4 Steps to Approaching Residency Reapplication
So, you didn’t Match. Perhaps this was your first Match Season, or maybe you’ve been here before. Either way, if you end up unmatched at the end of a Residency Application Cycle, you find yourself falling into the category of “repeat applicant” or “residency reapplicant” and not sure what to do or how to proceed.
But, being a repeat applicant is not the end of your residency application journey, just a bump in the road. By following some simple steps, residency reapplicants can move beyond and strengthen their chances for a more successful Match Season in the future.
Step 1: Remember, being a reapplicant doesn’t hurt you
One of the scariest thoughts a repeat applicant can have is thinking that their reapplicant status will hurt them somehow in the eyes of residency programs or affect their chances with residency programs they applied to before.
Fortunately, this is not the case!
Remember, around 50% of IMG candidates go unmatched every year, and while residency candidates would prefer to Match, it also means being a reapplicant is common enough to not be a problem. Residency programs do not generally keep track of residency candidates who applied in the past. They are much more concerned with the candidate you are NOW.
Step 2: Diagnose your previous application seasons
Once you have taken a little time to collect yourself (taking a little time to grieve is normal!) it’s time to assess your previous application efforts honestly to figure out if there are any aspects of your residency application process and application you can strengthen.
While there is an innumerable amount of errors or mistakes that can happen in an application season, there are a few more common mistakes residency applicants make while applying to residency programs.
- Using generic, non-specialty specific supporting documents such as your Personal Statement or Letters or Recommendation. Residency programs need to SEE your passion for the medical specialty they will be training you in for years. Using documents just meant for “medicine” or “primary care” doesn’t do enough to show them you are dedicated.
- Mistakes within your application documents. Residency programs are expecting something close to perfection when it comes to the content in your application supporting documents. If your documents are riddled with English grammar and spelling mistakes, or you were making mistakes you didn’t even realize were there, this could have affected your chances.
- Applying too late. Sometimes, whether it’s because you were missing USMLE scores or your documents didn’t process fast enough, but you were unable to apply until after mid-September. While things can be out of your control, applying later can leave a negative impression with residency programs.
- Not applying to enough programs. Sometimes residency candidates do not realize that they need to apply to enough program to give themselves a chance to be considered. A suggested guideline is 100 programs per medical specialty (if the specialty is large enough).
- Applying to the wrong programs you did not qualify for. Although you should aim to apply to lots of programs, they should still be programs that you fulfill all of the minimum application requirements (if you don’t know the program personally) to make sure you are filling their needs and they are filling YOURs. For example, if you are not a US citizen and need a visa, you want to verify the program either accepts a J-1 visa from ECFMG or sponsors the H1-B.
- Not following up after applying. If your residency Interview Season is moving a little slowly, it is suggested to send a personalized Follow Up Letter to further demonstrate your interest and capture the programs’ attention.
- Interviewing poorly. While it is natural to be nervous, showing up to an interview late, dressing unprofessionally, and acting arrogant are some ways to reduce your chances of being ranked.
Step 3: Realize there are benefits!
Believe it or not, being a reapplicant can come with some surprising benefits. In recognition of the number of repeat applicants there are from year to year, most of the official residency services have made adjustments to improve the process for those who are not applying for the first time.
ERAS implemented a new Import Feature in 2017, allowing applicants to import their answers to the previous season’s MyERAS Common Applications. You will be able to import all of your answers, but make sure you go through each answer and edit them!
ECFMG is allowing more documents than ever to be preserved and reused for the following year. As long as you qualify, you will not have to re-upload documents such as:
- Medical Student Performance Evaluations (MSPEs)
- Medical school transcripts
- Postgraduate Training Authorization Letters (PTALs)
- Letters of recommendation (LoRs) that were used in a previous ERAS season(s)
Knowledge really is power. As a repeat applicant, you will have a much better idea of how the application season works, what deadlines to follow, and what to do and not do. The experience you gained from your previous residency application cycle will put you ahead of the newer applicants who don’t know the process like you do.
Step 4: Strengthen Your Residency Application
Keep in mind, just because you CAN reuse some of your supporting documents, does not mean you SHOULD. Ideally, you are a different person than you were last application cycle. You’ve completed more experiences, grown more, and added more to your MyERAS Application credentials. Relying on the documents that did not previously lead you to success is not a wise course of action.
Instead, you should focus on:
- Getting more US clinical experience (if possible) such as Externships or Clerkship. Observership, and research can be helpful as well.
- Networking with the medical and residency world by joining professional organizations, attending conferences or asking hospitals to attend their grand rounds
- Updating you MyERAS Application to reflect new experiences and removing any potential mistakes.
- Revising or rewriting your Personal Statement, and making sure you have a minimum of one Personal Statement per specialty
- Reaching out to potential Letter Writers for new or updated Letters of Recommendation
- Budgeting enough finances in advance to make sure you will not be limited in the number of programs you can afford to apply to
- Discussing your circumstances with a residency mentor to get more personalized advice for your situation
While being a reapplicant is never what residency candidates want to be, it is more than possible to learn from your previous application efforts and move on to have a better, more successful Match Season.