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CiM Frequently Asked Questions

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Application Process

Letters of Recommendation Expand answer
  • Start asking faculty during clerkships for a letter if you know them well. You should provide your CV and personal statement to the letter writer.
  • Many students wait to do an Acting Internship and then request a letter from a faculty member.
  • Some specialties require a Chair letter so make sure you get an appointment for that scheduled. The following specialties typically require a Chair letter:  Student Affairs will create a list of contacts for each department
    • Medicine
    • Some Surgery
    • Some Neurology
    • OB/GYN
    • Anesthesia
    • Some Pediatrics
  • Most programs require 3 letters of recommendation. Do not send more than is required.  Programs do not want to read more than they need to.  A Chair letter is not included in the 3 letters.  The MSPE is also required but again is not included in the 3 letter requirement.
  • Most surgical specialties suggest that all letters be from surgeons.
  • Some specialties require a standardized letter (i.e. Emergency Medicine, Orthopedics, ENT, and Plastic Surgery).
  • You should waive your right to view the letter.
  • Each letter writer must receive the following from you: a LOR request form printed from the ERAS website showing your letter ID number. Authors upload letters into the ERAS system.
Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) Expand answer
  • Previously known as the Dean’s letter
  • You will be notified by the registrar in the summer of your fourth year to set up a meeting with your MSPE writer
  • You will have a chance to read your final MSPE before it is sent out
  • Final letter sent to ERAS on October 1

Residency Interviews

Looking the part Expand answer
  • Dress should always be conservative, tasteful, neat…and comfortable.
  • Have the appearance of a successful, mature physician, not a medical student.
  • MEN should wear a suit, not sport coats or khaki’s.
    • Navy or gray, solid or pinstripe.
    • White or pale-blue shirt.
    • Conservative tie: solid, stripes, or small pattern (red or navy)
    • Keep jewelry to a minimum.
    • Short hair, preferably no goatees.
  • WOMEN should wear a suit – skirt or pants are acceptable.
    • Classic, solid colors: medium to dark gray, medium or dark blue, or black.
    • Simple white or cream top.
    • Simple, comfortable shoes.
    • Keep jewelry to a minimum.
    • Make-up and perfume work best when they are not noticed.
  • Be prepared for bad weather – always have an umbrella and overcoat with you.
Create a list of questions you want answered Expand answer

Below is a list of possible questions.

  • What is the success of graduates: board scores, help finding jobs/fellowships?
  • What are the clinical, non-clinical, and administrative responsibilities of the residents?
  • Are there research opportunities? Requirements?
  • Status of the program and hospital: Have any house staff left the program? Accreditation?
  • Quality of current residents? Have any left the program recently?
  • How are residents evaluated? How often? By whom? How may they give feedback?
  • Teaching opportunities?
  • Do you foresee any changes in the next three years?
  • What makes this program so unique?
Craft questions you specifically ask residents Expand answer
  • What contact will I have with clinical faculty?
  • How are the attendings to work with?
  • What is the average daily work load for interns? Is it varied?
  • How much didactic time is there? Does it have priority?
  • What types of clinical experiences will I have?
  • What is the work schedule? Call schedule? Time off?
  • What is the patient population I will see?
  • Are you happy? Was this a good match for you?
  • Do the residents socialize with each other?
Questions not to ask Expand answer

These are topics you should typically not ask about during the interview. Most of this information will be in the packet they send you or covered in an introductory meeting. If not, it is better to contact the institution’s Graduate Medical Education or Human Resource Office.

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Vacation
  • Competition
  • Family Medical Leave arrangements
Questions you may be asked Expand answer
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is a weakness that you are working to correct?
  • What do you see yourself doing after residency?
  • Why should we take you?
  • What can you contribute to our program?
  • What other specialties did you consider?
  • Based on your vision of an ideal training program, what do you feel are the strengths of our program?
  • Why ______ (whatever specialty)?
  • Describe to me a situation where you were in a team that wasn’t working well together and how you handled that dysfunction.
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
  • Have you ever witnessed unprofessional behavior in a clinical situation? How did this make you feel? What did you do about it?
  • What do you do to relax?
  • When you encounter a situation when you do not know something about a disease, meaning of a lab result, etc. how do you go about learning and trying to correct your knowledge gap?
  • Tell me the process you went through to decide on what programs to apply to.
  • If you could not do , what profession, in or out of medicine, would you most like to pursue?
  • Tell me about one event that shaped your life.
  • Tell me about yourself
  • If you could change one thing about your application, what would it be?
  • What aspects of our residency program do you find interesting or attractive?
  • Tell me about your hobbies and interests.
  • Tell me about an experience that helped to cement the type of doctor that you want to be?
  • Tell me about a time you made a significant mistake and had to admit it to your supervisor or peers.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had a difficult communication problem. Example: You are busy in the ER and a floor nurse calls and reports you for being insensitive and irresponsible.
  • What do you think is the biggest challenge or problem in health care today?
  • Describe a situation in which someone confided in you and you felt you had to break that confidence.
  • Tell me about a time you had to build a relationship with someone you didn’t like.
  • Give an example of a time you had to deliver bad news to someone.
  • Describe a relationship with a patient that had a significant effect on you.
  • How would you handle it if your senior resident or attending made an obvious mistake and told you to forget about it?
  • Can you think of anything else you would like to add?
  • What if you do not match?
Make sure to Expand answer
  • Not ramble.
  • Listen to the questions asked – make sure you understand what is being asked.
  • Answer the question that was asked.
  • Not answer a question they did not ask or add too much loosely-related information.
  • Be comfortable with pauses, silence – stay poised and confident.
  • Sound fresh every time – be prepared to answer the same question 20+ times throughout the entire interview process.
  • Smile! – Highly underrated; often forgotten when nervous and tense.
  • Consult someone from the specialty about common questions in their interviews.
  • Always send a thank you note or e-mail after an interview.

