The time to start researching potential programs is now. In addition to familiarizing yourself with requirements, reaching out and making contact with programs will show an interest. There are many things to consider when researching a program. Do you meet their minimum requirements? What type of experience does the program value? Are there opportunities to audition for them? What type of networking opportunities exist that could give you an edge?
The first thing to consider when researching potential residency programs is their minimum requirements. Many programs list these directly on their website. These minimums are usually USMLE step exam score benchmarks and other information like mandatory sources of letters of recommendation. Many programs require at least one of your LORs to be from a department chair or director. In addition to application material, programs usually publish a list of their current residents. Take a look at from where they selected their residents. Certain highly academic programs prefer candidates from top medical schools and very rarely consider anyone else. There are also programs that prefer DO students. If you are an international applicant and don’t see any residents from international medical schools, chances are you will not be considered.
Next, consider the type of program to which you are applying. Do they stress research? If not, then it’s probably not worth your time to gain research experience as it will not likely help your chances to be accepted into that specific program. Read the programs mission statement. It will give you insight into their values and beliefs. If your values happen to align with the programs then perhaps you will make a good fit. Also, familiarize yourself with the patient population the program serves. If the program is located in an area that has a large Spanish speaking population and you can speak Spanish, perhaps this will set you apart from other candidates.
Not all residency programs are created equal. Take a look at their curriculum, which is also usually posted on the program’s website. Some programs have a strong focus on outpatient care, whereas some programs focus more on inpatient care. There are also programs that have research requirements and some that don’t. Research what current and past residents have said about the program. What type of learning environment is it? Is this something you can devote years of your life to or not?
When you do find programs that interest you, find a way to show interest. You can usually find the email of program coordinator on the website. Have a subject line along the lines of “Interest in Internal Medicine Residency Program.” Use the same email that you registered with ERAS. Programs do keep track of who shows interest.
By doing your research now you can tailor the next steps you take to improve your application from last year by participating in high yield activities that keep you clinically relevant.