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Residency Application Timeline: What To Do When

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A group of medical residents planning their shifts.


An Overview of the Residency Application Cycle

Preparing to apply for residency can seem like a very intimidating and daunting task in a medical student’s career. As soon as your medical school gives its first “residency talk”, many students become overwhelmed and feel a sense of panic. When do I need to start writing my personal statement? Who do I ask for a letter of recommendation? What if I haven’t done any research? When do I need to start working on everything? What even is ERAS?  Without a doubt, this can seem like a lot! Certainly, the application cycle can be confusing and difficult to navigate. However, we are happy to help you and guide you during this process! Knowledge is power, and we want you to feel in power when you make big decisions about your future. We’ve put together a very helpful overview of the residency application cycle, specifically for students applying during the 2019-2020 cycle.

Additional information about most of these topics will be described in future blog posts:


January-March 2019

  • Decide which specialty you would like to pursue: Ideally, you should have a rough idea of what type of doctor you want to be. If not, winter break is the perfect time to start brainstorming and hopefully finalize your decision. What is it about a certain speciality that you like? Are you picking this specialty for the right reasons? Do you have a realistic idea of what this specialty is like? Are you a competitive applicant for this specialty? Do you need to do any more rotations/sub-Is to confirm your interest in this specialty? It’s a good idea to meet with a medical student advisor who can help you brainstorm and assess your competitiveness.


  • Decide if you are going to do an away rotation: This is very common for some specialities (orthopedics, dermatology, ENT), and quite rare for others (internal medicine, pediatrics). You can begin to apply for away rotations as early as January, so figure out if this is something you’d like to do! You can pursue an away rotations anytime your school allows. The most common months for away rotations span from June to October, but it is certainly possible to do them earlier and later.
  • Update your CV: This is especially important if you are applying for away rotations, but will also be very helpful when it is time to fill out your residency application. Keep a list of activities you were involved in and papers you published (if any). If you see any obvious gaps in your CV, maybe it’s time to reach out to a mentor in your field to see if you can help out with a project or spend some time volunteering in your community.
  • Think about potential LoR (letter of recommendation) writers: Feel free to reach out to them to see if they would be interested in writing you a “strong” letter of recommendation
  • Start brainstorming for your personal statement: What is your story? What are you interested in your field?



April-May 2019


  • Start drafting your personal statement: The more time you have to revise it, the better!
  • Meet with an advisor at your school: They can share valuable information that can help better set you up for the match



June-July 2019


  • Start working on ERAS: Although you can’t submit until September, it’s a good idea to get a head start!
  • Send a draft of your personal statement to review: Ask a mentor, trusted colleague, advisor, tutor, or close friend to read your personal statement. Is your voice shining through?
  • Start making a list of programs you want to apply to: This will vary greatly based on your competitiveness, choice of specialty, and various other factors.



July-August 2019

  • Follow-up with your LoR writers: Remind them of your upcoming deadline in September.


September 2019

  • Submit/certify your ERAS application: Applications are released to programs on September 15th. Residency Program Directors will often look at applications the weekend they are released to programs, so optimally everything will be submitted by then. However, an important caveat is ECFMG certification for foreign medical graduates. If your application is not complete (ie your ECFMG status is not yet processed) DO NOT submit your application on September 15th, as program directors will not consider incomplete applications. In this case, it is better to wait until everything is complete.


October 2019

  • MSPE / Dean’s Letter is released to programs (October 1st)


October 2019 -February 2020

    • Schedule interviews: Keep an organized calendar of the interview invites you receive. Interview season will be different for everyone! The exact months that will be busiest for you will depend on the specialty you are applying into.


  • Register for the NRMP: This is the National Resident Matching Program. This is a separate thing from ERAS.



November-December 2019

  • Check in with school advisor: Let your advisor know how interview season is going. They can provide guidance if you have not been successful in receiving interviews.


January – February 2020

  • Start making your rank list: Make a pro/con list of all your programs.
  • Consider contacting your top program: This can vary greatly depending on your specialty. If you felt very strongly about a certain program, it may be appropriate to let them know this. However, this may not necessarily affect your chances of matching there. It is very dependent on the specialty and situation.


February 2020


  • Submit your rank list: Usually towards the second half of February



March 2020

  • Find out the outcome of your match: usually mid-March
    • **Some specialties, like urology and ophthalmology, have match day results earlier (in January)


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About the Author

Leslie C, MD

As a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from University of Texas at Austin, Leslie Chang revieved her BS in Biochemistry with honors in 2013. Upon gradutation,…

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