What to Do After Your Residency Interview: The Follow-Up Email


After you finish an interview for a US medical residency program, you’re probably ready to breathe a sigh of relief and take some time to relax. Even though most residency interviews only last one or two days, an interview can be a whirlwind experience–in which you are constantly under pressure to make a good impression, while also trying to figure out whether or not the program is the right fit for you. Successfully getting through the interview day(s) is no easy task, but when you leave, you’re not quite done yet. As soon as the interview is over, you need to start thinking about sending follow up emails to your interviewers and your other contacts at the program. Read on for more information about writing a follow-up email after a US medical residency interview.

The Basics of Residency Follow-Ups: When, Who, and How

  • When to follow up. Ideally, you should send follow-up emails within two to three days of your interview. Waiting much longer than that may suggest a lack of interest in the program, which may detract from the positive impression that you worked so hard to make during the interview itself. Plus, it’s best to write the email while the interview experience is still fresh in your mind. That way, you won’t have trouble coming up with the content of the email (see below for tips), and you won’t have to worry about getting your interview experiences at different programs mixed up.
  • Who to follow up with. The question of who to email depends largely on the nature of your interview experience. At the very least, you should send a follow-up email to the program director and anyone with whom you were in contact during the interview preparation process, such as the interview coordinator. For most programs, you will have three to five formal interviews, and it’s best to try to email each one if you can. In addition, you may want to send a follow-up thank-you email to the residents and/or other faculty members who had a meaningful impact on your interview experience. However, don’t just send the a generic email to every single person you met while you were visiting the program. Remember, they all work in the same place, and they are likely to talk to each other!
  • How to get in touch. In the past, many medical residency candidates were advised to follow up with a handwritten letter. However, in the digital age, a professional email is now considered to be acceptable–and it’s probably the preferred method of communication for most of the contacts at your program. In fact, since it can take a long time for the US Postal Service to get the letter to your program–especially if you are sending the letter from abroad–choosing to handwrite your thank-you note instead of sending an email may put you at a disadvantage, because your contacts at the program may notice how long it took you to follow up.

What to Include In Your Follow-Up Email

As a general rule, it’s best to keep your follow up email short and simple. The interviewers and program coordinators will probably be excited to hear from you, but they’re also professionals with busy schedules. Therefore, you should limit your email to two to three paragraphs. Here are a few of the most important things to include:

  • A sincere thank you. Remember, this email is primarily a thank-you note. More than anything, you should express your gratitude for the opportunity to visit the facility and learn more about the program. On the program’s side, there’s a lot of work that goes into setting up your interview, so coordinators, interviewers, and currents residents will appreciate your acknowledgement.
  • An expression of genuine interest in the program. Even though the official interview process is over, you still want to indicate your interest in the program, which can increase your likelihood of getting matched. In your email, try to point out a few specific aspects of the interview experience that stood out to you and truly shaped your perspective on the program. That way, you can clearly demonstrate that you truly appreciate what the program has to offer for you as a potential resident.
  • Any additional questions you may have. Throughout the interview days, there are lots of opportunities to ask questions, but if a question came up as you were reflecting on the experience, the follow-up email presents a great opportunity to ask. Not only does it signal to your contact that you are still seriously considering the program, but it also allows you to get the answers you need, well in advance of the deadline for your ROL.



Need more tips for medical residency interview success? FMG Portal offers everything foreign medical graduates need to successfully match to a US medical residency program. Contact us today for more information!


Asking Questions During Interview Days: What to Ask and When


In the last post, we listed and discussed some of the questions that you’re likely to be asked as a foreign medical graduate when you interview for a US medical residency program. In this post, we’re going to tackle the opposite issue–that is, the questions you should be asking during the interview days. Over the course of the one or two days that make up a program’s interview schedule, you will have lots of opportunities to find out more about the program and determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you.

Asking questions during the interview days is extremely important because it can help you when you’re preparing your Rank Order List (ROL) in the winter. By learning as much as you can about a program, you can make sure that all of the schools on your ROL offer the professional environment and life experience you’re looking for, and you can make sure that the order you choose is consistent with your preferences. Therefore, during the interview days, you need to be ready to ask the right questions of the right people at the right time. That way, you can make the most of your interview experience and come away with a strong idea of where a program might fit on your ROL.

