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You have studied hard, excelled academically, and you’re well on your way to graduating from an accredited medical school such as Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM)*. Soon you will need to apply for a residency, but you’re not entirely sure what steps are involved. What do you need to do? How can you prepare? The medical residency application process can be demanding and intimidating, but with some advanced knowledge you can craft a competitive application, hone your interview skills, and prepare yourself to take the next step towards becoming a physician. At RUSM, the Office of Career Advisement can help guide you through this process.

Medical Residency Application Timeline

Medical residency is the next step to becoming a physician after earning a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. Residency programs are designed to give medical graduates the clinical skills they will require to practice on their own. Residency programs last at least three years. It can be tricky to navigate the application for medical residency timeline, but with some advanced knowledge you can start planning now and be well on your way.

Most RUSM students secure residencies through the National Resident Matching Program®  (NRMP®), a nonprofit organization established to match the preferences of residency applicants with the preferences of residency program directors. Many residency programs use the Electronic Residency Application Service® (ERAS®) developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Applicants create a list of programs into which they wish to be placed, and ranked in order of preference. Program directors create lists of applicants they wish to have as residents, also listed in order of preference. NRMP uses computer algorithms to match applicants with programs using data from these rank order lists.

The path to residency starts during medical school, when students take part in clinical rotations in a variety of areas of medicine. These experiences in such disciplines as internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and psychiatry can help students decide what area of medicine they would like to pursue as a career. You might realize you want to focus on a specialty such as obstetrics or emergency medicine, or you might want the variety offered by becoming a general practitioner. If you already know which medical specialty appeals to you, get an early start trying to secure a clinical rotation in that discipline. After you have decided what kind of doctor you want to be, choose elective courses for your senior year that can give you a good background in the specialty skills you will need.

As part of your application portfolio, you will need to include your scores from the United States Medical Licensing Examination®(USMLE®), a multi-step examination that tests your medical skills and knowledge. Most students take the first exam (Step 1) at the end of their second year and the second (Step 2) during their fourth year.

In the spring of your third year, you will need to meet with one of the deans of your medical school. In this meeting, you will discuss the residency application process, and the dean can help you decide what medical discipline you wish to pursue. The dean will write your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE), a letter that will be included with your application materials that provides an objective summary of your academic performance, clinical abilities, and other relevant information.

Much of the work of applying for residency typically occurs during the summer before a student’s fourth year of medical school. This is a good time to research residency programs, start working on the residency application, secure letters of recommendation, request necessary transcripts, and write your personal statement. See the next section of this article for more information on the documentation and information needed to apply. 

Students can begin submitting applications to residency programs in September of their fourth year of medical school. Interviews can begin as early as that same September. The interview process can help you decide which programs would be a good fit for you. The process of applying and interviewing continues into January of the following year. In February, applicants can begin creating their rank order lists to indicate their preferred residency programs.

The third Friday in March is known as Match Day. On this day, applicants learn with which program they have been matched. Unmatched applicants can apply for positions with programs that did not fill up through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program® (SOAP®). The week leading up to Match Day is known as Match Week. The NRMP has additional information about Match Week and SOAP that you may find helpful.

How To Apply For Medical Residency

The medical residency application process is complex and spans many months. Some students start working on their residency applications as early as the fall semester of their third year of medical school. Before undertaking the application process, it may be helpful to get advice from students who have matched in the specialty you want to study. The AAMC has created a web page with information to help you with Researching Residency Programs and Building an Application Strategy. The Ross Med Residency page provides information about where prior RUSM graduates have secured residencies.

The application portfolio consists of several components. You will need to submit an application and curriculum vitae (CV), which is a summary of your training and experience. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has guidance on creating a CV.

You will also need to write a medical residency personal statement in which you describe your achievements and explain your reasons for wanting to apply to a particular residency program. The AAFP has suggestions for Writing a Personal Statement for Residency Application—this information is tailored to students wishing to pursue a career in family medicine, but most of the guidance is applicable to all types of medical residencies. The Office of Career Advisement can help you craft your CV as well as your personal statement.

Letters of recommendation are an important part of applying for medical residency, just as they were crucial during the process of applying to medical school. During your clinical rotations, you will get to know many doctors, and they will get to know you and your skills. Be sure to cultivate relationships with those who could write you an excellent letter of recommendation. In addition to the letters of recommendation, you will also need to submit a medical student performance evaluation (MSPE), as described above.  

You will also need to submit copies of your medical school transcripts with your applications, as well as the results of your USMLE. The RUSM Office of Career Advisement can help you with these and other steps in the application process.

As you can see, the medical residency application process is complex, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Now that you know how to apply for medical residency, you can start planning the next phase of your education and your path to becoming a doctor. Apply to Ross University and prepare for a life-changing career as a physician.


Related resources

*Ross University School of Medicine is an accredited medical school, determined by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP,

CAAM-HP is the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), empowered to determine and prescribe standards and to accredit programs of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education on behalf of the contracting parties in CARICOM.

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2022-2023, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 98% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2023-24 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2022-23 who were active applicants in the 2023 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.