Remember, that the dinner the night before is part of the interview


How do I access the NRMP and when do I need to do that? Expand answer

Sept 15 you will be able to register.  Once you register for the NRMP, you will receive an NRMP ID number.  You will then need to go into your ERAS application and add the NRMP ID number to your ERAS profile section (the only section on ERAS that can be changed once you have submitted/certified your ERAS application).

Do all of my letters of recommendation need to be in for me to submit my application? Expand answer

You can submit your application to programs without having letters at all, but it would be to your advantage to have at least one letter.  Keep in mind that there are a few programs, particularly in the more competitive specialties, that will not consider an application complete until they have 3 letters of recommendation.  This is where kindness to your letter authors and their administrative assistants can be of great benefit.  You should have all of your letters in by mid to late October at the latest.


Who do I contact if I’m having difficulties with my application? Expand answer

Amy Bockis or Dr. Kothari

How will my transcript be uploaded to ERAS? Expand answer

The Registrar will take care of that.  It will be uploaded onto ERAS on October 1 with the MSPE.  If you want another transcript uploaded in Jan/Feb, you will need to request that from the registrar.

How will be NBME scores be accessed for ERAS? Expand answer

You do everything through ERAS for the release of your USMLE transcript.  To have your USMLE transcript submitted to the programs, you go to the Documents tab in ERAS, then select additional documents.  You should see the USMLE transcript as the first document listed.  You will need to select authorize release under the Actions section.  A small screen will come up asking for your USMLE ID and then a question of whether you authorize the NBME to transmit your USMLE transcript to designated programs: select yes.  Once you have selected and applied to programs, ERAS will charge you the one-time $80 USMLE transcript fee along with the cost associated with the number of programs that you have applied to. You will need to make sure that you assign your transcript to each program that you are applying to.

How long should the descriptions of experiences (work, research, volunteer) be and what should I include in them? Expand answer

Use bullet points if possible. Keep it concise and simple. Don’t put in “fluff.” Two to three bulleted sentences at the most. Use simple language and absolutely check your grammar/spelling. Provide just a little more detail for the experiences where you show a lot of leadership or clinical experience (highlight experiences that demonstrate proficiency/expertise in skills that are useful in your specialty).

How do I get my ERAS picture? Expand answer

Office of Student Affairs will coordinate with photography. It will likely take place during Health Systems Course during the end of third year.

What kinds of things do I put in Awards/Accomplishments? Expand answer

Academic or service type awards.

Do I put in all of my job experiences from undergrad? Even if they aren’t medical related? Expand answer

If you think it helps to build your character.  If it is not helpful, don’t include it. It should definitely relate to the specialty to which you are applying. For example, say you are applying to Pediatrics, if you had a part-time job at a daycare in college, then it would be relevant. However, it might not be as relevant or important if you are applying to internal medicine with an interest in geriatrics. Being a TA during undergrad would bode well on your application to an academic medical center.

What do I do if I haven’t heard from the department that I am interested in applying to? Expand answer

The Office of Student Affairs will make every attempt to link all students to a Specialty Advisor in a clinical department.  Contact Dr. Kothari in Student Affairs if there is any problem in this process. We want every student linked up with a specialty advisor by June of the fourth year.

What changes can I make to my MSPE? Expand answer

Spelling, typos, simple grammatical errors or rewording of a sentence. Clerkship evaluations cannot be reworded.  Only spelling, typos, and grammatical errors can be noted and corrected.

When can I expect to start hearing back about interviews? Expand answer

Sometimes you may hear on Sept 15 and then onwards.  Some will wait until Oct 1.  We would suggest using an email address in ERAS that you have easy access to and would go as far to suggest that you give someone you trust (that isn’t in medicine or at least that isn’t that busy) access to that email to respond to interview invites should you be tied up for many hours.  Keep in mind that attendings don’t want to see you obsessively checking your smartphone for interview invites (there have been complaints about this).  Office of Student Affairs will be checking in on everyone in November to see how everything is going via a survey (number of invites, strategies to increase the number if low, strategies to cancel interviews if high number of invites, etc).  Please make sure that you complete this survey.

