Common residency application requirements

Application via ERAS, personal statement, curriculum vitae, letters of recommendation, common application form, being in ECFMG certification process (for IMGs), passing USMLE STEP 1, medical student performance evaluation, participating in the (NRMP, SF or Urology) match, etc. are common for nearly all residency programs with very few exceptions. Read How to apply for medical residency in the USA for more details.

Most common program specific requirements by type

Many competitive specialties like plastic surgery, otolaryngology, etc., have a low number of applications per program. Such programs are usually able to review each applicant and often have no minimum requirements established. However, even without minimum requirements, it is clear to each candidate that application for a competitive specialty must be extremely strong and targeted. On the other hand, specialties like internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, etc., use minimum requirements very often.

1. Cut off scores

The most frequently used filtering criteria are the USMLE STEP 1,2(CK) scores. Most programs use a particular minimum score to select candidates for further consideration.

2. Preferred scores.

Many programs do not use an absolute minimum score as criteria, but instead use the term preferred. For example, the program can write: We do not have an absolute cut-off, but we prefer scores greater than 220. In general, it means that candidates with Step 1 218 but Step 2 255 can be selected for further consideration.

3. First-time passage.

Programs often require that candidates must pass USMLE Step 1 and 2 on the first attempt to shortlist candidates. Without a doubt, all programs prefer first attempt passage. However, some programs may consider candidates with a second successful attempt under special circumstances (very high scores, etc.).

4. The number of attempts

Many programs do not have a hard rule regarding first-time passage. Such programs often limit the number of attempts, but still may accept IMGs with first-time passage only.

5. Time since graduation

One of the most frequently used criteria is the time between graduation and application. The time should be calculated from the date of receiving your medical diploma to the date of application. In rare cases, programs count time to the date of matriculation. More often than not, the graduation requirement is strict, with few programs having exceptions. Participating in other residency programs or continuous medical practice can be listed among such exceptions.

6. U.S. clinical experience (USCE)

Inpatient (hands-on), outpatient, and/or research clinical experience in the United States can be among the most important requirements for many residency programs. The majority of programs require hands-on clinical experience. Some programs specifically mention that outpatient or research experience can be accepted. No doubt that all residency programs prefer experienced candidates, even if USCE is not a requirement.

7. USCE duration

When required, programs often look for a minimum number of USCE months. Less often, programs use uncertain statements like: we prefer from 6 to 12 months of USCE.

8. Equivalent clinical experience

In rare cases, programs mention that Canada, UK, Australia, Israel, or other equivalent clinical experience can be accepted as comparable to USCE.

9. LORs from U.S. physicians

Programs often specify a minimum number of LORs from U.S. physicians as a requirement for interview consideration.

10. USMLE Step 2 for interview

Nearly half of all programs require USMLE Step 2 to be passed and submitted before the deadline for interview consideration.

11. ECFMG certificate for interview or before deadline

Some programs require that IMG must be ECFMG-certified before interview. Most programs require ECFMG certificate submission before final rank order list deadline. 

12. USMLE Step 3 for interview

Passage of the USMLE 3 is a relatively rare requirement for many specialties. However, in psychiatry, Step 3 is often required.

13. Medical school restrictions

Occasionally, programs require that a medical school must be listed in a list of approved schools, or must not be included in a particular disapproved list. For example, Kansas list, California list, Indiana list, New York list, etc. The reasons and lists vary from state to state.

14. Special requirements for personal statement.

In rare cases, a residency program can strictly require special information included in a personal statement. For example, an applicant can be asked to answer about the reasons for choosing a program or specific location.

15. Special format LORs

For example, many emergency medicine residency programs require a certain number of letters of recommendation to be prepared in standardized SLOE format.

16. The number of LORs and time limits

Near all programs require 3 LORs. Some programs can grant interviews for not graduated applicants with fewer LORs. Also, many programs place a time limit on LORs, meaning they must be written within a certain amount of time (often months) before application.

17. U.S. citizenship

Often programs can't sponsor H1B visas and can't accept ECFMG sponsored J1 visas. Under such conditions, a program may strictly require that IMG applicant must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

18. Requirements for H1B sponsorship

Programs that sponsor H1-B visas usually have early deadlines for visa application. Such programs often have special requirements to select candidates (very high scores, etc.).

19. Application deadline

The most common requirement for interview consideration is to submit all required documentation via ERAS before a specific deadline determined by a program.

20. Rank order list submission deadline

ROL submission deadline is another deadline that programs use to shortlist candidates. For example, programs may require to be ECFMG certified before this deadline