Questions During the Formal Interview

It’s common for US medical residency interviewers to save one of the toughest interview questions for last: “Do you have any questions for me?” Although you have a variety of options for how to answer, the correct response is definitely not “No.” When you’re asked this question, you have the chance to make a good impression and learn more about the program. Because this is part of your formal interview, you want to show that you’re well-informed about the program and eager to get your interviewer’s unique perspective. Thus, you should avoid asking for basic information about the program that you can find online or that was discussed during an information session. Instead, ask a question that has a truly meaningful answer and that reminds the interviewer of something about who you are as a candidate (without seeming too self-centered). For instance, some appropriate options include:

  • What would you say makes this program stand out the most from other programs in my chosen specialty area?
  • What do you like most about working in the [insert your specialty area] department at this institution?
  • Can you tell me more about the research opportunities in my specialty area of interest? (When asking this question, it can be helpful to mention a specific research project or group that you’ve looked into as you’ve been considering the program.)
  • How does your experience working at this institution compare to your experiences working abroad? (Of course, this question should only be asked of an interviewer if you know they have international medical experience like you do!)

Questions During Informal Meals with Residents and Faculty Members

Many programs include informal meals or coffee breaks with residents and/or faculty members. These events provide candidates with an excellent opportunity to have candid conversations about what your work in the program would really be like. In an informal setting, you can ask residents about their daily schedule and obligations, their work-life balance, the housing and transportation options in the city, and what they like to do with their time away from work. If one of the residents or faculty members is a foreign medical graduate, you might also ask them about their transition to the United States and why they chose this program and location over their other options.

No matter what, remember that it’s best to phrase all questions in a positive way, because you’re still being evaluated, and you want to make a good impression. For instance, asking the question, “What has been your greatest challenge as a medical resident?” sounds much better than, “What sucks the most about being a resident here?” In these conversations, you should also try to avoid gossipy questions about people you might have met during the interviews– especially since the answers won’t really make a difference when it comes to constructing your ROL in the winter.

Questions After Information Sessions

Most programs include an Information Session, often at the beginning of the interview schedule, to cover the basic components of the program and logistical topics like salary and program size. Often, the speaker will open up the floor for questions at the end. This gives you the opportunity to ask any clarifying questions if you are confused about something that was discussed. However, if your question could easily be found in the information packet, you might just want to jot it down and find the answer after the interview days are over. Alternatively, if the question is only pertinent to your individual situation, you may want to follow up with the speaker after the presentation is over, instead of posing your question in front of the whole group of candidates.
For more help with the interview process (or any other aspect of landing a US medical residency), contact FMG Portal today!

What If I Didn’t Match? Do’s and Don’ts for Foreign Medical Graduates


Match Week 2018 is officially over! This week, thousands of medical students found out that they had been matched to the program of their dreams, including many foreign medical graduates. If you were lucky, you found out on Monday of Match Week that you had matched to one of the programs on your Rank Order List (ROL) — in which case, congratulations! If not, you may also have participated in SOAP over the course of the week, which is another way in which you may have found a position in a US medical residency program.

However, spots are limited, and even strong candidates don’t always end up getting matched. If that is the case for you, keep in mind that about one in four US medical residency candidates aren’t matched each year, including well-qualified foreign medical graduates. By playing your cards right, you may still find yourself in a US medical residency program in the future — whether it’s in 2018, 2019, or beyond. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that you can follow if you didn’t get matched this week, but you still hope to launch your career in a US medical residency program.

What You DON’T Want to Do If You Didn’t Get Matched

When you find yourself unmatched at the end of Match Week, it is important to avoid pitfalls that have the potential to derail your dreams of a medical residency for good. Here are a few DON’Ts that you can follow in order to stay on the path to success:


  • DON’T give up on a 2018 medical residency just yet.


After SOAP ended on Thursday of Match Week at 12:00 pm, all unmatched candidates were granted access to the post-SOAP list of unfilled programs. Now is a great time to take a look at all of the programs on the list and start contacting programs about a possible offer.


  • DON’T fall out of touch with your medical school.


After not getting matched to a medical residency program, some applicants are embarrassed and don’t want to face the dean or their instructors. It’s especially easy to fall out of touch with your medical school if you have just graduated and you were hoping to enter directly into a US medical residency program. However, if you stay in contact with your medical school, they may be able to help you find research opportunities, support your search for externships, and attest to your commitment to a US medical residency program when you submit your application the next time around.


  • DON’T assume that you need to apply in 2019.


