Is applying to 6 programs way too low no matter how strong the applicant?

chajjohnson

5+ Year Member
Jan 31, 2013
194
240
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Hey everyone,

So I'm an MS4 applying psych. My step 1 is 259, all honors in pre-clinical classes, lots of honors years 3/4 including all my psych rotations and electives, junior AOA, lots of research pubs (mostly pre-med stuff but some in med school). I also have a pretty good relationship with my home program (my 1st choice) and I've worked on research and gotten a LOR from the program director. I'm very geographically limited as my wife is in grad school in the same city my med school is in so I would really like to get my home program or at least something nearby. There are 5 other programs I would consider geographically close enough to me, most of which are mid-to-high tier programs. I asked my program director how many programs I should apply to and she said these 6 would probably be enough. However, everyone else I know applying psych and everyone on the forums say they are applying to at least double that amount. Is 6 programs way too low even for how strong my application is? I checked the 2016 NRMP data and saw no one who applied psych with a >250 step or AOA failed to match that year. Thanks for any input.
 
Oct 13, 2008
5,533
1,162
Status
Resident [Any Field]
You should be fine with 6 interviews. Might want to add 2-4 relative safeties until it's confirmed that you have interviews at all of your choice programs. IIRC 8 ranks is the point of diminishing returns in psychiatry.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DokterMom
H

HarryMTieboutMD

You have to majorly f up to not match, especially if your home program likes you, and you want to stay. 6 is fine
 
  • Like
Reactions: splik
About the Ads

bashir

10+ Year Member
Jul 24, 2008
295
85
Status
Resident [Any Field]
If I'm understanding you correctly, the program director at your home program, where you'd like to stay, wrote you a LOR and is not encouraging you to apply more broadly when directly asked. Unless they are just a mean person or I'm missing something here, I think that's a pretty clear sign they intend to rank you to match. I guess you could always blow the interview, but even then I'd think they'd be likely to overlook that if they know you well. Do the residents at your home program like you reasonably well. Some programs put a fair amount of weight on that. It's the only thing I can really think of that might interfere with matching at your home program, with the information you provided. That, or a bias against home grown students, which I guess happens at some programs particularly when many students want to stay and the PD wants a diverse class.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DokterMom

bashir

10+ Year Member
Jul 24, 2008
295
85
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Not sure if my n=1 will reassure you at all, but I was a much weaker candidate than you, and interviewed at only 5 programs (applied to a few more but cancelled the interviews once I had a few under my belt). For geographic reasons I also needed to match at my home program, admittedly not the most competitive, and I did. For your own peace of mind it might not be a bad idea to apply to a few more in case you don't get offered interviews at all 6, but it's probably not necessary. So if you don't have anxiety driving you to do so, I say go forward with confidence and congratulate yourself on not wasting the time of programs you're not at all interested in.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: AshNiffler

Bartelby

10+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2007
1,317
624
Status
Attending Physician
Even without knowing the whole picture, I can say you stand a very good chance of matching with your plan. Personally I would feel more comfortable adding a couple of extra programs to the list, but it's very unlikely that would make a difference. You also have to consider whether not matching this year would be better than matching outside of your preferred city.

In short, I'd say go with your plan or at most add a couple more.
 

Psychotic

5+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2013
731
397
where the sun do shine
Status
Resident [Any Field]
There are only 6 programs you deem worthy? Are you trying to set some sort of record, or are you looking for bragging rights?

Ehh, dumber things have been done and it worked out ok, but I think you are nutz.
 
H

HarryMTieboutMD

There are only 6 programs you deem worthy? Are you trying to set some sort of record, or are you looking for bragging rights?

Ehh, dumber things have been done and it worked out ok, but I think you are nutz.
Really? Did you read his post, specifically "I'm very geographically limited as my wife is in grad school in the same city my med school is in so I would really like to get my home program or at least something nearby. There are 5 other programs I would consider geographically close enough to me, most of which are mid-to-high tier programs."?
 

Psychotic

5+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2013
731
397
where the sun do shine
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Really? Did you read his post, specifically "I'm very geographically limited as my wife is in grad school in the same city my med school is in so I would really like to get my home program or at least something nearby. There are 5 other programs I would consider geographically close enough to me, most of which are mid-to-high tier programs."?
Yes, "really."

How long is she in grad school? How long would they be apart if he had to move away for a program?

Better safe than sorry. I refuse to endorse applying to just 6 programs for anyone, regardless their circumstances. This is a critical juncture in every med student's career. Maybe he should also apply to IM and FM programs as backups in the limited geog area?
 

