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How to Rank Residency Programs? Your Guide to Making Your NRMP Rank Order List

Match Application Blog

How to Rank Residency Programs?
Your Guide to Making Your NRMP Rank Order List

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Rank List, click here.

A key component of the residency Match process is the rank order list, a carefully considered list of residency programs ranked based on your preferences.

Crafting a thoughtful rank list is essential for both a successful Match outcome and setting yourself up for future success in your postgraduate training. This process determines where you will spend the next 3-10 years of your training (depending on your specialty).

In this blog, we will discuss the different factors you should consider when building your Rank Order List.

How Does the Match Algorithm Work?

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), or “The Match,” uses a computerized algorithm to place applicants into residency positions. Your rank order list is your way of telling the algorithm your program preferences. The programs rank applicants as well, and the Match is the result of this mutual ranking system.

Understanding the mechanics behind the Match can help demystify the process and aid in strategic ranking.

Importantly, it is imperative to remember that the Match Algorithm is “applicant-proposing” meaning the preferences expressed on the rank order lists submitted by applicants, not programs, initiate placement into training.

In other words, when creating your rank list you should truly rank programs in your order of preference (as opposed to ranking programs highly that you think will rank you highly) as you will not be penalized.

To understand this process more, you can watch these two videos: Video 1, Video 2.

Interviews and the Rank List

As you navigate through the interview season, the impressions and experiences from each program can start to blend together, making it challenging to recall specific details later on. To counter this, it’s crucial to develop a habit of taking detailed notes immediately after each interview.

Document the pros and cons of the program, your gut feelings about the culture and environment, and any specific interactions with faculty and residents that stood out to you. These notes will be invaluable when it comes time to create your rank list, helping you to remember not just the factual aspects of each program, but also your personal reactions and feelings towards them.

This process ensures that your final decisions are informed not only by objective criteria but also by your intuitive responses to each program, providing a holistic view that can guide you toward the best fit for your residency training.

Practice interviewing with our experts who trained at top-notch residency programs! If you’re not satisfied, get your money back!

Before You Start Ranking

Reflect on what matters most to you in your residency training and beyond. Consider factors such as the type of clinical exposure, the culture of a program, geographical location, and lifestyle. This self-assessment will serve as the foundation for evaluating and ranking programs. Seek input from friends, family, and mentors as this is a big decision.

How to Evaluate Residency Programs? Factors to Consider When Making the Rank List!

Academic and Educational Opportunities

The academic and educational framework of a residency program is fundamental to your development as a physician. Pay attention to the following aspects:

  • Curriculum: A thorough understanding of the program’s curriculum is crucial. It should offer a balanced mix of clinical training, didactic learning, and elective opportunities to cater to your educational needs and career aspirations.
  • Faculty and Their Subspecialties: The diversity and expertise of the faculty can significantly enrich your learning experience. Look for programs where faculty members are leaders in their fields, offering mentorship and exposure to various subspecialties.
  • Research Opportunities: Active participation in research can be a pivotal part of your residency experience. Evaluate the availability of research opportunities, including support for projects and access to resources.
  • Research Year: Some programs offer or require a research year. Consider the benefits of dedicated research time, such as the potential for publications, presentations, and the development of a strong research skill set. Investigate the labs and mentors available to support trainees during this year.
  • Recent Graduates’ Success: The achievements of recent graduates, especially in terms of fellowship placements, can provide insights into the program’s strength in preparing residents for advanced training. A track record of successful matches into competitive fellowships is a positive indicator of a program’s academic environment.
  • Types of Fellowships: While evaluating a program’s success in fellowship placements, consider the diversity of specialties. A program may be strong in matching graduates into certain subspecialties (like cardiology) but not others (such as GI or Heme/Onc). This could align or conflict with your long-term career goals.

Rank List Advising

Get expert advice on how to rank your residency programs from our advisors. Get your money back if you are not satisfied.

Clinical Experience

When assessing the clinical experience offered by residency programs, several factors play a crucial role in ensuring comprehensive training. Consider the following:

  • Type of Hospital: The hospital’s level, such as a Level 1 Trauma Center versus a community hospital, impacts the complexity and variety of cases you’ll encounter. Level 1 Trauma Centers typically offer a broader range of high-acuity cases.

  • Location: The hospital’s location, whether urban or rural, influences the patient demographics and common conditions treated. Urban centers may offer exposure to a diverse patient population, while rural settings can provide unique primary care experiences.

  • Academic Affiliation: Programs affiliated with academic institutions often provide opportunities for research, teaching, and exposure to cutting-edge treatments and technologies.

  • Types of Cases and Pathologies: The variety of cases and pathologies you see is crucial for a well-rounded training. Consider programs that offer a balanced exposure to both common and rare conditions, tailored to your specialty.

  • Volume of Cases: The volume of cases is indicative of the hands-on experience you’ll gain. High-volume centers can offer extensive procedural experience, which is critical for specialties requiring technical proficiency.

  • Catchment Area of the Hospital: The hospital’s catchment area determines the diversity of the patient population and the range of conditions treated, affecting your learning experience.

  • Types of Rotations: Evaluate the breadth and depth of rotations offered. Some programs may be strong in certain areas (e.g., trauma surgery) but have limited exposure in others (e.g., surgical oncology). Ensure the program provides a balanced experience or aligns with your interests.

Are you an IMG trying to find USCE with no luck? Check the list of our experienced doctors offering USCE to IMGs!

Program Culture and Environment

The culture of a program significantly affects your training experience. Seek programs where you feel supported, where mentorship is strong, and where residents are satisfied with their education and work-life balance.

During the interview process, most programs will disclose specific factors regarding the program such as call schedule, rotation schedule and the flexibility to incorporate electives into your education. These are important considerations that may factor in your reasoning for ranking a program higher or lower.

Salary and Benefits

Salary and benefits are yet another consideration when creating a rank list. This information can be found online and is typically universal for the entire healthcare system regardless of specialty (although there are some salary incentives for Family Medicine and Rural Medicine Programs).

Consider both the salary and the cost of living in that area as $70,000 is very different in Boston vs. rural PA. Finally, you should also see what additional benefits are provided, this includes health insurance, childcare, fertility care/counseling, and retirement benefits.

If you are looking for a comprehensive guide on how to reach out to research mentors, email and CV templates, who is the best mentor, and what is the best research position, check out our course on how to find research positions in the U.S.

Opportunities for Professional Development

A residency program’s commitment to the professional growth of its residents is a critical factor to consider. Opportunities for professional development not only enhance clinical skills but also prepare residents for leadership roles in their future careers. When evaluating programs, consider the following:

  • Discretionary Education Funds: Some programs provide residents with a budget for educational resources, allowing them to attend conferences, purchase textbooks, or subscribe to professional journals. This financial support is crucial for staying current in your field and networking with peers.