Couples Matching

Is there any advice for couples trying to live near each other without entering couples match? Expand answer

You will need to coordinate your rank lists based on how you felt each interview went, and rank regionally to increase the chances that you will both match in a similar location.

1. Do people coordinate interviews or make calls to programs on behalf of their partners if they are couples matching? How is it perceived and what is the protocol for communication with programs among couples? Expand answer

Do not contact programs at this stage of the process. Ultimately, on the interview trail you may discover that residency program directors are in contact with one another, and it may prove advantageous to inquire about whether your partner may be considered for an interview if they have not yet received one at that stage.

1. If a student selects the “no match” option on their rank list and they end up not matching, does matching 'no match' preclude you from entering the SOAP process? Expand answer

The “no match” option does not preclude you from entering the SOAP process. The applicant can participate in SOAP if they should go unmatched. The “no match” option means that the applicant is willing to go unmatched (at that rank) if their partner is able to match.

Application Process

Do you actually submit your CV on ERAS or is it like AMCAS where you put in each individual activity? Expand answer

ERAS will have you submit individual activities, much like AMCAS did. If you build your CV based on the recommendations, you should be able to copy and paste into ERAS.

For medicine-pediatrics, we need chair letters for both disciplines, so does that mean we are only able to submit two “real” letters of recommendation? I’m worried that chair letters are too generic and I’d like to be able to submit more personal letters of rec. Expand answer

Check with program specifications and what each one specifies. They will tell you how many individual letters you need in addition to your chair letter. You will likely be allowed three letters plus the 2 chair letters.

How much money should we budget assuming about 30 programs applied to? Expand answer

Depends on where you are applying and whether you would are primarily traveling (air, land). Speak to folks in Office of Financial Aid to discuss this further.

How do we find out the balance between research, grades, and extracurriculars? Expand answer

Program directors like leadership experience, service and research. Meet with your advisors about your application and how competitive you are. Know that your ERAS application will contain elements from your CV, like your research and extracurriculars, while your MSPE/Dean’s letters will highlight clerkship performance. Different programs have varying expectations (e.g. research-heavy programs will focus more upon your research; nobody else expects you to have tons of publications)

Dual application vs. SOAP: knowing chance of not matching, is it better to dual apply or rely on SOAP? There is such a negative stigma against dual applications, so who should we talk to? Expand answer

Dual match is preferable; SOAP is too unpredictable to rely upon and you should discuss with Dr. Kothari regarding your intentions to apply for two specialties if you are concerned about your application and considering dual-applying.


Is it appropriate to contact residency programs in advance of applying to ask about their program and what they look for in applicants? Expand answer

No, not now. Read up on websites.


If applying to advanced programs, how many preliminary medicine programs should we apply to for an average Step 1 score or below average (210-230)? Expand answer

Depends on what you are applying to. A good rule of thumb is 10-15 preliminary programs if you are applying to an advanced program. Remember that more and more programs are now integrating their residency slots with preliminary years, so the total number of prelim spots is decreasing over the years.

What is the difference between academic and community hospital programs in terms of your education? Expand answer

Almost all programs will provide quality education and academic programs are now more frequently accepting non-tenure-track positions that do not necessarily favor training backgrounds from one over the other.

Is it true that the 80 hour work week/call hour restriction has changed? Will this be in effect when we are interns? Expand answer

80 hour work week is actually 320 hours over the four weeks. Interns are now allowed to work 24 hour shifts.

Are chair letters different from letters of recommendation? Expand answer

Chair letters are separate from individual letters, specified by program.

Can faculty co-sign a single letter for a student? Expand answer

Doing so may give programs the notion that neither name knows you well enough to write on your behalf.

Chair letters are generic; can you ask that same physician to write a more specific individual letter that is less templated? Expand answer

It’s best to avoid having the same person writing two letters. Check with department if someone else is willing to write your chair letter if you intend to have the chair write an individual letter.

For those taking a year off, when does the MSPE occur? Expand answer

Either; can addend as needed upon return.

When is the last time grades are transmitted? What if an AI occurs after December? Expand answer

Grades are uploaded to ERAS on October 1. AIs that happen after then won’t make or break your grade. If you would like to resubmit another transcript later in January or February, you need to request another one from Diane Gill in Registrar’s office.

What is the deadline for getting letters? Expand answer

Aim for application completion (100%) by mid-October. (Remember MSPE does not get submitted until October 1).

How are AIs graded? Expand answer

Same scale as MS3 clerkships. Theoretically, in most instances, programs wish to see HP or H in AIs.

How does AOA work? Expand answer

Initial consideration is based off of third year grades (not shelves) alone; point values are assigned to clerkships based on length (e.g. more weight is given to medicine, an 8 week block, than to neurology, a 4 week block). A total point value is awarded to students based on this system and the top 25% of students’ names are forwarded to AOA committee. There, they start from scratch and use a separate process that involves essay writing and a voting process to determine final AOA members.  All selections will be determined by mid-September so that it will be included into the MSPE on Oct 1.