Strategies for Older Candidadates

Strategies for Older Candidates

Medical residency applicants come in many forms. For example, there are US medical graduates (USMGs), International Medical Graduates (IMGs), those who are fresh out of medical school, and those who have been working in the medical field for an amount of time. However, candidates who have been out of medical school for a certain amount of time are often referred to as “older candidates.”

“Older” candidates are considered to be:

  1. Anyone who graduated from medical school 5 or more years ago
  2. Those who are physically over the age of 40
  3. Candidates who have lots of clinical or research experience

No matter what walk of life you are on, if you are considered an older candidate, you may be wondering:

“Can I really get into residency at this point?”

“Are there any specialties I should focus on?”

“Can I compete with recent graduates?”

“Are there programs who will consider me?”

Luckily, the answer to all of these questions is “Yes!” Older candidates can most certainly get Matched into a US medical residency program with some hard work and extra attention to your ERAS residency application.

Suggestions For Success

Your Message

As an older candidate, you generally have a lot to offer by way of clinical, research, volunteer, and other experience in the medical field. While this is good for showing residency programs you have stayed relevant in the medical field, it can also be a double-edged sword. Remember, the message your application shares with Program Directors and Interview Committees must be carefully balanced between your wealth of experience and an openness to learn.  

You need to show programs you are:

  • A lifelong learner who is knowledgeable enough to contribute, but flexible enough to not try and teach the teachers
  • Able to work with any age group (Since you will likely be training with a variety of ages)
  • Enthusiastic and dedicated to starting a new step in your medical career
  • Modest about your past achievements, but confident in your ability
  • Respectful and appreciative of the education they have to offer
  • A team player

It may feel complicated, but any candidate who comes off as arrogant or know-it-all by bragging about their past experiences will not be received well by Program Directors or Interview Committees. Thus, the best traits to focus on are your modesty, work ethic, sense of respect for others, and your flexibility.

Your ERAS Application

Your ERAS application materials are absolutely essential to your success as a candidate. This is where your message will come through to Program Directors and Committees. You can’t control your Time Since Graduation, USMLE exam scores (once they’re completed), transcripts, or IMG status, but you can control how programs view you through your application documents.

As such, you will want to pay close attention to your:

  • Letters of Recommendation – You will need at least three per medical specialty you are planning to apply to. They should be specialty specific, recent (within a year of applications), and from US clinical experience. You can also check out Residency Experts’ helpful tips by reading Your Complete Residency Letter of Recommendation Guide.
  • Personal Statement – You will need one per medical specialty. They should be specialty specific and well crafted. It should be noted, the Personal Statement is the best way to show programs what an asset you are while smoothing over any “red flags” such as your Time Since Graduation. For professional Personal Statement assistance, visit Residency Statement.
  • MyERAS Application – This document must be fully completed and entirely error free. Fill out all of the sections which require content and do not underestimate the value of the Hobbies section. If you want to ensure your MyERAS Application shines and reflects positively on you as a residency candidate, visit our partner Residency Experts for assistance with your written sections, Personal Statements, Letters of Recommendation, and more!

Your Choices

As an older candidate, you have some hard choices to make about what medical specialties you will apply to. For example, you may want to stay away from specialties like Surgery which prefer recent graduates. If you have low USMLE scores, look at more flexible specialties such as Psychiatry or Family Medicine which tend to consider the whole applicant.  

Your choice of which medical residency programs to apply to is incredibly relevant as well. No doubt, you will need to find programs that are compatible with your professional credentials. Then, you must have the finances to support applying to enough programs per specialty. It is suggested you apply to as many programs as possible (100 per specialty). This can be very expensive. As such, be sure to budget accordingly well in advance of the Residency Application Season.

Researching Programs is the Key

Finding and applying to programs that are compatible with your medical professional background is the key to securing a residency position. As an older candidate, the main requirements you should be looking at for each residency program are:

  • Time Since Graduation Cut Offs
  • USMLE Exam Scores
  • (IMGs Only) US clinical experience

Subsequently, researching residency programs carefully will help you not only increase your chances to get interviews, but also help you best conserve your finances for other parts of the application. Being an older candidate can be disheartening at times. Sometimes, you may even hear other residency candidates tell you to give up, but don’t listen! With extra work, dedication, and the right attitude, you can get yourself Matched.

If you have any questions about your circumstances or the residency application process, feel free to contact Match A Resident at or call 858-221-8510.


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