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4 Tips For Finding the Right Medical Program For You

Choosing the right medical program or residency is a major decision for applicants. As a medical school or residency program applicant you have your own distinct needs, interests and values. Not all medical education and opportunities are the same, which is why it’s important to consider whether the medical programs or residencies you apply to are the right fit for you.

But, how exactly do you evaluate for the right fit? The term “fit” is vague, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there will be opportunities that will suit your needs better than others. Whether you’re applying to medical school or looking ahead to your medical residency, finding a program that aligns with your values is an important consideration.

What Are Applicants Looking For?

A 2021 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) report surveyed applicants who have participated in the Main Residency Match®. The 2021 report revealed that the top four considerations that applicants evaluated when ranking programs were: goodness of fit, interview day experience, desired geographic location and quality of residents in the program.

Most medical school and residency applicants are Gen Z and millenials, and according to recent research conducted by Deloitte, this generation is passionate about social change—which includes wealth and income inequality, racial discrimination and the environment. Deloitte’s report says: “Six in 10 Gen Zs and 56% of millennials see systemic racism as very or fairly widespread in general society.” It’s not a stretch to consider that Gen Z and millennial medical students will prioritize programs that also value social change.

It’s important to consider your own values when it comes to choosing medical programs. Beyond the medical school mission statement, you want to consider the values of the programs that you apply to. Below we’ll discuss four tips for finding the right medical program or residency for you.

You Fit the Academic Requirements

One of the first things that you should do when considering a medical program is evaluate the prerequisites required to gain acceptance. All U.S.-based medical schools require an undergraduate degree, but there may be other academic requirements in specific knowledge areas. In addition to the academic requirements, you’ll also need to make sure that you have all extracurricular requirements, such as research or volunteer experience. Don’t forget that you’ll also want to prepare for non-technical requirements—such as Casper, our situational judgment assessment that is required for admission to hundreds of programs in the U.S.

Choose a Program You Love

It might seem obvious, but choosing a medical program or medical residency that you love will go a long way when you’re working or studying late at night. Ask yourself: What exactly do you value? Then, find a program that aligns with those values. If a collaborative learning environment is important to you, find a program that also prioritizes collaboration. Once you’ve entered your residency program you’ll also want to look at the specialty and ensure that you’re passionate about the type of work and research that you’ll be specializing in.

The Learning Environment Works for You

What is the learning environment like and does it suit you and your expectations? Think beyond your acceptance letter; you want to thrive in your program, so make sure you consider what will be required of you—from time commitment to the intensity of the program. Consider the curriculum, clinical training, whether there are any wellness initiatives or mental health programs and anything else that would impact your learning environment.

Academic Medicine published a study on the importance of safe and judgment free learning environments when educating health professionals. In the study, medical students who felt like they were in a judgment-free environment expressed feeling Psychological Safety (PS), a key factor in quality medical education.

You Align With the Culture

The culture of a specific medical school is a component of what the AAMC calls the hidden curriculum. It’s important to consider factors outside of the official curriculum of the program, including whether you feel connected to the faculty and colleagues; the diversity of other students or residents; and whether there are any outreach programs within the community.

For example, when you search outside the curriculum you’ll discover hints of the program’s mission. If the medical school is committed to increasing diversity in the field of medicine, how are they prioritizing this shift, and what conversations are they having? If diversity is important to you, then check to see if diversity and inclusion is a priority of the program you’re applying to. Have a look at the institution’s website, and also look into any committees or organizations associated with the medical school—this will help you gauge the program’s culture and priorities and whether they align with your own.

Duet Can Help You Choose

Finding the right program “fit” takes time and effort, but we’ve developed a new evidence-based assessment that takes the guesswork out of the process. Duet is our value-alignment assessment that allows programs to get to know applicants better by understanding what their values and priorities are—with respect to a program’s academic and cultural characteristics. Finding the right program fit requires understanding exactly what you want to prioritize, and Duet helps you do that.

What is Duet and how can it help my application? Find out