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Medical staff in a meeting

Choosing a residency is a big decision, and one that creates stress and anxiety for many students. Your residency is important because it’s a time of tremendous growth both in your clinical knowledge base as well as your professional development. Much of what you learn will come from patients. So you must find a program where you are motivated to learn and study about your patients and can become an excellent, caring, humanistic physician, as well as feel happy in your work and home environments.

There’s no one perfect residency that’s the best fit for all students — the best program for you depends on your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and personality. You must systematically approach researching and considering residencies to find programs that fit your individual needs and eventually match to a program and feel relatively happy during your time there.

Two women meeting

Once you've effectively researched programs and identified those where you might fit, it's time to apply to and interview with those programs. Your application includes several components, each designed to explain your qualifications and, ultimately, encourage programs to consider you for an interview. Interviews are your best opportunity to tell programs why they should consider you for a position.

However, any missteps along the way can as much as torpedo your candidacy. Luckily, strategies exist to help you present your best self on paper and in person.

Doctor with fingers crossed

Generally speaking, the match is a process designed to help applicants secure their preferred residency position(s) and help programs secure their preferred candidates. It's based on a computer algorithm that compares the rank order list of applicants with those of residency programs. This basic premise is simple, but the circumstances surrounding the match are complicated.

There are increasingly more applicants than residency positions, and certain specialties experience an even more disproportionate amount of applicants. This means residency applicants must act strategically to ensure they match to a residency program. And without residency training, the career options and income available to medical school graduates are severely limited.

Spring 2015 (transition to residency)- Female Resident with Doctor

Once you match into a residency program, you start other adventures; specifically, wrapping up your medical school career and planning for your new life as a resident. In addition to arranging the logistics including addressing your own medical insurance, repaying your school loans, moving to a new location, and finding employment for a spouse, there's the anticipation of what residency will be like.

You may have heard stories from residents. And while some residency experiences are universal, some vary as many factors are at play. Luckily, many residents have come before you and you can prepare and resolve many of your questions prior to day one.