  • Funding for Medical Supplies: Look for programs that offer funding for essential medical supplies, such as surgical loupes, stethoscopes, and handheld ultrasounds. These tools are fundamental to your training and can enhance your learning experience.

  • Internal Educational and Research Conferences: Participation in these conferences can significantly enrich your educational experience. They provide a platform for presenting research, engaging in academic discussions, and learning from peers and experts in your field.

  • Visiting Professorships: Programs that invite visiting professors offer residents the opportunity to learn from renowned experts. These experiences can introduce new perspectives and techniques, broadening your educational experience.

  • Workshops Focusing on Hands-on Techniques: Hands-on workshops are invaluable for developing and refining technical skills. Look for programs that offer workshops in advanced procedures, simulations, and other practical skills relevant to your specialty.

  • Mentorship and Career Guidance: A program that facilitates strong mentorship relationships and offers career guidance can have a profound impact on your professional development. Mentorship can provide you with personalized advice, support, and opportunities for career advancement.

Rank List Advising

Making your rank list is a stressful task! Our advisors have extensive expertise and can help you make the best decision on where to spend the next 3-10 years of your life.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A residency program’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is crucial for fostering a learning environment where all individuals feel valued, respected, and supported. When evaluating programs, consider the following aspects:

  • Diversity Statement and Policies: Look for clear statements and policies that reflect the program’s commitment to diversity. This includes efforts to recruit and retain a diverse workforce of residents, faculty, and staff.

  • Inclusive Environment: Evaluate the program’s environment to ensure it is inclusive and supportive of all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or socioeconomic background. This can often be gauged through discussions with current residents and faculty during interviews or visits.

  • DEI Initiatives and Resources: Investigate the specific initiatives and resources the program offers to promote diversity and inclusion. This may include mentorship programs, diversity committees, cultural competency training, and support groups.

  • Representation: Consider the diversity of the program’s leadership, faculty, and resident body. Representation matters, as it contributes to a richer learning environment and provides role models for all trainees.

  • Community Engagement: Programs that engage with their local communities, especially underserved populations, demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and health equity. Look for opportunities to participate in community service and outreach activities.

  • Support Systems: Evaluate the support systems in place for residents, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. This includes access to mental health resources, professional development opportunities, and networks for personal and career support.

Location and Lifestyle

Consider the impact of location on your personal life and well-being. Factors like cost of living, proximity to family, and lifestyle opportunities should align with your long-term satisfaction and happiness. 

Looking for a detailed ERAS Application Template with samples of various experiences?

Ranking Strategy

Balance is key when creating your rank list. Consider each program’s strengths and how they align with your priorities. Be honest with yourself about where you see the best fit.

Again, because the Match Algorithm is applicant-proposing, your rank list should reflect your true preferences. Don’t be afraid to aim high.

How many programs should I rank for residency?

You can rank as many programs as you like. Generally, it is recommended to rank only the programs you interviewed at. Do not rank programs you don’t want to match at (not a good fit for you).

When is the Deadline to Submit and Certify the Rank List?

For Match 2024, the deadline to submit and certify the Rank List is FEB 28 09:00 PM EST.

Finalizing Your Rank List

After thorough research and reflection, revisit your list with fresh eyes. Seek input from mentors and peers but remember that the final decision should reflect your own preferences and judgment.

Finally, trusting your gut feeling about a program’s fit can be just as important as its academic credentials.

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Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Ranking Programs

Avoid common mistakes such as ranking programs based solely on prestige or underestimating the importance of program culture.

Remember, the goal is to find a program where you will thrive, not just survive.

Finally, it is important to realize that you do not have to rank every program that you interviewed at. If there is a program that gave you particular bad vibes or came across particularly malignant it may be in your best interest to not include it on your rank list as this is a legally binding commitment

Conclusion

The Match is a unique and complex process but approaching it with a well-considered rank list can significantly increase your chances of a positive outcome. Remember, this is about finding the right fit for you, where you can grow, learn, and become the physician you aspire to be.

Rank List Advising

You interviewed at multiple programs and are not sure how to rank them? Our advisors are here to help!
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Network with Residency Programs for a Successful Match

Match Application Blog

Network with Residency Programs for a Successful Match

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your residency journey, click here.

Networking with residency programs has become increasingly popular with each application cycle becoming more and more competitive for all specialties across the board. Through networking, you can gain valuable insight regarding residency programs which can help tailor your application process, establish personal connections, secure letters of recommendation, and opportunities for research and away rotations. Networking is key in obtaining opportunities, especially if you are an IMG or come from a school that does not have a department of your desired specialty.

In this blog, we will equip you with a set of invaluable tips and tricks to enhance your networking skills. These strategies are designed to give you a competitive edge, increase your chances of successfully matching into your desired residency program, and ultimately help you realize your dream of becoming a practicing physician.

What is the Overall Timeline for Networking with Residency Programs?

The timing of when to reach out to programs depends on what stage of medical training you are at and why you want to connect with that program. Are you wanting to connect with them because of a research project? away rotation? residency interview?

Networking For RESEARCH PROJECTS

  • The best time to reach out to such programs for Research Projects is the summer before your M2 year. If your medical school has dedicated research time allotted for you, make sure to start networking at least 6 months before that time period.
  • If you are IMG and have finished medical school, there is no specific timing that applies, however, there are several research internships offered through medical institutions that have specific application deadlines so stay on the lookout for that!
  • You can email the faculty that have active projects expressing your interest. Attach your CV to the email and describe how your skills align with their goals.
  • With application cycles becoming more competitive with each year, research is becoming an increasingly important factor when it comes to a successful match! You can read our blog on how to find research opportunities as a medical student HERE.
If you are looking for a comprehensive guide on how to reach out to research mentors, email and CV templates, who is the best mentor, and what is the best research position, check out our course on how to find research positions in the U.S.

Networking for AWAY ROTATIONS

  • The best time to apply for Away Rotations is the winter of your M3 year or at least 6 months before the start of that rotation. These rotations can be through VSLO but many programs have rotation applications on their website so be aware of those deadlines as well!
  • If you are applying through VSLO, be sure to check for the number of away rotations slots available per rotation. Financially, it is better to apply to programs that have 3+ spots per rotation compared to 1-2.
  • If you have not heard a rejection or acceptance offer 4-6 weeks prior to the start date of the rotation, reach out to the rotation coordinator via the methods outlined below!
  • If you are an IMG and your school does not participate in the VSLO, you can check our guide on electives without VSLO HERE.
  • Check out our blogs on the Best Electives in the U.S. and How to Find U.S. Clinical Experience for FREE.

