How many programs should an average US MD student apply to?

  • 10-20

    Votes: 3 18.8%
  • 20-30

    Votes: 8 50.0%
  • 30-40

    Votes: 3 18.8%
  • 40-50

    Votes: 2 12.5%
  • 50+

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    16
  • Poll closed .

NEU305

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Hi, everyone. I'm trying to narrow my list for potential residency programs, but I have been hearing mixed information about the number of programs I need to apply to. I've heard from recent graduates at my school that you should target 40-50, but I had a Program Director tell me last week that around 15 is all I need. Personally, I feel that 50 is a bit much, but 15 won't be enough to include any "reach" programs. Obviously, if you score a 192 or have big red flags, you need to apply quite broadly, but as an "average" US MD student with average scores which end of the spectrum is most appropriate? Any fellow MS4's out there feel free to chime in with your plans or what you've being told by your department chair.

Thanks in advance.
 
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NEU305

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For what it's worth, my initial plan is to apply to ~40 (10 reach programs, 20 mid-tier academic programs, 10 local / safety programs).
 

Consigliere

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My recommendation would be to apply to ZERO anesthesiology residency programs.
 

AdmiralChz

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This is taking me back a long time, but I think I applied to like 20-30 programs - maybe less. I had something like 1/2 reach and 1/2 mid-tier.

50 seems excessive, unless your stats are fairly below average?

Thinking back to recruitment, I think most applicants were going on 10-15 interviews. It would be tough to fit in many more than that, unless you clustered them in an area.
 
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sigrhoillusion

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I think 20-25 applications is safe.
That should give you at least 5 slam dunks, 5 reaches, and 10-15 likely interviews.

If you can get 10-15 interviews to rank you should be safe to match. Obviously your qualifications/scores factor into what falls into each of these categories.
 
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Gern Blansten

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The answer is to apply to enough places so that you get 10-15 interviews. The problem is that many do not know how many that is for them. For some that means applying to 20 programs. For others, they will not get 10-15 invites no matter how many they apply to. You need an adviser (who is in tune with the match over the last few years) to look at your application and give you some candid advice as to what tier of applicant you fall into.
In my opinion:
If you are top quartile with 240ish step scores, you will get invited to 95% of the places you apply (maybe higher) and will likely match one of your top 3 programs.
2nd quartile with 230ish steps; you will probably get invites to 80% of places you apply and you will likely get one of your top 3-5 choices.
3rd quartile students typically don't have stellar step scores, but sometimes do. Third quartile with 240ish step scores will likely still get 50-70% invite rate. It will likely be 40-50% if you step scores are in the 220-230 range.
4th quartile students frequently have step scores less than 220. This makes it very difficult to make the desired goal of 10 interviews. These students are the ones who really benefit from an adviser taking a close look at their application and giving some candid advice. If the step score is less than 210, strongly consider having a good backup plan. Other things can also throw a monkey wrench into the mix:
-DO students generally have a little tougher time. There remains a bias at many programs. A DO student in the 4th quartile with poor step scores, or no USMLE on record may have a rough time getting a spot. Especially if the school is an upstart school that has been open less than 10 years.
-if you have negative comments on your MSPE, that can be a challenge. One might be overlooked. Two shows a pattern. Three will make it very difficult to match into any spot.

These are just my opinions based on what I have seen over the years. There are a similar number of residency spots, but many more people vying for them since there has been a large expansion/proliferation of medical schools in the past 5 years, so it is much harder to get a residency program than it was 15 years ago. There are still lots of spots though, and the vast majority will get one, but you need an adviser to help you navigate the system.
 

