They say applying to residency has become a game. Yes, you work hard for 4 years, take Steps 1 and 2, find letter writers, slave over a personal statement, rewrite your resume, and press submit. Then you think it’s just the waiting game, that is, until the interviews roll in. But one thing I’ve learned is that there are a few ways you can stand out throughout the process. In general surgery, many programs had more than 1,000 applicants for just 4 spots. Everyone has great grades, scores and letters. So what’s it about these update letters.
Update letters can be done strategically. In the past, they’ve been used simply to update programs. But now they can be used at specific times to get interview invites you didn’t have.
- Wait to complete you step 2 CS or CK so you have an October update. That way amidst the middle set of interview invites, you can send them an update and may be included in the next round of invitations.
- If you have an elective in August or September (or like me, October), use the grade and a potential letter to update programs. If you’ve only uploaded 3 letters to programs, a 4th letter can be particularly valuable, especially if it’s from a sub-I in a region of the country you want to work in.
- Keep it short and sweet. No more than 2 paragraphs, 5 sentences max. Tell them why you want to go to that program specifically. Is it the region, the training program, the professors. Programs want to know that you will want to rank them if you interview there, so they want to see you tell them why.
- Be patient. If you have any faculty members who trained at those programs, ask them to reach out on your behalf.
What other advice have people gotten around update letters?