Are you an IMG trying to find USCE with no luck? Check the list of our experienced doctors offering USCE to IMGs!

Networking for RESIDENCY INTERVIEWS

  • The best time to reach out to such programs for Residency Interviews is 2-3 weeks into the ERAS application cycle.
  • It is always better to reach out to someone you know within the program who can reach out to the program director compared to you reaching out to a program director that you do not know.
  • We don’t recommend waiting too long before you reach out to your connections within the program or the program directly as some programs start sending interview invites 2-3 weeks after the ERAS application season opens (the date from which programs are able to see the applicants’ applications).
  • Have a realistic goal for the number of interviews you wish to obtain for a successful match and continue to work towards that goal through the tips outlined in this blog!
  • Check out our blog on how to write letters of interest to residency programs HERE.
Practice interviewing with our experts who trained at top-notch residency programs! If you’re not satisfied, get your money back!

How To Reach Out to Programs

Email

It is generally recommended to send the email to the research/rotation/ program coordinator’s or director’s email address. Keep the email under 500 words and be as concise and direct as possible.

  • Be sure to mention specific reasons why you are interested in the program. This is also the time to mention whether you have any special connections to the program or the area. Always end your emails by thanking them for taking the time to review your email.
  • If you are emailing a specific research faculty, their email can generally be found online. It is helpful to know what kind of research they are working on currently to see if you can get involved in the work!
  • As mentioned above, it is always helpful to highlight how your current skills and experience make you a suitable candidate for the project as well as how the faculty can help your professional growth.
  • For away rotations, it is helpful to propose multiple dates of the offered rotation to maximize your chances of getting that rotation!
  • End every email with your signature which should include your name, medical school name and year as well as your AAMC ID if you have one.
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Social Media

Most programs and physicians now have a social media presence, whether that be Instagram or X, and this can be another way to learn more about the program and its unique features. Many times, they will do Q&A sessions and that is a good time to attempt to learn more about the program.

  • Many physicians are active on MedTwitter (now X) and LinkedIn, and this is a good way to connect with attendings and residents who have shared a similar journey to yours. There are many postings about research opportunities and even openings for residency spots that applicants can take advantage of.
  • You can follow specialty-specific accounts or programs that you are interested in.
  • If you know current residents who graduated from your medical school or are from the same country as you, you should reach out to them via these methods as well.
  • Overall, it is also a great tool for medical education as many physicians are active on these platforms and share their knowledge regularly. This is a very useful method of finding a mentor!

Conferences/Meetings

Many specialties will have annual meetings or conferences that have meet-and-greet sessions for future residents. This is a great way to get some direct face time with the program’s residents and leadership. Although this can be difficult for many IMGs due to visa or financial issues, you should try to attend if possible. Many conferences offer scholarships to students, especially if you present your research at the conference.

  • These meetings also have networking events for learners of all levels. This is yet another way to find mentors and opportunities for research and away rotations.

  • Examples of these meetings include:
    ○ American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting
    ○ Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting
    ○ American Society of Anesthesiology Meeting

  • This is an in-person activity so dress professionally, smile, introduce yourself, and shake their hand at the start and end of your conversation.

  • Ask them about themselves, what opportunities are available at their institution, and express your interest in those opportunities.

  • You can ask for their email address or contact number so you can continue to connect with them in the future!
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Phone Call

Typically, the last step in reaching out to programs after you have tried the other methods. You can attempt to give the program/research/rotation coordinator a phone call.

  • Be polite, respectful and sincere.
  • Ask them whether there are any updates regarding your application. It is beneficial to have already sent a letter (email) of interest prior to the call so you can ask them whether they’ve received it / had a chance to review it. You should always be prepared to answer why you are interested in the program. Don’t forget to thank them for taking the time to speak with you, especially during the busy application season.
  • This method has personally worked for me in getting both away rotations and residency interviews.
  • It is best to give them a call if you have not heard anything 2 weeks after sending an email for residency interviews and 3 weeks after sending an email for research or away rotations.

Overall Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO: Always address your emails to the “admission committee” for residency emails, using the specific Ms./Mr./Dr. Last Name for research and away rotation emails.
  • DO NOT: There have been several instances where students have addressed emails to “Sirs”. The medical community is comprised of male and female physicians and faculty.

  • DO: Always be as specific as possible as to why you are interested in the program. Research the website and look into specific rotations, program tracks, or certificate opportunities they may offer. Find out how they match for fellowships and if the residents from that program match into fellowships YOU are interested in.
  • DO NOT: Simply stating that they are strong clinically and have a diverse population is not a good reason for your interest in the program.

  • DO: Have a professional appearance on your social media accounts. It is perfectly acceptable to mention your interests and hobbies. In fact, this will help you even more with networking.
  • DO NOT: You should not be spamming programs or any associated faculty and residents with personal requests (UNLESS they specifically have offered to give advice to interested students).

  • DO: Be polite and respectful on the phone. Know the name of the person you are calling, introduce yourself, and offer to give them your AAMC ID for further identification over the phone for a residency interview. Ask them if this is a good time for them to talk and always thank them for taking the time to talk to you and taking an extra look at your application.
  • DO NOT: If you do end up speaking to someone from the program, make sure they know your name (this is a common mistake). If you had the chance to speak to someone, do not call them again. If not, you can leave a voicemail or try two times after that but not any more than that.

As we conclude our comprehensive guide on networking for residency programs, we hope these insights and strategies empower you in your journey towards securing a residency spot. Whether it’s through research projects, away rotations, or residency interviews, effective networking is a crucial skill. Remember, building meaningful relationships and showcasing your dedication and interest can significantly impact your success.

We’re committed to supporting your aspirations and encourage you to reach out for personalized guidance and assistance in your residency journey.

Our residency advising is risk-free (you get your money back if you are not satisfied) and our advisors will provide you with individualized guidance on how to optimize your chances of matching and tailored strategy on how to build a competitive CV. If you need a one-on-one consultation with one of our EXPERT advisors, you can sign up here.

We wish you the best of luck!

Shriya Tanti, MD

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Residency Personal Statement Samples and Feedback

Residency Personal Statement Samples and Feedback

Match Application Blog

Residency Personal Statement
Samples and Feedback

Residency Personal Statement Samples and Feedback
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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Residency Application, click here.

Think of your personal statement as your unique chance to share your journey! It’s like a hidden gem in the residency application. Let’s make sure program directors are eager to meet you with a standout personal statement.
Dive into this post, where we’ve gathered some fantastic personal statement samples to inspire and guide your own residency application journey!