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I applied to 20 or so, almost all top tier, was aiming for 10-15 interviews
 

BLADEMDA

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The answer is to apply to enough places so that you get 10-15 interviews. The problem is that many do not know how many that is for them. For some that means applying to 20 programs. For others, they will not get 10-15 invites no matter how many they apply to. You need an adviser (who is in tune with the match over the last few years) to look at your application and give you some candid advice as to what tier of applicant you fall into.
In my opinion:
If you are top quartile with 240ish step scores, you will get invited to 95% of the places you apply (maybe higher) and will likely match one of your top 3 programs.
2nd quartile with 230ish steps; you will probably get invites to 80% of places you apply and you will likely get one of your top 3-5 choices.
3rd quartile students typically don't have stellar step scores, but sometimes do. Third quartile with 240ish step scores will likely still get 50-70% invite rate. It will likely be 40-50% if you step scores are in the 220-230 range.
4th quartile students frequently have step scores less than 220. This makes it very difficult to make the desired goal of 10 interviews. These students are the ones who really benefit from an adviser taking a close look at their application and giving some candid advice. If the step score is less than 210, strongly consider having a good backup plan. Other things can also throw a monkey wrench into the mix:
-DO students generally have a little tougher time. There remains a bias at many programs. A DO student in the 4th quartile with poor step scores, or no USMLE on record may have a rough time getting a spot. Especially if the school is an upstart school that has been open less than 10 years.
-if you have negative comments on your MSPE, that can be a challenge. One might be overlooked. Two shows a pattern. Three will make it very difficult to match into any spot.

These are just my opinions based on what I have seen over the years. There are a similar number of residency spots, but many more people vying for them since there has been a large expansion/proliferation of medical schools in the past 5 years, so it is much harder to get a residency program than it was 15 years ago. There are still lots of spots though, and the vast majority will get one, but you need an adviser to help you navigate the system.
Great post and I agree with you completely. The bottom line is be REALISTIC as to where your application lines up compared to the type of program you desire to match at.
This isn't rocket science. Unless you are having intercourse with the program director at MGH it is doubtful you get a spot with a Step 1 of 220.


The DO bias continues to some degree so even with a strong application make sure you include some midtier programs in the mix and apply to those programs which have DO residents.
 
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BLADEMDA

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For those in the top quartile with a strong application they are over-thinking this. I applied to 8 programs, got 8 interviews and matched at my number 2 program. Why in the hell does anyone in top 1/4 need more than 12 programs?

Second, If I had an "average" profile today I would apply to 20 programs (mix of 5 programs for upper 1/3, 10 for mid tier and 5 for bottom tier) and go to 10 interviews. Sure, you could go to 15 interviews but hopefully you already have an idea about which programs are your preferred ones.

If your profile is below average then I can see the need for 30 applications and the need to interview at everyone of them which is offered to you.

I think if you run your total profile by the assistant PD at your institution he/she can hopefully steer you in the right direction.
 
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partydoc

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You're overthinking it. Just apply to all the programs you could see yourself at then whittle it down after interviews come in.
 

BLADEMDA

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You're overthinking it. Just apply to all the programs you could see yourself at then whittle it down after interviews come in.

The big expense in terms of time and money are the interviews. If you are realistic about the process you will match into the specialty
 

partydoc

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The big expense in terms of time and money are the interviews. If you are realistic about the process you will match into the specialty
Agreed. So why bother narrowing down programs now? Apply everywhere, get interviews, then pick which programs are worth your time. Plus, it gives you a realistic idea of how competitive you are.
 
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BLADEMDA

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Agreed. So why bother narrowing down programs now? Apply everywhere, get interviews, then pick which programs are worth your time. Plus, it gives you a realistic idea of how competitive you are.
Money. An average applicant can pick 20 programs. Sure, I see your point about sending out 50 applications then weeding them down to 15 for interviews. I just don't get the obsession with needing 50 programs to match.

http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com/2011/04/what-step-1-score-should-i-aim-for/

A top quartile applicant should find 10-15 programs that suites their need. It's not like you won't get properly trained at Pitt or Cleveland Clinic vs MGH. But, maybe you want to live in Boston or Souther Cal? Maybe, you want to PRACTICE in that region of the country? That makes the most sense in my opinion rather than a random application process to 50 programs scattered across the Continent.

If you are an IMG or below average applicant I can fully understand the apprehension this process poses for you. I can also see how you would feel compelled to apply to 100 programs.

http://www.matcharesident.com/
 
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BLADEMDA

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For the 13 assessed medical specialties, there was no statistically significant relationship between the mean number of applications per applicant per year submitted to the NRMP, and the annual match rate


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507934/
 

BLADEMDA

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For the 13 assessed medical specialties, there was no statistically significant relationship between the mean number of applications per applicant per year submitted to the NRMP, and the annual match rate


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507934/
The bottom line is the strength of your application in relation to the applicant pool applying to that program is what matters most. Plus, lower tier PDs may see that Step-1 score of 250 and think that med student is wasting my time as he/she will never actually schedule the interview or even rank the program.

