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Residency Application Process: Ranking Programs and Applying

  • The first step to partaking in a residency program, before you even do research about any programs, is to choose a specialty.

It is important to note that not all institutions participate in the formal Match process held by the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP). In those cases, you will need to apply directly to the institution, and their timelines will be different than that of the NRMP. When it comes time for you to apply to residency programs, your school will contact you about setting up your application in the Electronic Residency Application System (ERAS). The system opens mid-September the year before you will enter the program, and the NRMP announces Match results in March.

The Matching Process

After you have applied, you will interview, rank all of your choices for Match (the more the better) and wait for the Matching process. The Matching process is done by a computer algorithm, which attempts to Match each applicant to their most preferred program. However, if a program has ranked you but you have not ranked them, they must move on to another candidate. A shorter Rank Order List decreases your chances of being Matched at the end of Match season, and you may have to participate in the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) to ensure that you are placed somewhere. It is also possible that some programs may go unfilled.

ERAS® Programs

There are four specialties that participate in their own early Match process: Neurology, Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology, and Urology. Some programs will not participate with ERAS, and you will need to contact those programs and institutions directly to find out how you should apply, what the requirements are, etc.

Apply to Many Programs

Try not to worry about how many residency programs you apply to, as the average number of programs that US medical students apply to is 70, while IMG students apply to 139 on average. You should apply to as many programs as you're interested in, but don t worry about applying to exactly 70. As long as you apply to all of the programs you're interested in, and then rank the programs you did interviews with, you should be set.


It should also be noted that applying for residency programs will be pricier than you may have expected. These costs are something you should factor into your budget when you 're preparing to interview with program directors. The ERAS does offer a set price for up to 10 residency applications, but after that, the cost gradually goes up. If you 're planning to apply to more than 20, you should start saving now.

After applying to 10 programs through ERAS, the price goes up to $17 per application, until you surpass 20 applications — then the price goes up to $21 per application. After 30 applications, you 'll be paying $26 per application. This is a good time to make sure that you 're only applying to and ranking programs that you really want to be a part of.

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