Sample 1: The Role Model | General Surgery

“Medicine is not a job, it is a way of life.” As the son of a cardiothoracic surgeon, my father’s mantra constantly echoed in my mind. I was raised in an environment where sacrifice and duty were familiar concepts from a young age. While my father did his best to balance work and family life, there were countless occasions when he had to prioritize his patients and commitments over personal events. Seeing his dedication and the impact he had on the lives of his patients, residents, and staff left an indelible impression on me.

After four challenging years studying biomedical engineering in undergrad, I was fortunate to be accepted to the University of Miami’s School of Medicine. While I was genuinely fascinated with almost every discipline of medicine, I had a particular interest in surgery. To give myself time to mature and explore this path further, I elected to take a research year after my second year of medical school and was able to secure a position in the laboratory of Dr. Seth Reigns, director of the Miami Transplant Institute. In the lab, I was tasked with characterizing Regulatory CAR-T cell populations in nonhuman primates. Excitingly, we found that two infusions of Regulatory CAR-T cells are able to prolong renal allograft survival in the absence of traditional immunosuppression. From a clinical perspective, witnessing the transformative impact of liver transplantation on critically ill patients was awe-inspiring. The chance to participate in donor procurements and witness the miraculous recoveries of patients postoperatively further solidified my resolve. Dr. Reigns, a true life-giver, provided me with a profound appreciation for the field of transplant surgery.

During my research year, I had the opportunity to hone my research skills and make significant contributions. However, it was my immersive experience as a third-year clerk on the trauma service that solidified my desire to pursue a career in surgery. Witnessing the remarkable expertise of the chief residents and attending surgeons in swiftly assessing and diagnosing patients amidst the chaos of the trauma bay, where vital information was often scarce, left me mesmerized. The urgency with which they inserted chest tubes and promptly performed emergent exploratory laparotomies was nothing short of exhilarating and profoundly inspiring. Equally fulfilling was the privilege of accompanying these patients throughout their hospitalization, observing their remarkable recovery from being intubated in the intensive care unit to the triumphant moment of their eventual discharge. This comprehensive experience further affirmed my passion for surgical intervention and reinforced my unwavering commitment to becoming a surgeon.

In addition to my research endeavors, I also became involved with Operation SECURE, a nonprofit crisis center in Miami that offers crisis counseling services free of charge. This experience has been humbling and rewarding, particularly as I counsel individuals struggling with alcohol and substance use disorders. Drawing from my background in transplant surgery, I am able to provide a unique perspective on the long-term consequences of addiction. While surgical intervention can address these issues this experience demonstrated the importance of preventative medicine as well.

Looking ahead, my goal is to pursue a residency in general surgery, with the ultimate aim of specializing in abdominal transplant surgery through a fellowship program. I am well aware that the challenges I will face in my training are formidable, but I am constantly reminded of my father’s voice, urging me to approach this as more than just a job—a true lifestyle that demands my unwavering commitment. As I embark on this journey, I am eager to give everything I have to the field of surgery. It is my steadfast dedication to making a profound difference in the lives of patients, the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, and the opportunity to live my dream that fuels my passion for general surgery and the transformative field of transplantation.

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Commentary on Sample 1

“Medicine is not a job, it is a way of life.” As the son of a cardiothoracic surgeon, my father’s mantra constantly echoed in my mind. I was raised in an environment where sacrifice and duty were familiar concepts from a young age. While my father did his best to balance work and family life, there were countless occasions when he had to prioritize his patients and commitments over personal events. Seeing his dedication and the impact he had on the lives of his patients, residents, and staff left an indelible impression on me.

The first paragraph is what will set the tone for the entire personal statement. Ideally, you can open up with an engaging first sentence that will “grab” the reader. In this case, the applicant is providing a quote from her father describing the sacrifices that one must make as a physician. The applicant then sets up her father as a role model and the role this played in her decision to pursue medicine.

Note that often applicants feel the need to be “too creative” in the opening paragraph. A quote from a mentor or influential person or patient is ok, but you don’t have to always include quotes or extremely unusual stories. Further, recognize that some applicants will have more unique or interesting personal experiences than others. Not every applicant is a cancer survivor or has donated an organ to a family member or is the product of a war-torn country. The overall goal of the personal statement is to provide a concise, polished essay demonstrating your motivations for residency. Along the way, you tell your story while highlighting key aspects of your personality and CV.

After four challenging years studying biomedical engineering in undergrad, I was fortunate to be accepted to the University of Miami’s School of Medicine. While I was genuinely fascinated with almost every discipline of medicine, I had a particular interest in surgery. To give myself time to mature and explore this path further, I elected to take a research year after my second year of medical school and was able to secure a position in the laboratory of Dr. Seth Reigns, director of the Miami Transplant Institute. In the lab, I was tasked with characterizing Regulatory CAR-T cell populations in nonhuman primates. Excitingly, we found that two infusions of Regulatory CAR-T cells are able to prolong renal allograft survival in the absence of traditional immunosuppression. From a clinical perspective, witnessing the transformative impact of liver transplantation on critically ill patients was awe-inspiring. The chance to participate in donor procurements and witness the miraculous recoveries of patients postoperatively further solidified my resolve. Dr. Reigns, a true life-giver, provided me with a profound appreciation for the field of transplant surgery.

During my research year, I had the opportunity to hone my research skills and make significant contributions. However, it was my immersive experience as a third-year clerk on the trauma service that solidified my desire to pursue a career in surgery. Witnessing the remarkable expertise of the chief residents and attending surgeons in swiftly assessing and diagnosing patients amidst the chaos of the trauma bay, where vital information was often scarce, left me mesmerized. The urgency with which they inserted chest tubes and promptly performed emergent exploratory laparotomies was nothing short of exhilarating and profoundly inspiring. Equally fulfilling was the privilege of accompanying these patients throughout their hospitalization, observing their remarkable recovery from being intubated in the intensive care unit to the triumphant moment of their eventual discharge. This comprehensive experience further affirmed my passion for surgical intervention and reinforced my unwavering commitment to becoming a surgeon.

These next two paragraphs are perhaps the most important. Here the applicant dives into what made her want to become a general surgeon. She talks about her research  experiences in a surgical lab and her clinical experiences with her mentor Dr. Reigns. Note that while she is not simply rehashing her CV, she does mention her academic accomplishments and drives key points home. Note that while the applicant elected to open the first paragraph with a quote from her father, she could have also chosen to open with an internal thought or reflection from these clinical experiences with Dr. Reigns (i.e., “I’ll never forget the moment we completed the venous anastomosis and ended ischemia time. Blood began perfusing the pale liver as it pinked up.”)

In addition to my research endeavors, I also became involved with Operation SECURE, a nonprofit crisis center in Miami that offers crisis counseling services free of charge. This experience has been humbling and rewarding, particularly as I counsel individuals struggling with alcohol and substance use disorders. Drawing from my background in transplant surgery, I am able to provide a unique perspective on the long-term consequences of addiction. While surgical intervention can address these issues this experience demonstrated the importance of preventative medicine as well.

