How to Apply for Residency Positions

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An introductory overview of the residency application process.

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Applying for residency involves two separate activities: preparing and submitting your application to your chosen programs, and interviewing at the programs that offer you an invitation. This high-stakes process spans many months — beginning as early as the fall of your third year in medical school.


Residency applications are a compilation of materials which demonstrate your qualifications and help programs assess whether you’d be a good fit for their specialty, as well as a successful trainee.

The application portfolio generally includes these components:

  • Application or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Medical school transcripts
  • Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE)
  • Licensing exam transcript

You are responsible for creating or assembling the first three components; your medical school is responsible for the remaining components. They will either provide these to you to include in your application, or upload them directly into your application.

You can start preparing elements of your residency application even before you've finalized your specialty choice and chosen programs to apply to. Ideally, you’ll have your application materials well under way by the time the residency application services open — which can be as early as the summer before your final year. At the latest, your application must be completed and submitted to residency programs by early fall. Many programs select students for interviews using the first-come-first-served policy, so the sooner you submit your application, the better.


Interview season follows in the fall and winter months of your final year. While your application is a program’s first glimpse of you, your interviews are critical to the final decision.

Interviews are also your best opportunity to determine how compatible each program is with your educational and career goals and personal preferences. Your goal is to walk away from the interview trail confident in your knowledge of how happy and successful you’d be at each program, so you can submit a well-researched and well-reasoned list of preferred programs for the residency match. This is referred to as a “rank order list.”

The interview process is stressful, costly, and time-consuming. Preparation and planning will significantly impact your chance of landing a residency position at one of your preferred programs.

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Supporting the Transition to Residency

The transition to residency is a time of critical importance in a medical student’s journey to become a physician. The AAMC is developing tools and information to better support students, their advisors, and program directors during this phase.

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Advisors: Advise Smart

Login to Careers in Medicine to view key resources for your students.

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Program Directors: Select Smart

Find PDWS software support, resources for you and your students, important dates and a timeline, as well as ERAS news and announcements. 

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