How Many Residency Programs Should I apply to?


The numbers of applications to submit to the residency programs during the initial ERAS season per specialty will differ if you are an American medical graduate AMG or and International medical graduate IMG. Typically, the IMG will apply to far higher number of programs to get an acceptable number of interviews to help him or her get a successful residency match outcome.



The number of programs to apply to will vary from an applicant to another based on many factors which include in addition to the site of graduation and the type of specialty: financial ability, USMLE scores and attempts, number of USCE, year of graduation, need for visa and the amount of competition per that specialty. Except for the financial reasons which limit a lot and affect the number drastically in many cases, the remainder factors are played less often in the selection decision by the applicants. The reason for that is a lot of applicants started since 2009 with a new trend by applying to whatever they can afford to get the highest number of interviews possible. This creates a low pool of applicants getting interviews initially but eventually many will cancel and another bout of interviews are send again around November to fill the open interview spots.

In this post we are attaching here the median/range number of programs AMGs and IMGs usually apply to earn decent amount of interviews. Keep in mind that some financially able people has no limits on to how many residency programs or even specialties they are applying to, as long as they meet these Selection Criteria.

Specialty
Average Range of number of applications per AMG
Average Range of number of applications per IMG
Anesthesiology
20-40
50-80
Dermatology
50-90
70-100
Radiology
40-80
60-110
Emergency Medicine
20-40
50-90
Family Medicine
10-25
100-220
General Surgery
30-60
120-250
Internal Medicine
15-30
150-270
Med/Peds
10-20
30-50
Neurology
15-40
60-90
OB/Gyn
20-50
100-180
Orthopedics
40-70
100-130
Otolaryngology
45-80
60-100
Pathology
15-25
70-100
Pediatrics
20-30
100-140
PMR
15-40
40-60
Plastic Surgery
30-50
40-55
Psychiatry
10-30
70-140
Radiation Oncology
35-60
50-70
Transitional Year
15-30
40-70

Surgery Residency for IMGs: Hard or just Competitive?


It is not hard an some extra steps are needed as any other competitive specialty. Let me first clarify the difference between competitive and hard. If you tell me 10% or less only of the positions in a certain specialty go to IMGs like Dermatology, Radiation oncology or plastic surgery YES this is hard. But if you tell me that in General surgery about 25% of spots go to IMGs, considering this is a competitive specialty even among AMGs themselves, then this is not hard or impossible but rather a competitive specialty that IMGs still get a good stake in it. With good credentials and preparation for the match, that many IMG surgery applicants unfortunately lack, you can hit your goal in the match. Let us go over the modifiable factors or steps you need to do for a successful match in surgery residency:
  1. Bulk CV: Load your profile with Observerships or research or both if possible. But don’t waste your life in research as program directors usually prefer new graduates unless you were in a surgical residency back home then they would like and benefit from your experience.
  2. If you are not done with your USMLEs, take it easy here and aim for a high score. You can monitor the progress of your studying using this awesome Table.
  3. Try to get the advantage of having contacts in certain programs like your peers or seniors who matched before you. They can definitely throw a good word for you and get you some interviews here and there.
  4. Match strategy is important and differ from other specialties in one thing: Prelim Surgery is a big player here. Most IMGs will apply to both Categorical and prelim positions. If you were not lucky in the first match and you get into prelim position which is relatively easy to get, this is considered one year hands-on surgery experience!  Many of those who start as prelim will end their year as Categorical residents because many AMGs will resign after they discover that surgery is not their favorite and hence you will be upgraded or you can move to another program that just had an open categorical spot. Anyway, if you continue as prelim, you will be able to apply the next year with one-year hands-on USCE. Make sure you apply widely to whatever programs you meet their Selection Criteria. You can find the average number of programs typically AMGs and IMGs apply to here in this Table.
  5. When you get interviews, two things to remember, the Interviews questions are common and simple, try to read them before you go to any surgery interview. The other thing is don’t forget to send the Thank you cards. It is very important to make the directors and other people in the program involved in ranking the residents remember you.
A word of advice at the end, always consider back up programs like IM or FM when applying to competitive specialties. This way you at least get something out of your hard work on the USMLE track!
Good luck!