This paragraph draws on another crucial experience that the applicant had outside of the lab/OR. Remember, you are presenting yourself as a whole person so it is important to mention any other influential experiences (volunteering, service, etc.) that you are particularly proud of. Also, note that while the applicant is serving as a crisis volunteer, she circles back and relates it to her prior experiences above.

Looking ahead, my goal is to pursue a residency in general surgery, with the ultimate aim of specializing in abdominal transplant surgery through a fellowship program. I am well aware that the challenges I will face in my training are formidable, but I am constantly reminded of my father’s voice, urging me to approach this as more than just a job—a true lifestyle that demands my unwavering commitment. As I embark on this journey, I am eager to give everything I have to the field of surgery. It is my steadfast dedication to making a profound difference in the lives of patients, the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, and the opportunity to live my dream that fuels my passion for general surgery and the transformative field of transplantation.

The final paragraph is also very critical. Here you should mention your long-term goals. It is ok to be vague and specific at the same time. Finally, you should try to tie things up and if possible, connect them to any comments made in the first paragraph. Here the applicant paraphrases her father’s quote that opens the personal statement. Finally, the applicant affirms their choice for applying to general surgery and provides an optimistic look on their future training.

As a final note remember that the personal statement is just one piece of an entire application. While it is important most applicants do not get an interview based on a personal statement, however, rest assured some applicants do not get an interview based on a poor personal statement. The vast majority of personal statements (~85%) are simply acceptable documents that tell your personal journey while mentioning key aspects of your application. They are well-written, logical, and polished with no grammatical errors. A small portion (less than 5%) are truly incredible literary documents that are beautifully written and tell an incredible story. Still, these personal statements will likely do little in the way of getting you an interview. Finally, the remaining 10% of personal statements are the ones that can have your application dismissed. These personal statements are unpolished, contain grammatical errors, or are trying too hard to fall in the top 5% and come across poorly.

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Sample 2: The Firefighter | Emergency Medicine

For as long as I can recall, it seemed my destiny was always to become a firefighter. Growing up as the son and grandson of two generations of City of Toledo Firefighters, I witnessed firsthand the selflessness and bravery displayed by these everyday heroes. They were the first responders who fearlessly confronted emergencies, rushing into flaming buildings and establishing deep connections with the community. It was their dedication that inspired me to follow in their footsteps. However, my path took an unexpected turn after high school when I decided to take a position working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) prior to college.

During that transformative year, as I immersed myself in the world of emergency medical services, I had the privilege of interacting with emergency physicians both in the field and in the trauma bay. During these experiences, I was immediately captivated by their ability to think critically, remain calm in the face of chaos, and save lives. It was in those moments that I realized my true calling lay in the field of emergency medicine.

Coming from a blue-collar family, I understood the importance of hard work and determination. As the first person in my family to pursue a college degree, I enrolled in Owens Community College to pursue an Associate’s Degree in Pre-medicine. During this time, I continued to work as an EMT on weekends and during summers, financing my education through steadfast commitment and sheer determination. After two demanding years at the community college, my efforts were rewarded when I earned a full scholarship to the University of Toledo to complete my bachelor’s degree before gaining admission to the Toledo School of Medicine.
From the moment I stepped into medical school, my decision to pursue emergency medicine remained resolute. However, I recognized the value of acquiring a comprehensive understanding of various medical disciplines, as emergency medicine demands proficiency in almost every aspect of medicine. I approached every clinical rotation with enthusiasm, eager to develop the diverse skill set required to excel in the dynamic environment of the emergency department.

As a testament to my passion for the field, I took the initiative to establish the University of Toledo’s Emergency Medicine Interest Group, creating a platform where like-minded individuals could come together. Through this group, I organized lunch talks by members of the department and facilitated shadowing opportunities for first and second-year medical students. Furthermore, I dedicated two months of elective time to work alongside emergency medicine residents and physicians during prehospital care rotations across Toledo, solidifying my passion for the specialty.


Looking ahead, I envision a future where I split my practice between a large teaching academic center and an underserved, rural community. In the academic center, I aim to contribute to the education of residents and students, sharing my experiences and expertise to shape the next generation of emergency physicians. Simultaneously, I am deeply committed to serving in a rural or underserved setting, where I can make a meaningful impact on the lives of those in need. I believe that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, deserves access to high-quality emergency care, and I am eager to provide comprehensive and compassionate medical services to underserved populations. With the unwavering motivation and dedication inherited from two generations of first responders, I am ready to embark on the next phase of my training in emergency medicine.

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Sample 3: The impoverished| Primary Care/IM

“If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” These powerful words, spoken by my mother, have echoed in my mind since childhood. Growing up in a single-parent home on the south side of Chicago, my mother worked tirelessly as a nurse in Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital’s emergency department. Every night my brother and I would wait for her to arrive after her shift ended at 7 pm. As she shared stories of dedicated physicians and life-saving interventions, I began to view these doctors in the same manner my friends viewed superheroes or sports stars, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine.

As an African American in a neighborhood lacking professional role models, the path to becoming a physician seemed distant if not impossible. However, my mother’s belief in the power of dreams instilled in me the courage to strive for the extraordinary. With determination, I worked diligently throughout grade school and middle school, propelled by the aspiration to transcend the limitations of my circumstances. Eventually, I was admitted to Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, a magnet school named after a civil rights activist and one of my personal heroes.

Continuing to embrace every opportunity, I was able to attend Northwestern University on a full academic scholarship, where I immersed myself in neuroscience studies. Additionally, I dedicated my time as a tutor, providing support to underserved children in my former neighborhood. Witnessing the impact of education and healthcare disparities further ignited my passion for addressing these inequities.

Entering the University of Chicago Medical School, I embarked on a transformative journey. During my third-year clerkships, I discovered my calling in primary care and internal medicine. Although initially drawn to the fast-paced environment of the emergency department, I found the thoughtful, cerebral approach of internal medicine captivating. Each day, I eagerly embraced the challenge of unraveling complex medical puzzles, weaving together a patient’s diverse comorbidities to form a comprehensive list of differential diagnoses.

Following my third year, I took a gap year dedicated to serving underserved populations in Chicago. This experience provided a profound understanding of social determinants of health and the importance of preventive medicine. It solidified my commitment to bridging the gaps in healthcare access and outcomes, particularly within urban communities like my own.
Looking forward, my vision encompasses practicing as a primary care physician in an urban academic center, where I can not only provide compassionate patient care but also mentor and inspire medical students and residents. Furthermore, I aspire to conduct research that addresses social determinants of health, striving to make tangible improvements in my community.

