As someone who is planning to become a physician, it’s important to know the differences between a medical school application and a residency application. While the application processes are similar, the individual elements of each application do differ slightly.

Applying to Medical School

To begin, the application for medical school requires use of the AAMC’s application processing service, known as the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). This service collects, verifies, and delivers your application information and exam scores to each school to which you apply. From there, admission decisions are made by each individual medical school. You should also note that there is one fee for each medical school designation, and these fees may change from one year to the next.

A secondary application discussing why you’re interested in each institution is necessary. This application should also include how your goals, experiences, and plans align with the program’s goals, experiences, and plans. You should also talk about how you plan to make contributions to the institution as a student. Your job here is to flatter the institution and say why you chose them over someone else.

The next step in the medical school application process is to interview, whether that’s with one or more committee members or an off-campus interviewer, such as a physician. During this interview, your interviewer(s) will complete an evaluation that will accompany the rest of your application materials.

The AMCAS application, in most cases, will open during the first week of May for the following year’s medical school class. AMCAS submission doesn’t open until the first week of June, so you have about a month to work on your application prior to submission.

Applying to a Residency Program

There are four main elements of your residency application: letters of recommendation, medical school performance evaluation, personal statement, and Curriculum Vitae (CV). Each residency program has its own system for reviewing applications. For example, some programs filter out applicants based on their graduation year. While residency program applications are similar from specialty to specialty, the application process is different for International Medical Graduates (IMGs).

In order to apply to a residency program, an IMG must first become certified by The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and meet all requirements. In order to receive ECFMG certification, IMGs must meet education credential requirements and apply for ECFMG certification, complete examination requirements (such as postgraduate training and licensing exams).

From there, IMGs must meet eligibility requirements for ECFMG Pathways, a program that assesses clinical and communication skills required for ECFMG certification. ECFMG Pathways are for IMGs who have not yet met the clinical and communication skills requirements for ECFMG Certification.

After this, IMGs are eligible to apply to U.S. residency programs. The Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access is the directory of graduate medical education (GME) programs sponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA). At this point, applicants will need an ERAS token in addition to registering with the NRMP.

At the end of the day, it is important to be aware of the different requirements that each residency program has. Each residency program will list their requirements on their website, including medical school graduation year, types of visas accepted (if applicable), or the number of attempts applicants are allowed on the USMLE.

If there’s anything you’d like to share with us about your experience with applying to medical school or residency, feel free to reach out to us at!

Crystal Carter

Crystal Carter, Content Marketing Specialist

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