ExcaliburPrime1

2+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2015
90
69
Status
MD/PhD Student
Not sure if you're just trying to brag (mission accomplished!) or are simply generally anxious and in need for reassurance. If the latter, I shall provide it.

Your credentials are stellar and your home program likes you. That's it. You're done. Why waste your time and everyone else's interviewing elsewhere, particularly if your home program is your first choice. You put in the hard work before and now you can have a short sigh of relief until intern year starts. Good luck. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: heysexylady

fpsychdoc

2+ Year Member
Dec 19, 2015
341
373
Not sure if you're just trying to brag (mission accomplished!) or are simply generally anxious and in need for reassurance. If the latter, I shall provide it.

Your credentials are stellar and your home program likes you. That's it. You're done. Why waste your time and everyone else's interviewing elsewhere, particularly if your home program is your first choice. You put in the hard work before and now you can have a short sigh of relief until intern year starts. Good luck. :)
Sorry but.... weirder things have happened in the application season. Unless it's a written promise that they will match you, I would take nothing for granted. Things might happen, and it's possible that they MIGHT be conveying a different feel than what they really do feel or the OP is picking up different vibes. This does not seem the case with the OP, but I would not take a risk.

I'm with @Psychotic on this one. Why take a risk in the most critical step of any doctor's career? Applying to at least 10-12 will not hurt.
 

OldPsychDoc

Senior Curmudgeon
Moderator Emeritus
15+ Year Member
Dec 2, 2004
6,270
3,959
57
Left of Center
Status
Attending Physician
Sorry but.... weirder things have happened in the application season. Unless it's a written promise that they will match you, I would take nothing for granted. Things might happen, and it's possible that they MIGHT be conveying a different feel than what they really do feel or the OP is picking up different vibes. This does not seem the case with the OP, but I would not take a risk.

I'm with @Psychotic on this one. Why take a risk in the most critical step of any doctor's career? Applying to at least 10-12 will not hurt.
If nothing else it lets you see a bit of what's similar and different between programs.
 

ExcaliburPrime1

2+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2015
90
69
Status
MD/PhD Student
Sorry but.... weirder things have happened in the application season. Unless it's a written promise that they will match you, I would take nothing for granted. Things might happen, and it's possible that they MIGHT be conveying a different feel than what they really do feel or the OP is picking up different vibes. This does not seem the case with the OP, but I would not take a risk.

I'm with @Psychotic on this one. Why take a risk in the most critical step of any doctor's career? Applying to at least 10-12 will not hurt.
I think the risk is exceedingly low, but it's not in my career on the line!
 
  • Like
Reactions: DokterMom
About the Ads
6

675015

Why take a risk in the most critical step of any doctor's career? Applying to at least 10-12 will not hurt.
Its a matter of where you are comfortable with risk. Its the attitude of "I want the lowest possible risk of not matching" that is leading everyone to apply to way too many programs. Also, with that logic why not just apply to every single program?

Besides, he does not want to be away from his wife. Who's to say that going to a program away from his family and support and being miserable wouldn't be a huge mistake at "the most critical step" of his career?
 
Oct 13, 2008
5,533
1,162
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Its a matter of where you are comfortable with risk. Its the attitude of "I want the lowest possible risk of not matching" that is leading everyone to apply to way too many programs. Also, with that logic why not just apply to every single program?

Besides, he does not want to be away from his wife. Who's to say that going to a program away from his family and support and being miserable wouldn't be a huge mistake at "the most critical step" of his career?
P.1 Because most people aren't marginal applicants. They are maximizing their (population level) chances of matching at about 8-10 ranks. There's also a cost to applying to all of the programs. A cost that's likely greater than the marginal benefits for adding the 101st program.

P.2 I don't know that OP would agree that not matching and being close to his wife is better than matching somewhere far-ish away.
 
  • Like
Reactions: clausewitz2

fpsychdoc

2+ Year Member
Dec 19, 2015
341
373
Its a matter of where you are comfortable with risk. Its the attitude of "I want the lowest possible risk of not matching" that is leading everyone to apply to way too many programs. Also, with that logic why not just apply to every single program?