Reflecting on my journey, I realize that my mother’s quote encapsulates the essence of my pursuit. With each step I’ve taken, from the dinner table conversations with my mother to my experiences in medical school, I have seen firsthand that dreams can indeed be transformed into reality. By embracing the challenges, dedicating myself to lifelong learning, and advocating for equitable healthcare, I am ready to embark on a fulfilling career in internal medicine—a path that resonates with my values, aspirations, and the indomitable spirit instilled in me by my remarkable mother. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” These words, once whispered to me at the beginning of my journey, now reverberate with even greater significance as I stand at the threshold of a future where I can make a lasting difference in the lives of others.

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Sample 4: The War Survivor| Internal Medicine

The Afghan Civil War erupted when I was in elementary school. Soon after, the Taliban occupied Afghanistan, and, as a girl, I was barred from my school. I had always dreamed of becoming the first female doctor in my family, and this was a goal that required extensive education, let alone elementary school. My family uprooted everything to migrate to Pakistan so that I would be able to continue my education. Living in a country where we were not welcomed, bearing financial burdens, and worrying about safety issues, especially for girls, were the least of the challenges we faced, but that did not hold me back.

Still, that was not the last challenge I faced. When I graduated high school, I could not afford to attend medical school in Pakistan. Instead, I accepted the offer to serve as a teacher at our community school. Teaching at such a young age, tutoring those similar in age to me, and managing a class of thirty students taught me a great deal of discipline and leadership, skills which I have since carried with me throughout my career.

A decade later, the Taliban regime was finally over. We returned to Afghanistan, and I attended the entrance exam for Kabul Medical University. Among thousands of other participants, I was part of the lucky 25% who passed the exam. My endurance had paid off. Finally in medical school, I found myself fascinated by the detailed knowledge and interdisciplinary approach of my internist attendings. Their synchronized orchestration of patient care resonated with my experiences managing diverse students, while their instructive whiteboard sessions on pathophysiology echoed my own tenure at the front of a classroom. These encounters served as enlightening examples, aiding me in sculpting my identity as a burgeoning physician.

On my internal medicine rotation, I was responsible for the care of a patient with multiple myeloma. His low hemoglobin level led to significant limitations in his daily activity. His symptoms were initially attributed solely to his condition, but I was not satisfied with this explanation. When I ordered his iron studies, we were able to diagnose him with concomitant iron deficiency anemia. An iron infusion quickly helped improve his quality of life, which was precious to my patient, as I knew from the time I had spent with him. That ability to help my patient made me finally feel like the doctor I aspired to be. I had found my home in internal medicine. The convergence of laboratory tests, imaging studies, and critical analysis to reach a diagnosis fuels my desire to become an internist.

Despite my passion for internal medicine, women in Afghanistan faced scant opportunities in this field. This was due to a lack of female mentors and sociocultural constraints against females being on night shifts in predominantly male hospitals. Undeterred, I embarked on another journey away from home, this time to the United States. Here, I secured a position as a medical scribe, working in tandem with various healthcare providers. This experience allowed me to absorb their expertise, familiarize myself with the U.S. healthcare system, and diligently prepare for and ultimately pass the USMLE exams.

I have come a long way, and still have a long way to go. My accomplishment of becoming my family’s first female doctor fills me with pride. Yet, I aspire to achieve more – to become a distinguished internist and an empowering role model for the women of Afghanistan. I intend to personify the belief: if you dare to dream, you are destined to achieve.

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Sample 5: Changing Specialties| Internal Medicine

When I was a senior in high school, my girl scout troop would organize weekly medical trips to rural parts of our community, working with local physicians to provide basic medical services to underserved patient populations. I was particularly struck by the excellent care and bedside manner of one of the physicians who used his bilingualism to connect with a non-English speaking patient who had faced significant challenges in accessing care. The doctor’s small gesture left a lasting impression on me, and, for the first time, I realized not only the curative but also the humanistic power of medicine to connect with patients across cultural barriers and in some of their most vulnerable moments. Though I had always had a proclivity for science, it was not until that moment that I had ever seriously considered a career in medicine.

In medical school, I was captivated by pre-clinical coursework in pathology and lectures on disease pathophysiology. I was torn between pathology and internal medicine during my clinical rotations, as I enjoyed the cerebral, deductive nature of each field and the fact that neither was limited to a single organ system or patient population. The opportunity to be the frontline diagnostician and to utilize advanced equipment and laboratory methods eventually won me over to pathology.

However, during my pathology residency, the pendulum started to swing back toward internal medicine. I vividly remember the turning point in my decision making. I was staring down the barrel of my microscope at dozens of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes on a peripheral blood smear. I paged the internal medicine team to help confirm the diagnosis of cerebral malaria. Hearing the excitement and celebration of the medical team on the other end, who had been struggling to identify the etiology of the patient’s undulant fevers and fatigue, I felt a pang of envy, a distinct feeling that I was missing out on the human factor of medicine.

Similarly, in my research on the utility of galectin-3 immunohistochemistry staining in papillary carcinoma of the thyroid, I found myself increasingly drawn to the human impacts of scientific investigation. For example, after my successful completion of several experiments, our department was able to secure funding to examine a wider range of malignancies. I was particularly excited when my research enabled our hospital to offer estrogen and progesterone receptor testing and hormonal therapy for breast cancer patients. I quickly realized that I did not just want to diagnose but to directly treat patients, and with each passing day, I yearned more for the ability to heal through empathic listening and the formation of meaningful rapport with patients.

Eventually, I decided to undertake the goal of retraining in internal medicine. To this end, I elected to travel to the United States to undertake hands-on clinical experiences. My time in the U.S. gave me firsthand exposure to a complex healthcare system and a deeper appreciation for the impact of advanced diagnostic technology, cutting-edge treatment modalities, and patient-centered, evidence-based care. I also gained confidence in my abilities to function as a member of a large, interdisciplinary care team, drawing on a skillset I had cultivated from many years of leading my girl scout troop and performing in church choirs.

I aspire to enter a residency program with an emphasis on strong clinical skills training, excellent research opportunities, and a dedication to clinical mentorship. Moreover, I want to be part of a program with strong camaraderie among residents and faculty and a spirit of collegiality and tireless dedication to patient care. Ultimately, I believe that my background in and extensive knowledge of pathology, my compassionate disposition, and my penchant for diligence and collaboration will make me a strong applicant to your residency program. Thank you for your consideration of my application.

