Brittany Young Secretary, ASA Medical Student Component Wake Forest School of Medicine
Preparation for residency applications can be challenging as a medical student. If you are reading this article, you are considering a great, if not the best, specialty for your future career. As interview season approaches, I am sure that many of you are wondering how you measure up alongside other applicants or how to make yourself standout on paper. It is important to approach your application with the understanding that although attributes that make an applicant competitive vary between different specialties and residency programs, there are some consistent components to every application that can make you stand out. Throughout medical school we often hear about the significance of Step scores, clerkship grades and class rank; however, your curriculum vitae, personal statement and letters of recommendation are also critical components of a strong application. Hopefully, this article will help you gain insight into important components of the residency application.
Your goal on Step 1 and 2 are to prepare and do as well as you can. The 2014 national average Step 1 score of U.S. seniors that matched into anesthesiology was 230. With this being said, ranges are considered but consideration varies among different residency programs. If you are concerned about your score, be sure to discuss your application strategy with a mentor and do well on Step 2. Most importantly, use your scores in order to develop an informed strategy as far as determining the programs to which you apply, how many places you decide to apply to and interview and ultimately how you rank programs on your match list.
Letters of Recommendation
It cannot be stressed enough how essential LORs are to your application. This is the time where physicians you have worked with are able to inform programs about your character, work ethic and potential as a future anesthesiologist. You should aim for at least four letter writers, with three being the minimum for a complete ERAS application. Letters from anesthesiologists, surgeons, critical care and internal medicine are preferred. Providing your CV and personal statement will better inform them of who you are and ensure that they are better able to write a letter of substance. Be sure to ask your writers if they can write a strong letter for you. If they are honest enough to say that they cannot, don’t take it personally, say thank you, and find someone else. Asking for letters early on can ensure that you meet application deadlines and will allow your writers enough time to write a solid letter. Remember that it is never too early to ask.
The CV is a comprehensive view of what you have been doing inside and outside of the hospital, highlighting your individual experiences, involvement in activities, skills and interests, and commitment to service, research and/or leadership. Make sure that your CV is thorough; however, it should be a summary that does not exceed two pages. According to Dr. Nichole Taylor, Associate Anesthesia Residency Program Director at Wake Forest, residency programs like to see a well-rounded applicant and assess them based on their non-academic endeavors. She states that an individual applicant rarely has an equal distribution between volunteerism, teaching/mentoring, leadership and research, but it is ideal to see at least two of these categories heavily represented.
Your personal statement is really your time to shine. It provides residency programs with insight into who you are as a person, your unique characteristics and life experiences, and what makes you a fit for their program. Please avoid the “I love physiology and pharmacology” cliché and rehashing your CV. This should be a statement about your journey in medicine and how it has led you to pursue anesthesia as a career. Not only should you keep in mind your audience when writing, but also know your writing style and strengths in order to ensure that they enhance your story. Make sure that it is grammatically correct and has a logical flow. It cannot be reiterated enough that you proofread your personal statement and have multiple people review it, particularly someone who reviews applications.
Applying to residency programs is another step in your journey towards a rewarding career in medicine. Your ultimate goal is to bring your application to life and present your best self in order to ensure that you receive interviews at your desired anesthesiology residency programs. Best of luck on the interview trail!
Charting Outcomes in the Match 2014 - http://www.nrmp.org/match-data/main-residency-match-data/
ERAS Application Worksheet - https://www.aamc.org/students/download/424186/data/worksheet2016.pdf
Personal Statement Advice - http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member- groups-sections/minority-affairs-section/transitioning-residency/writing-your-personal-statement.page
posted summer 2015