Similarly, top tier programs will likely discard all applications not meeting their minimum step 1 score
 
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BLADEMDA

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In general, add 50% more than the median number applications for your specialty if you are a not a strong applicant.

Note also that the cost is not in the application phase of applying for residency, but in the interviewing phase. It is better to place some additional cost into more applications and turn down a few interviews than to receive too few invitations to present your qualifications.

http://www.doctorsintraining.com/blog/how-many-residency-applications-to-submit-by-specialty/

Is the magic number 24 for the average applicant?
 

BLADEMDA

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But according to Signer of the NRMP, all these interviews don’t necessarily help a student match. She said the algorithm doesn’t favor a longer ranking list. Instead, she thinks the increased number of applications may be a disservice to both students and programs. “The programs can’t possibly interview all those people, so they screen them using some criterion like test scores,” she said, referring to the large number of applicants many programs must sift through. “Perfectly suitable applicants never make it past the gate.”

Signer says students should be honest with themselves about how competitive they are and target applications at specialties and programs they are likely to get into. The annual “Charting Outcomes” report provides detailed information on how competitive different types of residencies are.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/another-34000-people-are-about-to-put-their-future-in-the-hands-of-an-algorithm/
 

minutemen11

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for the money question, hopefully you've built up "excellent" credit by now. Open up credit cards with great sign on bonuses!! You will make a large portion of it back. I have a chase sapphire preferred and recently got the the chase reserve card. Points on points, and travel discounts. God knows I will need it as I apply to a lot of programs...

Edit: but do remember to cancel it next year so you dont get slapped with the annual fees.. You do feel pretty good when cashiers double take holding a heavier, metal card. Capitalism at its best.
 
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NEU305

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Thank you very much to everyone for taking the time to reply; I really appreciate the variety of perspectives. I followed a link from one of the sources on Blade's post and noticed a citation for an old NRMP Applicant Survey. I found the 2015 version here http://www.nrmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Applicant-Survey-Report-2015.pdf . (I had no idea that this existed). The response rate is ~48%, but the data seems to be in line with the consensus here. It looks like I should be looking at ~30 programs. Thanks again.

 
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abolt18

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Great post and I agree with you completely. The bottom line is be REALISTIC as to where your application lines up compared to the type of program you desire to match at.
This isn't rocket science. Unless you are having intercourse with the program director at MGH it is doubtful you get a spot with a Step 1 of 220.


The DO bias continues to some degree so even with a strong application make sure you include some midtier programs in the mix and apply to those programs which have DO residents.
Hopefuly a DO student in top quartile with 240's Step 1 and 2 can overcome that bias at some high quality programs. (COMLEX Level 1 and 2 in the 93rd and 96th %ile)

I'm applying to 30 largely because I haven't been able to find a good reason to cross some off my list. Some for location, some for big name and top training, some for backup.
 

BLADEMDA

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Hopefuly a DO student in top quartile with 240's Step 1 and 2 can overcome that bias at some high quality programs. (COMLEX Level 1 and 2 in the 93rd and 96th %ile)

I'm applying to 30 largely because I haven't been able to find a good reason to cross some off my list. Some for location, some for big name and top training, some for backup.
When it comes down to interview time I'm sure you can wean it to 12 or so interviews.
 

BLADEMDA

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Thank you very much to everyone for taking the time to reply; I really appreciate the variety of perspectives. I followed a link from one of the sources on Blade's post and noticed a citation for an old NRMP Applicant Survey. I found the 2015 version here http://www.nrmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Applicant-Survey-Report-2015.pdf . (I had no idea that this existed). The response rate is ~48%, but the data seems to be in line with the consensus here. It looks like I should be looking at ~30 programs. Thanks again.

The other thing from this data point is the odds of NOT MATCHING increase if you get less than 5 interviews offered. Similarly, if you apply to 30 programs (which I still think seems excessive) you should expect 15 offered interviews. But, this assumes you targeted the right programs based on the strength of your application.