How Many Residency Programs Should You Apply To?

April 12, 2024
3 min read


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 4/12/24

If you’re at that stage in your medical career where you’re deciding on a specialty, you may be wondering how many residency programs to apply to. Read on to learn more, because the number may surprise you!

Imagine spending countless hours perfecting your residency application, only to discover that you didn't apply to enough programs to secure a spot. It's a nightmare scenario for any medical student, but one that can be easily avoided by understanding how many residency programs you should consider.

In this guide, we'll dive into the ideal number of residency programs to apply to, provide tips for crafting a standout application, and answer frequently asked questions to help you navigate this critical step in your medical career.

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Average Number of Program Applications per Applicant

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), on average, students apply to between 21-58 residency programs. With at least nine students vying for each available spot, it's no wonder that the average is so high.

In general, the more competitive a specialty, the more applications students submit. Here’s a breakdown of the average number of programs students applied to per specialty

How Many Residency Programs to Apply to?

We recommend that you apply to a maximum of 30–35 programs. The ideal range would be between 15–35 programs. 

Considering the students that submitted the above number of applications had a 94.8% match rate, it’s safe to say you can follow these averages as guidelines during your own residency application process.

The quality of the programs you apply to is more important than the quantity. Don’t waste your money – apply to programs that match your interests and that you genuinely want to join.

Here is an idea of how much residency applications cost:

Programs Per Specialty Application Fees
The first 10 $99
The next 11-20 $19 each
The next 21-30 $23 each
The next 31 or more $26 each

Source: ERAS

In case you’re confused by these fees, consider the following examples:

  • 30 emergency medicine programs: $99.00 + (10 x $19.00) + (10 x $23.00) = $519
  • 12 internal medicine programs, 10 emergency medicine programs, and 8 family medicine programs: $99 + (2 x $19.00) + $99 + $99 = $335

While reducing your applications can help you save some money, applying to too few programs can limit your options and chances of matching. To balance these risks, it’s generally recommended students submit at least 20–25 residency applications. 

Submitting these many applications will give you enough opportunity to match with at least one residency while preventing you from spending money on programs that you have little interest in!

Residency Application Tips

Applying for residency is a huge step in your medical career. Get a competitive edge with these top tips:

1. Target Your Research

Don't just look at rankings. Dig into program websites, faculty research interests, and resident testimonials. Seek programs that align with your specific goals and values for training.

2. Start Early, Perfect Later

Start working on the ERAS residency timeline early by asking recommenders who can speak to your clinical skills, teamwork, and potential in your chosen specialty. Provide them with your CV and discuss qualities you'd like them to emphasize.

3. Customize Your Personal Statement

Avoid generic stories that admissions committees have heard in every personal statement. Show how your experiences and passions make you a perfect fit for each specific program.

4. Highlight Growth

Don't just list accomplishments. Demonstrate how you've learned from challenges, research projects, or volunteer work. Show the program how you'll be an asset.

5. Practice Interview Scenarios

Research common residency interview questions and practice with peers or mentors. Focus on clear, concise answers showcasing your knowledge and personality.

6. Organize Strategically

Use spreadsheets to track deadlines, application requirements, and specific notes about each program. This lessens stress and prevents errors.

Remember to take your time and pay attention to the details. A well-prepared and thoughtful application can make a big difference in your chances of matching with your top residency program!

FAQs: How Many Residency Programs to Apply to

If you still have questions about how many residency programs you should apply to, read our FAQ section below.

1. What Is the Average Number of Residency Programs to Apply to?

The average number of residency programs that students apply to is 21–58. The maximum number of residency programs you should apply to is 35.

2. How Many Residency Programs Should I Interview?

You should interview with all of the programs that invite you. On average, students are invited to interview for 12 out of the 21–58 programs they apply to.

3. How Can I Increase My Chances of Getting Into Residency?

To increase your chances of getting into residency, follow these tips:

  • Do your research: spend time looking through programs in your desired specialty to see if they align with your goals and interests
  • Start early: give yourself enough time to gather your application materials 
  • Secure strong letters of recommendation: choose your recommenders carefully and meet with them to discuss the content of your letters
  • Write a stellar personal statement: tailor your personal statement to the programs you’re applying to and ensure they present your unique experiences and achievements
  • Brag a little: ensure you share the skills you’ve acquired through your activities and experiences that will help you become an excellent physician
  • Prepare for interviews: spend time practicing for your interviews and prepare a few questions to ask your interviewer
  • Stay organized: consider using a spreadsheet to keep track of all of your deadlines and application requirements

Overall, spend time and effort on each of your applications to increase your chances of matching with your top choices!

4. How Do I Decide on the Number of Residency Programs to Apply to?

Consider these factors when deciding how many residency programs to apply to:

  • Your qualifications
  • Specialties of interest
  • Competitiveness of the specialties
  • Your budget
  • Geographic preferences

Apply to at least 20 programs, adjusting based on your preferences, to increase your chances of matching.

5. Can I Apply to More Than One Specialty for Residency?

Yes, you can apply to more than one specialty for residency. Keep in mind that applying to multiple specialties may result in higher application fees.

6. What are the Key Factors to Consider When Selecting Residency Programs to Apply to?

When selecting residency programs, consider:

  • Program structure
  • Faculty
  • Location
  • Resident experiences
  • Training opportunities
  • Match rate
  • Reputation of the program

Higher-ranking programs can open more doors of opportunity.

7. When Is the Best Time to Start Applying for Residency Programs?

The residency application process typically begins in the summer of the medical student's fourth year. Start preparing your application at least six months before the deadline by gathering the required application materials and researching top programs.

Final Thoughts

Applying to residency programs is a big step in your medical career. While the process can be time-consuming and costly, applying to a good amount of programs increases your chances of the perfect acceptance.

Remember, the quality of the programs you apply to matters more than the quantity. Research each program thoroughly, considering factors such as structure, faculty, location, resident experiences, training opportunities, match rate, and reputation.

By starting early, tailoring your application materials, securing strong letters of recommendation, and preparing well for interviews, you can make yourself a competitive candidate and increase your likelihood of matching with your dream residency program!

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