Besides, he does not want to be away from his wife. Who's to say that going to a program away from his family and support and being miserable wouldn't be a huge mistake at "the most critical step" of his career?
I don't think the advice is to apply for 30 programs in his case. Yes, there's a point of inflection when downsizing the risk is not worth it, but it's not at 6 programs. Bottom point is, don't ever hedge your funds on a couple of programs, regardless of the "impression" you have. It's also very bad attitude to enter the application cycle while taking things for granted, even if your application is stellar. Now, if he prefers not to match at all rather than match in those programs in his geographical area, then this is a different story, but that's not something implied in the OP.
 
Last edited:

SourceOfDenial

10+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2009
231
294
Boston
Status
Attending Physician
I saw in a similar boat...planned to stay at my home institution. I applied to 10 programs, 9 interviews, went on 6. Interviewed at the places nearest my home institution and a few fancier named programs to see what they were like.

Applied for 10 because after that the price went up.

Unless you're a miserable person, you're fine with 6.
 

Psychotic

5+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2013
731
397
where the sun do shine
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Unless you're a miserable person, you're fine with 6.
Fine with 6 interviews, or 6 apps? 6 apps don' necessarily mean 6 interviews.

Clearly the OP assumes he will be granted interviews at the 6 programs, but what if one or more pass on his app? Not because he isn't great on paper, but they don't see him as a likely matriculant.

Hell, it happened to me - I was turned down for interviews at multiple programs where my "stats" were stellar in comparison with the average resident in the program...stranger things happen in the app cycle and match than many people realize. Not a time to limit your options.
 

SourceOfDenial

10+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2009
231
294
Boston
Status
Attending Physician
Fine with 6 interviews, or 6 apps? 6 apps don' necessarily mean 6 interviews.

Clearly the OP assumes he will be granted interviews at the 6 programs, but what if one or more pass on his app? Not because he isn't great on paper, but they don't see him as a likely matriculant.

Hell, it happened to me - I was turned down for interviews at multiple programs where my "stats" were stellar in comparison with the average resident in the program...stranger things happen in the app cycle and match than many people realize. Not a time to limit your options.
Assuming he's told the PD he wants to stay, I would take her advice and apply to the six. Makes everyone's job easier to know you have strong candidates sticking around for residency.

I'm a betting man...shall we put a wager on it?

Edit: if the price is still the same to apply to 10 as it is for 6, might as well use the other spots.
 
H

HarryMTieboutMD

Fine with 6 interviews, or 6 apps? 6 apps don' necessarily mean 6 interviews.

Clearly the OP assumes he will be granted interviews at the 6 programs, but what if one or more pass on his app? Not because he isn't great on paper, but they don't see him as a likely matriculant.

Hell, it happened to me - I was turned down for interviews at multiple programs where my "stats" were stellar in comparison with the average resident in the program...stranger things happen in the app cycle and match than many people realize. Not a time to limit your options.
If your personal statement had the same tone/sensibility as your posts on this thread... well, res ipsa loquitur
 

fpsychdoc

2+ Year Member
Dec 19, 2015
341
373
Assuming he's told the PD he wants to stay, I would take her advice and apply to the six. Makes everyone's job easier to know you have strong candidates sticking around for residency.

I'm a betting man...shall we put a wager on it?

Edit: if the price is still the same to apply to 10 as it is for 6, might as well use the other spots.
Thing is, residency administrators dish up advice all the time to apply to a very few number of programs. They also have their own interests in mind: the lesser the number of applications for them, the better. Anything below 10 applications is "taking a risk". I don't care about the circumstances or what promises are made. This is not really a time for any sort of risk taking imo.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Psychotic

hello1234!

2+ Year Member
Jul 29, 2016
136
173
Status
Attending Physician
I would take everything your home PD said about u getting into your home program with a grain of salt. They are not allowed to tell u if they are going to rank you to match and they are may just giving you generic advice for someone with your scores.
 
Last edited:
About the Ads

splik

Professional Cat at Large
10+ Year Member
Nov 30, 2009
3,796
5,245
Status
Attending Physician
I would take everything your home PD said about u getting into your home program with a grain of salt. They are not allowed to tell u if they are going to rank you to match and they are may just giving you generic advice for someone with your scores.
They are absolutely allowed to tell you how they intent to rank you (whether you can believe that is another question), just as applicants are free to tell programs how they intend to rank them. You just cannot ask them to tell you, and then cannot ask you how you intend to rank them.
 

hello1234!