Looking for a detailed ERAS Application Template with samples of various experiences?
Hopefully, these samples will help you draft an excellent personal statement to tell the great story of your medical journey! If you need help with editing your personal statement or having an expert lay an eye on it and give you comprehensive feedback, don’t hesitate to reach out to us HERE!
Need guidance on crafting that perfect personal statement? Swing by our blog “How to Write a Good Personal Statement for your Residency Application” for a fun walkthrough on creating a standout residency application statement.
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Letters of Recommendation for ERAS and Residency Applicants

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Letters of Recommendation
for ERAS and Residency Applicants

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ERAS and interview season is upon us. While there are many components to a strong and successful application, the four letters of recommendation (LORs) are one of the most important things that Program Directors consider when granting an interview and ranking applicants. This is magnified even more in smaller, niche specialties where program directors are likely to personally know many of the letter writers. While you cannot directly control what your letter writer will put in their LOR, we have highlighted some frequently asked questions below to make sure that are able to obtain the four strongest letters you possibly can.

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Should I waive my rights to see the letter of recommendation for residency?

You should almost always waive your rights to see your LOR.

Firstly, if you suspect that your letter writer will not be writing a positive letter of recommendation in support of your application, you should not be asking that individual to write a LOR for you.

Secondly, waiving your rights to see the LOR inspires more confidence in the Program Director that you trust your LOR writer’s assessment of your character/performance.

Finally, while you may waive your rights to see your LOR, often times letter writers will share the LOR with you before they send it out (especially if they are a long-time/close mentor).

When should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

You should begin to ask your letter writers as soon as you can. If you have been conducting research or have previously completed clinical experiences with someone who you would like to write a LOR, you should ask them early and give them the due date. While academicians and physicians understand the importance of LORs, they can take a significant amount of time (especially if they are writing multiple LORs). Ask early to give them time to plan. If you are on an acting internship or away rotation, you should ask your letter writers at the end of the rotation (not a week later or a month later), again to give them time.

How do I ask for a letter of recommendation?

The most direct way is to schedule a meeting with your letter writer and ask them if they can write a positive LOR for you. While you can also send an email, asking in person may be a better option. Your letter writer will then typically tell you what information they need from you to help them write the letter. This is often an updated copy of your CV, personal statement and any other information that you are particularly proud of. If you are particularly close with your letter writer, they may even ask you to “draft” a letter of recommendation to send to them to edit. At the end of the day the more information you can provide to your letter writer the better as it will make their job easier.

Did your mentor ask you to write a draft of your LOR but you’re unsure where to start?

Do you have an example of an email to request a letter of recommendation?

Dear Dr. Smith,

I hope this email finds you well.

I am writing to kindly request a letter of recommendation as I prepare to apply for residency in Internal Medicine. As you recall, I had the privilege of working with you for four weeks during my clinical rotation at the University of Maryland’s University Hospital this past spring. Our time together on both the inpatient floors and outpatient clinics was incredibly valuable and has reinforced my passion for pursuing a career in Internal Medicine.

During my rotation, I was truly inspired by your dedication to patient care and your extensive knowledge as an internist. Your guidance, mentorship, and constructive feedback have been instrumental in shaping my clinical skills and fostering my growth as a medical professional.

As I embark on this critical phase of my medical career, I believe that a letter of recommendation from you would significantly strengthen my residency application. Your insights into my clinical abilities and dedication to patient care would provide invaluable support to my candidacy.

I understand that writing a letter of recommendation demands time and effort, and I genuinely appreciate any assistance you can provide in this matter. Accordingly, I can provide you with my CV, personal statement, or any other supporting documents that may aid you in crafting the letter.

I would be grateful if you could submit the letter by [mention the application deadline], as this is the date that programs will begin downloading applications. If you need any additional information or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

Best,

Your Name

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Do you have an example of a conversation to request a letter of recommendation?

Here is a sample conversation to broach the topic in person.

You: I wanted to set up this meeting to see if you would be able to support my residency application with a positive letter of recommendation. Given the amount of time we spent on my clinical rotation, I felt that you would be able to provide good insight into my strengths and skills.

Mentor: Of course, I imagined that you would be asking for one this cycle so it is no big deal.

You: Wonderful!

Mentor: Yes, as we discussed, I felt that you did an incredible job and I’m more than happy to help you in any way possible. If you can send me an updated copy of your CV, a draft of your personal statement and any other information you would like me to highlight, it will help me tremendously.

You: Certainly, I will get that information to you as soon as possible. I know you are very busy, but if you could upload the letter by (state due date), it would be greatly appreciated.

Mentor: No problem. Just send me a reminder email 2 weeks before the due date if I haven’t already uploaded it.

Should I send 3 or 4 letters of recommendation for residency?

Generally, most residency programs require at least three letters of recommendation. However, if you have a fourth LOR that adds a unique perspective or highlights different aspects of your skills and experiences, it may be beneficial to submit it as well. Still, it’s crucial to check each program’s specific requirements before sending your LORs. Finally, it is always better to choose quality over quantity. If you feel that your fourth LOR may be generic it may be advisable to not include it.

What is a strong letter of recommendation for residency?

A strong letter of recommendation for residency is one that is detailed, personalized, and comes from someone who knows you well. It should highlight your skills, experiences, and personal qualities that make you an excellent candidate for the residency program. The letter writer should provide specific examples of your clinical skills, ability to work in a team, leadership abilities, and dedication to patient care.

Can I use a letter of recommendation from an older experience?

Absolutely, but within reason. If you have a research experience from two years ago, it is perfectly acceptable to request a LOR from that mentor. That being said, I would not ask for letters from High School or Middle School teachers.

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Who Should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

In an ideal world, you should ask someone who knows you well and who is well known in their field. However, often times you cannot check both of these boxes. Most program directors will say that they prefer a strong letter of recommendation from an individual who knows the applicant well and can speak to their skills/strengths over a generic lukewarm letter from a well-known Department Chair who only briefly interacted with the applicant.

What about standardized LORs?

Some specialties now have standardized forms that they mandate letter writers submit with the LOR that is uploaded with your ERAS application. Simply tell your LOR writer that this form also needs to be uploaded and provide a copy to them via email for their convenience.

Looking for a comprehensive ERAS Application Template with examples of diverse experiences and publication types?

Can I use a letter of recommendation from another specialty?

Possibly. Again, in an ideal world, it would be great to have as many LORs come from physicians or scientists with direct connections or appointments in your specialty, but it is not imperative. If you are dual applying you can select which letters you would like to send. So, for example, if you have 7 letters (3 general surgery and 4 vascular surgery) and are dual applying to general surgery and integrated vascular surgery, you can select the general surgery letters for your general surgery application and the vascular surgery letters for your vascular surgery rotation.

What mix of clinical vs. research letters of recommendation should I use?

This depends on your background and experiences. Because you are applying to a medical residency you most certainly should not exclusively use research LORs. If you have a significant research background, I think a 50/50 split between research and clinical mentors is appropriate. Sometimes you will have mentors that you have worked with clinically and in a research setting. This is a great scenario because they can comment on your skills in both settings.

