GopherBrain

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If you were applying to residency (it doesn't matter what specialty), and had a completely average application, with the exception of one portion, which was truly outstanding, what portion would you choose to be the best? USMLE scores, clinical evals, letters of recommendation, other?

I think having a killer letter or two would be the best way to go...
 

docmojo

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I think that great letters from people with "juice" can dwarf all other things. A great performance recognized by a well-considered physician will pull a lot of weight and can make other things less important. Life is often about who you know. Whaddya gonna do. That is the way it is.
 

chef

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a truly spectacular letter, or phone calls from bigshots can overcome ANY deficiencies.
 
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Ex-fix

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I would like great USMLE scores. Many programs, esp. the specialty fields, use these as the initial weed out. They have a set number they use to decide wherther or not to offer interviews to applicants. Great LORs are useless if you don't make the initial cut.
 

SuFiBB

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A chair's letter in my opinion is the most important part of the application because it discusses your performance in your sub-internship, which is the most important rotation you can take in med school. One of the programs was very interested in my chair's letter because they said that the sub-I reflects how well you will do as an intern being that most of your time as an intern is done in the inpatient setting. I think the consult, outpt, and other electives you do in your 4th year is 2nd only to your sub-I performance as reflected in your chair's letter. whatever you do, study/prep up for your sub-I by reading beforehand and taking a few electives beforehand. also make sure you patient presentations are dead-on because that determines your grade for the sub-I and hence forms the basis for the precious chairman's letter.
good luck
 

Finally M3

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Agree with ex-fix. The board scores get your foot in the door...
 

The White Coat Investor

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If I had to pick one area to excel, and had everything else average, I would pick USMLE scores. They seemed to open a lot of doors for me. That being said, I'd rather have everything average, then have great board scores and lousy letters.

There are several reasons.
1) Lots of programs use board scores to screen. Good ones will get you past every screen.
2) The only objective comparison between applicants is their USMLE scores.
3) Do you really have to wonder if someone with 250+ A) Knows how to study, B) Knows how to test, C) is intelligent enough to learn the material inherent in specialty training? None of the slackers in my class had board scores that high. (Note, I'm not saying board scores are important in becoming a good doctor etc, just that really good ones eliminate a few worries about a residency candidate. You still don't know if the guy is a complete social loser, a sociopath, a lazy bum, a drug addict, an arrogant snob, a nerd etc.)
 

Anasazi23

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I know you said it doesn't matter, but I think it completely depends upon the specialty to which you are applying.

i.e. In psychiatry, shown dedication to the field and letters are key - hands down, pretty much regardless of USMLE scores.
 
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