2+ Year Member
Jul 29, 2016
136
173
Status
Attending Physician
They are absolutely allowed to tell you how they intent to rank you (whether you can believe that is another question), just as applicants are free to tell programs how they intend to rank them. You just cannot ask them to tell you, and then cannot ask you how you intend to rank them.
Interesting, I have had a wrong understanding about this for a long time then
 

raisinbrain

2+ Year Member
Sep 12, 2017
100
144
Status
Medical Student
My understanding is also that they're allowed to tell you whatever they want, but that nothing is set in stone until rank order lists are in. That, and several PD's no longer feel comfortable giving out any sort of inkling / information on rank type stuff because they don't want someone to misinterpret it and then hold it against them when they don't match there.
 

clausewitz2

10+ Year Member
Oct 13, 2008
2,138
2,386
Status
Resident [Any Field]
If your personal statement had the same tone/sensibility as your posts on this thread... well, res ipsa loquitur
I respect your knowledge and am very glad that you regularly contribute to this board, but dude, you have to have the scintilla of self-awareness to realize you are not the guy to be lecturing anyone about tone.
 
H

HarryMTieboutMD

Haha come on... when Al Gore invented the internet the logical conclusion was the primacy of trolling

But anyway back to the original topic. Another caveat is that med school admins at established US MD schools put pressure on PDs (especially in the lower competitiveness specialties) to ensure the students match.

And that means if a med student at a solid US MD program doesn't match psych, even at his/her own program, especially if he/she wanted to match there (YES I KNOW THIS HAPPENS BTW) the PD is gonna get heat from the dept chair/dean of students/etc
 

clausewitz2

10+ Year Member
Oct 13, 2008
2,138
2,386
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Haha come on... when Al Gore invented the internet the logical conclusion was the primacy of trolling

But anyway back to the original topic. Another caveat is that med school admins at established US MD schools put pressure on PDs (especially in the lower competitiveness specialties) to ensure the students match.

And that means if a med student at a solid US MD program doesn't match psych, even at his/her own program, especially if he/she wanted to match there (YES I KNOW THIS HAPPENS BTW) the PD is gonna get heat from the dept chair/dean of students/etc
So true. My school's program organized a special interview day just for applicants from the school.

The interviews went like this:

"Well you'll match here if nowhere else. Seen any good movies lately?"
 
  • Like
Reactions: 675015

Amygdarya

10+ Year Member
Feb 14, 2009
2,135
1,684
Status
Resident [Any Field]
So true. My school's program organized a special interview day just for applicants from the school.

The interviews went like this:

"Well you'll match here if nowhere else. Seen any good movies lately?"
Haha nice.
Unfortunately, sometimes there are more applicants from a school than residency spots at their home program :( (I know at least two cases like this this year, including my home program.)
 
  • Like
Reactions: OldPsychDoc

raisinbrain

2+ Year Member
Sep 12, 2017
100
144
Status
Medical Student
Though I'd imagine not every applicant from that institution is ranking their home program first (unless there's some magical amazing program I'm not aware of!)
 

Amygdarya

10+ Year Member
Feb 14, 2009
2,135
1,684
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Though I'd imagine not every applicant from that institution is ranking their home program first (unless there's some magical amazing program I'm not aware of!)
I agree. Even though the two programs I'm talking about are some of the most prestigious/competitive in psychiatry, some of the corresponding medical school graduates may choose to rank other programs higher because of a better fit etc. Still, it was implied above that graduates from a certain school were assured they would match at their program if nowhere else, while we don't have this reassurance.
 
H

HarryMTieboutMD

I agree. Even though the two programs I'm talking about are some of the most prestigious/competitive in psychiatry, some of the corresponding medical school graduates may choose to rank other programs higher because of a better fit etc. Still, it was implied above that graduates from a certain school were assured they would match at their program if nowhere else, while we don't have this reassurance.
True, but someone graduating from Harvard, Columbia, UCLA, UCSF, or Yale (just thinking of competitive programs from elite med schools) should be able to match at least *somewhere* even if they were less than stellar students, just by virtue of the name of the med school... like the student would REALLY have to f up multiple times in multiple different ways to not match at all- simply because if a lower tier program can say "we have a resident from a top 5 med school" thats a huge W on paper. If a graduate of said medical school fails to match psych, someone is going to get heat anyway (and it's usually the PD because he/she is typically the 4th year med students' advisor). However, in programs that are less competitive, the expectation is (generally) that the PD should rank home applicants in a position to match (though again if there are too many home applicants who want to stay or there is a really bad home applicant then more discretion is involved).
 