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Should I use a letter of recommendation from someone outside of the U.S.?

Because you are applying for a clinical position in the US, you should try to obtain as many LORs from mentors in the US as possible. If you are an IMG, LORs from US mentors and US clinical experiences will assuage fears in program directors regarding familiarity with the US healthcare system. That being said, if you are able to get a LOR from someone who is incredibly well-known worldwide (i.e. an internationally well-respected neurologist from London), that would be acceptable.

What do Program Directors look for in a LOR?

There is an art to writing an LOR and often times there is coded language in the LOR. Program directors read 100s of LORs each cycle and if your specialty is small enough, they may know many of the letter writers personally. Additionally, they may read several LORs from the same letter writer for different applicants.

Ultimately the Program Director wants to see that the letter writer is someone you have spent significant time with and their overall assessment of your performance and character. LORs with generic statements without actual descriptions of interactions with the applicant are not ideal.

Letters of recommendation typically end with a frank paragraph or sentence that says something along the lines of “This applicant ranks in the top XX% of medical students I have worked with.” If they say that you are the best student they have worked with or are in the top 1% or top 3, that is the hallmark of a strong letter vs. an average letter

How do I submit letters of recommendation through ERAS?

I have a full video that explains in detail how to submit LORs through ERAS. You can check it out HERE.

Draft Your Powerful Letter of Recommendation! Structural Changes, Language Revision & Content Guidance by a Physician Advisor

When should letters of recommendation be sent through ERAS? When is the deadline to submit LORs?

Letters of recommendation should ideally be submitted to ERAS a few days before programs start reviewing your application, which is generally at the end of September, as it takes a few days for the LORs to be uploaded to ERAS. However, ERAS allows LORs to be uploaded even after the application is submitted. While there is no official deadline, it’s crucial to have all your LORs as soon as residency programs start reviewing applications and inviting candidates for interviews.

Can I send my letters of recommendation after I apply to programs?

Yes, you can send your letters of recommendation after you apply to programs. While your ERAS application can be submitted without all your LORs, it’s important to have them uploaded as soon as possible. Once you upload all 4 letters for a program, you can’t change the assigned letter. Residency programs generally start reviewing applications in early to mid-October, and a completed application, including all LORs, makes a stronger impression. Remember, your application will be considered incomplete without the LORs and could potentially be overlooked during the initial review phase.

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Letter of Recommendation Sample and Commentary

Dear Program Director

I am writing this letter of recommendation in support of Shiv Roy, who is applying to this year’s match in Internal Medicine. Shiv has been an exceptional student under my mentorship during her US clinical rotations and research endeavors. I have had the privilege of working closely with Shiv during her time at my primary care outpatient clinic in San Diego, where she displayed remarkable dedication, medical knowledge, and a commitment to excellence.

This paragraph starts out by clearly stating that the writer is a strong supporter of the applicant. They mention the context in which they know the applicant and may mention how long they have worked with the applicant (if it has been a long-term mentorship).

From the outset, Shiv’s depth and breadth of medical knowledge impressed me. During her three-week clerkship at my clinic, she seamlessly integrated herself into the work environment. In a short period, Shiv was actively involved in patient care, performing tasks ranging from taking comprehensive histories and conducting physical examinations to formulating differential diagnoses and implementing treatment plans. I was particularly impressed by her note-taking skills on our electronic medical record system, Epic, which she mastered through her own initiative and meticulousness. Her colleagues and residents also recognized her hard work and exceptional patient care. Outside of this, both the office staff and residents commented on her positive attitude, can-do personality and pleasant nature. Indeed, Shiv’s presence in the office was felt so much that I have even had several patients ask for updates on “Dr. Shiv” since her rotation with us.

Next, the letter writer dives into their personal experiences with the applicant and provides specific examples of things they did well. They also mention her interactions with other trainees, staff and even patients.

Furthermore, Shiv’s enthusiasm extended beyond clinical rotations. Following her time at my clinic, she expressed a desire to engage in research activities within our department. I connected her with Dr. Jim Smith, a respected colleague studying social determinants of developing pulmonary fibrosis. Shiv worked remotely with Dr. Smith for six months, all while completing additional clinical rotations and studying for the three-step sequence of the USMLE. Her commitment to research and her ability to balance multiple responsibilities were truly remarkable.

While the applicant may also have a letter from her research mentor Dr. Smith, this letter writer highlights her research experience with him since he was the one to connect her with him. In this letter, the letter writer not only highlights his praise and recommendation for the applicant but consistently states that others feel the same way.

In addition to her exceptional scholastic achievements, Shiv’s personal qualities further distinguish her. She is an incredibly compassionate individual with strong family values. Shiv’s commitment to supporting her family in India is evident in her willingness to work a second job as a food delivery driver, alongside her full-time responsibilities in the lab. This resilience and empathy demonstrate her determination to overcome challenges and her unwavering dedication to helping others.

Finally, the letter writer comments on the applicant’s personal qualities and in this particular example highlights her resilience and dedication to her family.

Having mentored numerous medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty members throughout my career, I can confidently assert that Shiv Roy is a generational talent. Her potential for success is truly outstanding. I hold no reservations in providing my highest recommendation for Shiv as an applicant in this year’s internal medicine match. She is my top choice, and I firmly believe that she will bring great honor to your institution.

This is the final paragraph and is normally the most important. In this paragraph, the letter writer tells Program Directors where this applicant compares to other individuals they have mentored. They will use frank language here and may even say that they are going to rank this applicant to match at their program (if the letter writer is a Program Director).

Thank you for considering Shiv’s application. Should you require any additional information or have further inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am more than willing to provide any necessary assistance.

Best Regards,

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As you can see, the letter above highlights all of the key components of a strong LOR. The letter writer clearly knows the applicant and has worked with her closely. They are able to articulate her strengths, clinical skills, interpersonal skills and dedication to patient care. Importantly, they provide specific examples. The more personalized the LOR the better. Had the letter writer failed to highlight these examples and simply stated that the applicant “possessed empathy and strong clinical and interpersonal skills” it would have significantly watered down this LOR. The final paragraph is also important, simply “recommending” an applicant is not enough, the letter writer should be able to say that the applicant is in the top XX percentile or the top X number of applicants I have worked with.

If you need help with your LOR, check out our letter of recommendation editing services HERE.

In summary, LORs are one of the most important components of your application. While you have little control with respect to what your letter writer actually puts in the LOR, you can set yourself up for success by following the guidelines highlighted in this blog post. As always, if there are any further questions or guidance needed, we offer advising sessions with members of our experienced team.

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