare time and other information on the program itself. If you are unfamiliar with the program's associated hospital or healthcare organization, look for more background on those as well. It can give you a better idea of how the program is shaped, as well as the hospital and community you would be training in. Geographic location is probably the most important factor to consider when applying to residency programs. You will be spending the next couple of years of your life there, so it is imperative that you love it. If you can't stand city living and having to take public transit to work, then you probably shouldn't apply to programs in major cities. The cost of living is also higher in cities so that is something to take into account as well. But remember, you don't have to relocate forever!
It's the time that most medical students have been waiting for; Match Week. Preparing for the residency application process is no easy task and should be started way ahead of time. The best time to start this process is during your third year of medical school or before, that way you don't have to cram everything into your last year and can enjoy it. Many strategies will help students secure a solid match.
- If you are going into a competitive field, it is a good idea to apply to numerous programs and be open-minded. Many times, if a student doesn't match into a residency program it is because they didn't apply to enough programs. That doesn't mean applying to any and all, but programs that fit your criteria and you could see yourself attending.
- Ask attending physicians to write a letter of recommendation right away after a clinical rotation. This way, it is fresh in their minds and they will remember everything about your performance. You will also want to have these ready to go as soon as possible so you aren't waiting for a response once it's time to submit your application.
- Be early. It is important to have everything ready by the time the ERAS website becomes available, that way you can submit your application right away. This means having all letters of recommendation, personal statements, and test scores ready to be submitted. Some programs might only download the applications sent in the first couple of days.
Interviewing is a vital step in the residency process and can become quite stressful and complicated. You are applying what you've learned in medical school and are going to use that in your first job as a physician. This step finally gives you an in-person look at where you might spend the next three-seven years of your life. The residency interview day will most likely consist of touring the facilities and interviews with the program directors, faculty members, and current residents. You may not be invited to interview at every program you applied to, but don't let that get in the way of a successful residency interview at other programs. Before you go into the interviews, you should begin to prepare. Here are some tips to make the best impression during an interview:
- Prepare way ahead of time. Know the program you are interviewing with, so you are familiar. Check with your mentor, advisor, and colleagues that have interviewed to find out if there are specific questions you should expect. Research everything you can about the residency program and have answers prepared for general questions they might ask. Expect to be asked about your interest in the specialty and other questions about your personal history. It is also a good idea to look up your potential colleagues to see if they have the same interests as you.
- Have thoughtful questions prepared to ask. Don't ask about stuff that you should've known ahead of time. Most residency programs have information listed on their website like pay for each year, allowances, and schedules. Instead, ask things about research opportunities, teaching responsibilities, or clinical duties. Don't Forget to Ask: Advice from Residents on What to Ask During the Residency Interview
- Practice. Practice in a realistic way that will prepare you most for the real thing. Voicing your responses to potential questions can help you prepare for interviews. You should never rehearse your answers like a script, but instead, get a general idea of how you would answer those questions. Feeling more prepared can help prevent nervousness during the actual interview. It is also a good idea to conduct mock interviews with friends or faculty members. Many medical schools provide mock interviews for students to prepare for their interviews with residency programs.
- Before you go into an interview, you need to dress the part. Make sure to choose a business professional outfit that you feel comfortable in. You do not want to be uncomfortable during the interview because that can add extra stress to the situation. Also, go to the interview prepared. Bring a copy of your CV, letters of recommendation, and any other items requested by the program. You should bring a pen and paper as well to take notes throughout the interview. Taking notes will also ensure that you do not forget important facts or information from the interview.
- Follow up with the people you interviewed with. Sending them a thank you card highlighting your time with them will leave a lasting impression. Also, after the interview, you should take notes on your experience. Taking notes allows you to recap important items (good or bad) that can influence your decision later. Do this the same day that you interviewed so all information will be fresh in your mind. You will later need to rank the programs in ERAS. Having notes you can refer back to will help! Make sure that as you are ranking the residency programs, you keep in mind everything you experienced during each interview.
The highly anticipated Match season has come to an end and now you are gearing up to begin a new chapter of your life. Congratulations! You are now one step closer to your goal and can start your first job as a physician. The next couple of weeks between graduation and the start of residency orientation can make a difference in your intern year. Now that you are in, you need to focus on your training and building relationships. The relationships you build with your program director and faculty advisor will be two of the most important relationships that you will build. Document everything! Stay prepared and take notes.
- If you have to move to another city, try to take some time beforehand to scope out a new place that is close to the hospital because you will be spending a lot of your time there. You'll also want something you love that you can come home to and relax after a long day of rounds.
- Spend time with family. You probably won't be able to see them much with the demands of residency training for the next couple of years, so take advantage of the time.
- Relax. Do something fun. This might be your last opportunity to go on vacation or visit family for the next couple of years so let loose and do something you've wanted to do the past four years but haven't had the time to.
- Read what the current and past residents are saying about their experience in the residency program you got accepted into. They were in your shoes once and have a first-hand account of everything you are about to experience.
It is the time of year that many students will be entering medical school or moving on to a residency program. During this period, medical students should begin creating their CV and be updating it constantly. Every six months to a year, students should add any leadership roles, scholarships, or research experience to their CV to stay current and not have to do it all at once when it's time to apply for residency. For some medical students, it can be a challenging process of knowing which information to include or where to get started.
First things first, your CV is a representation of you and your experiences, education, and more. You want to make sure that the CV you submit represents you well. As you are creating your CV, one essential item to remember is to keep your CV organized. Having a CV with each section clearly labeled will allow whoever is reviewing your CV to find information quickly. Keeping the formatting the same throughout the CV is imperative. Pick simple fonts and headings to use for the whole CV, this shows program directors that you are organized and professional. The information in each section should also be listed in reverse chronological order. To do this, list the information in each section listed by the most recent start date to the least recent start date. Doing this now will also help you later on as you apply for opportunities after training.
As you are creating your CV, you may be wondering which sections are necessary. Make sure to include the following: contact information, education, certifications, research experience, volunteer experience, and any relevant work experience. This information can be an indicator for the reviewer of who is qualified and disqualified from consideration. Do not lie about any information you add to your CV. Interviewers will review the information on your CV and look into it or ask about it during your residency interview. Always keep the information on your CV up to date and accurate.
Just like your CV should be organized, your CV should be formatted the same throughout. Make sure to keep the font type consistent, especially if you have copied and pasted any information from another document. Having a combination of fonts throughout your CV can make it look sloppy. The same goes for font colors. If you are formatting your section headers to be different (bold, italicize, etc.), be consistent on every page. It can be easy to forget how you were formatting headers, so double check!
Your CV should be readable. A long CV does not equal a strong CV. A "good" CV is one that is well organized and easy to read. Watch that your descriptions do not get too longwinded. Having too much text can bury other important information on your CV. Make sure that all of your descriptions are clear and concise. If you notice that your CV is beginning to look more like a textbook, go back to the drawing board and omit or summarize descriptions. Your CV should be no longer than five pages depending on your experiences.
Before you submit your CV with your residency application, have your CV reviewed. You should always use the spellcheck system in the word program you are using. Using spellcheck will help catch basic spelling and grammatical errors that you may have missed. It is also wise to have another person to review your CV. This can be a mentor, peer, advisor, or a free service like PracticeMatch. Having someone else review your CV can help you learn which section(s) of your CV needs some work or if any information is unclear.
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