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Residency and Fellowship programs can be competitive so most applicants are doing their best to have their applications be considered. Although for most programs, almost all applications are considered, there are a few things you can do to have your application stand out amongst the rest. See the list below:
1. Get an Excellent Recommendation Letter
An excellent recommendation is one of the things program directors look out for when evaluating applicants as it gives them an insight into the applicant’s character from a different perspective, most probably from their peer. You might wonder what makes a recommendation letter excellent? Here are some ideas:
- Have it be written by someone who knows you personally and professionally. Your letter should be written by someone who knows you very well in order for it to be genuine and to have accurate statements as well as to give evaluators an honest perspective of your growth as a professional and as a person. Most of all, it should be someone who has seen your growth as a doctor, since the purpose of the letter is to qualify for a residency or fellowship program.
- Seek someone who is from your desired specialty. If you’re on set with a specific specialty, see someone - probably a mentor, who is credible and can give a genuine and effective endorsement. Some program directors can be doubtful with recommendation letters but if it is written by someone who has a good reputation within the medical community, it will score you some advantage as an applicant.
- Guide your writer to showcase your strengths and skills. Give your writer an easy time by telling them what you want to achieve with your residency program and what are your specific goals - this will guide them into writing a letter that can effectively convey their endorsement to a specific program. If you’re lucky, your writer will be able to specifically pinpoint as to why you’re a perfect fit for the field you’re seeking to specialize and why you’re suitable to the program.
2. Make Your Personal Essay About You and Your Journey in the Medical Field
Your personal essay is a chance for you to let the evaluators know about your personal background and what led you to this point in your career. Your personal essay should at the very least contain the following:
- Goals and Motivation. Write about why you’re pursuing medicine as a career? What are your short-term goals and long-term goals? State your motivation and why it keeps you going despite the difficulties you have to face - this will give evaluators an insight into your mindset when faced with an obstacle or challenge.
- Personal Background and Hardships. Other than your letter of recommendation, your essay will also depict what type of personality and attitude you have which can help them assess if you are suitable for their program. Talking about hardships and how you overcame this is also a good method to showcase your capability not only as a doctor but also as a person.
- What You Can Contribute To The Program. To avoid your letter to sound like arrogant and self-centered, state as to what you can contribute to the program. Although you are applying to be a resident or a fellow to grow professionally, directors are looking for applicants who can contribute significantly to their program.
3. Ace the Medical License Examination and Internship and Residency
Your medical license exam scores will weigh in a big percentage of your qualification to a program. Although it is not a direct indication of how good of a doctor you are, it is an indication of what your competence level is or how knowledgeable you are in your field. Your performance during your internship (if you’re applying for residency) and residency (if you’re applying for fellowship) are indicators of your performance as a doctor - whether it may be in making a diagnosis, conducting procedures, patient treatment, and management. You will probably be presenting a list of cases you’ve handled and what are your contributions to those cases. Here are some tips on what to do in each item mentioned:
- Medical License Examination. Take it when you’re fully prepared. Do not be pressured into taking the exam just because most of your peers are taking it or because you are rushing. Being prepared will give you better and much more satisfying results.
- Internship. Be proactive, volunteer and ask questions during your internship, make sure to learn something new every day and apply those learnings into your new cases. If possible, engage in research and reading medical journals to widen your knowledge in the field you’re interested in.
- Residency. Seek for a mentor, volunteer in participating in cases, that are relevant to your desired field and if possible, be a part of clinical research.
4. Create An Amazing Project Proposal
For fellowship applicants, a good project proposal is an effective way to convince the selection committee to consider your application. Creating a good proposal requires massive research as well as help from your colleagues - so don’t be shy when asking for their professional opinions on how to improve our proposal. Now, you might wonder what does a good project proposal contains? Check out this list we’ve rounded up below:
- Realistic Goal. Set a realistic - one that can be achieved by your proposal with the resources available and with the cases that you know and in hand. Although it is not as grand as it sounds, evaluators will more likely consider your project as long as it is realistic.
- Applicability. How is your project applicable to the program’s resources and current cases? How is it relevant to the real world? Remember that the more your project affects and improves the lives of patients, then the more it will likely be approved. Put patients and medical field advancement as the priority of your project.
- Realistic Timeline. With the allocated span of time of your fellowship, is it possible to meet the goals of your project? State the expected percentage of completion of the project in your timeline - this is a very realistic manner and assessment as to what your project can accomplish.