OldPsychDoc

Senior Curmudgeon
Moderator Emeritus
15+ Year Member
Dec 2, 2004
6,270
3,959
57
Left of Center
Status
Attending Physician
True, but someone graduating from Harvard, Columbia, UCLA, UCSF, or Yale (just thinking of competitive programs from elite med schools) should be able to match at least *somewhere* even if they were less than stellar students, just by virtue of the name of the med school... like the student would REALLY have to f up multiple times in multiple different ways to not match at all- simply because if a lower tier program can say "we have a resident from a top 5 med school" thats a huge W on paper.
If a "Top 5" (whatever that means) med grad has f'd up that many times it's no "W" for anyone.
No one cares about "on paper"--especially if you get a problem resident.
This "name" $h1T is vastly over-rated.
 
H

HarryMTieboutMD

If a "Top 5" (whatever that means) med grad has f'd up that many times it's no "W" for anyone.
No one cares about "on paper"--especially if you get a problem resident.
This "name" $h1T is vastly over-rated.
Agreed 100% but there are bad applicants from top Med schools who will get interviews just by virtue of the med school. Obviously it's not in the program's best interest to rank an applicant with continuous red flags but it happens... in other specialties too (numerous stories of problem residents who were probably great on paperin the surgical specialties at my hospital- a top 10 Med school with top 5-10 surgical specialty depts)
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Amygdarya

10+ Year Member
Feb 14, 2009
2,135
1,684
Status
Resident [Any Field]
True, but someone graduating from Harvard, Columbia, UCLA, UCSF, or Yale (just thinking of competitive programs from elite med schools) should be able to match at least *somewhere* even if they were less than stellar students, just by virtue of the name of the med school... like the student would REALLY have to f up multiple times in multiple different ways to not match at all- simply because if a lower tier program can say "we have a resident from a top 5 med school" thats a huge W on paper. If a graduate of said medical school fails to match psych, someone is going to get heat anyway (and it's usually the PD because he/she is typically the 4th year med students' advisor). However, in programs that are less competitive, the expectation is (generally) that the PD should rank home applicants in a position to match (though again if there are too many home applicants who want to stay or there is a really bad home applicant then more discretion is involved).
In case of psychiatry specifically (unlike some other specialties I know of), our home program PD is not involved in advising students going into the specialty at all. (We do have other good advisors familiar with the resident selection process.) I guess the PD's non-involvement with students applying to psychiatry (aside from occasionally being their attending) decreases the positive bias toward home school graduates and makes the application process more fair for everyone, which seems ethically sound to me.

Regarding "lower tier" programs, I know that many of them simply won't waste their limited interview spots on applicants from "name" schools because of the presumption that these applicants aren't likely to rank the program highly, so they would rather interview applicants in their target range.

I apologize for hijacking the thread. The situation I'm discussing is very different from that of OP's.
 
  • Like
Reactions: splik

Psychotic

5+ Year Member
Sep 17, 2013
731
397
where the sun do shine
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Regarding "lower tier" programs, I know that many of them simply won't waste their limited interview spots on applicants from "name" schools because of the presumption that these applicants aren't likely to rank the program highly, so they would rather interview applicants in their target range.
I mentioned this in a prior post - it happened to me. I went to a "name" med school, and for geographic reasons, I applied to some mid/lower tier programs that did not offer me invites. It happens a lot.

This thread has drifted away from the OP's question and quite a bit into hypotheticals, but the take away to all applicants reading this thread should be to apply to enough programs to ensure you attend enough interviews and have enough programs to rank to avoid the dreaded "no match." What is "enough"? Well, 6 apps is quite low and likely not enough for most applicants as far as the match statistics go. Is 6 interviews enough for most applicants? Maybe, if you rank all 6, but 8 to 10 interviews would remove even more risk from the process and even allow for you to not rank a program or two that you would not want to attend. Six apps leaves no margin for error, for mid tier programs that think you are slumming and not likely to rank them highly enough, or a bad interview day, or discovering your dislike of a program after interviewing, etc.
 
  • Like
Reactions: clausewitz2

sb247

Doer of things
7+ Year Member
Jul 5, 2012
20,600
31,569
Galt's Gulch
forums.studentdoctor.net
Really? Did you read his post, specifically "I'm very geographically limited as my wife is in grad school in the same city my med school is in so I would really like to get my home program or at least something nearby. There are 5 other programs I would consider geographically close enough to me, most of which are mid-to-high tier programs."?
The question isn't do I want to think about moving......the question is what are the programs that i would rather not have a residency than go too

Apply to more than six. You can always rank them accordingly
 
About the Ads