Questions to ask yourself (and others) about residency programs

The first question for many students to ask (themselves) is where? Because the majority of physicians practice in the same location they trained, some would argue that residency is about Location, Location, Location.

Using FRIEDA, you can search all accredited programs by field and location to help you find potential residencies.

Are you considering enough programs?
Is there a reasonable mix in the competitiveness of the programs you are looking at?

  • Certain locations (California, NYC) tend to be competitive based on location regardless of program quality
  • There are three broad types of residencies: big name programs, university-based academic programs, and community programs.
  • Depending on how competitive you are for your chosen specialty, it will be important to at have programs in at least two of the three broad categories.

The AAMC provides a lengthy but excellent list of questions to ask residency programs (including “what is the call schedule?” and “how are the residents evaluated?”). Read it early to get an idea of what factors might play into your decision. It will help you make the most of the information you receive over the coming year.

Some things to consider when applying:

  • Program setting (urban, rural)
  • Program size (large, small: affects both social aspects and call)
  • Program location (close to family/friends, climate, sounds good on Facebook)
  • Program reputation
  • Program benefits

Some things to ask:

  • Any upcoming changes? (new chairs, changes in funding, new call responsibilities)
  • Any Red flags? (probation, residents leaving, etc)
  • Patient population (indigent, community, private)
  • Number of program sites/hospitals (will you be commuting across town frequently?)
  • Where do residents live? (Is it close to the hospital?)
  • Can they afford it? (Or are they budgeting like crazy?)

You can look at:

  • Program marketing materials and websites (be wary)
  • The internet forums (take with massive grains of salt)
    •,, (radiology), etc.

You should talk to:

  • Recent graduates in your field of interest

Just to be clear:

  • Conventional wisdom states you’re most likely to make your Rank-Order List based on location first and reputation second, with gut feeling coloring the whole thing so profoundly that you can rationalize your list seven ways til Sunday.
  • You will forget everything else about these programs over the course of the interview season unless you take meticulous notes. Even then, nothing else outside of the big three (location, reputation, “feel”) will really matter. After all, you’re not really going to pick one program over another because they have a bigger book fund; it’s just a factor in your overall impression.

You could read the rest of the interview series:
How to schedule your residency interviews and How to succeed in your residency interviews.

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