Another common misconception among residency candidates who didn’t get matched is that the next logical step is to start polishing your application for 2019. However, you may want to consider taking a year off to strengthen your application for the 2020 NRMP Match. For example, within that year, you may be able to get a 3-month (or even longer) clinical externship in the United States, which can help you make more connections and develop a stronger application for the 2020 application cycle.

Important DO’s for Foreign Medical Graduates Who Didn’t Get Matched

As you move forward from an unsuccessful Match Week, making sure you don’t make mistakes is important — but what you DO over the next few days and months can make an even greater difference for your future attempts to get matched. Here are several DO’s that can help maximize the odds that you will eventually end up in a US medical residency program.



  • DO learn from your first application and interview experience.


Your initial inclination might be to try to forget about the 2018 Match, but you reflecting on your experience may also provide you with key insight into how you might succeed in the future. If you didn’t get any interviews, you may want to look for ways to improve your personal statement, strengthen your CV, and/or get better letters of recommendation. If you did interview, you may want to think about what you can do to improve your interview outcomes next time.  


  • DO take the USMLE Step 3 Exam before you apply again.


As we discussed in an earlier post, foreign medical graduates have the option of whether or not to take the USMLE Step 3 Exam before applying for a US medical residency program. Experts say that taking (and passing!) the USMLE can significantly improve your competitiveness if you are applying for a second time. This shows programs that you are truly committed to success within a US medical residency program.  


  • DO explore your options for future programs.


As you look ahead to your US medical residency program prospects in the future, you may want to broaden you options when it comes to specialty area and location. If you are more flexible about your choices, you may be more likely to get an offer from a less-competitive program in the future. If you are thinking about applying for programs in a different specialty area or learning more about programs in a different area of the United States, completing an externship program is a great way to explore your options.
For more information about improving your chances of getting matched in the future, contact FMG Portal today!

Residency Interview Do’s and Don’ts: Tips for Foreign Medical Graduates


If you’re a foreign medical graduate, finding out that you have been offered an interview at a US medical residency program can be an exciting moment. After all your hard work in medical school — not to mention the time you spent perfecting your personal statement and putting your application materials together — it’s great to know that a program in the United States is willing to consider you as a candidate. At the same time, it’s normal to be nervous about the medical residency interview, because it can really make a difference as to whether or not you end up getting matched to your top choice. Read on for some do’s and don’ts that can help make your US medical residency interview experience a success.

What You Need to DO During the Residency Interview Process

Everything you do during the interview can impact the impression you make on the program. Here are a few of the things to make sure you do:


  • DO dress for success. When you interview for a US medical residency program, you should plan to dress in business formal attire. Your appearance affects the first impression you make on everyone you meet, so professionalism and modesty are key. As you choose your interview outfits, you should also make sure that you feel relatively comfortable, since you don’t want to be distracted by an itchy tag or a too-tight collar when you are trying to explain your professional goals to an interviewer.
  • DO make sure you directly address the interviewer’s questions. Part of the interview is to determine how well you communicate, since effective communication is essential to your success in a residency program–not to mention your career as a physician in the future. Make sure you’re not just answering the questions you think the interviewer might ask — really pay attention to what they are saying. Also, if you’re not sure what your interviewer means when they ask you a question, don’t be afraid to clarify! An interviewer will appreciate a clarifying question much more than a confused, rambling answer that fails to truly address the question.
  • DO remember to smile! There’s no doubt that an interview for a US medical residency program is a nerve-wracking and high-pressure experience, but you have to remember that your interviewers are trying to get to know you — not trap you in “gotcha” questions or make you look silly. Remember to smile, relax, and maintain a positive attitude and upbeat demeanor. Your smile can demonstrate that you are confident, even under stressful circumstances, which is a great attribute for a future physician.

Major Don’ts: What NOT to Do During Your Medical Residency Interview

When it comes to your medical residency interview, there are important pitfalls that you should try to avoid. Here are a few major DON’Ts for foreign medical graduates who are looking to make a stellar impression:


  • DON’T speak without thinking. When you’re nervous, it can be tempting to jump right into an answer to an interview question before you’ve really decided what you want to say. Speaking without thinking can be especially problematic if you’re not a native English speaker and you find yourself midway through a sentence, unsure of where you ultimately want to go with your answer. During the interview, remember that there is nothing wrong with pausing after an interviewer has asked a question to take a deep breath and carefully consider your response.
  • DON’T spend your interviews reciting your CV or personal statement. The program has already reviewed your CV and personal statement, so your interviewers will be familiar with your background. The interview offers you the opportunity to build on these documents and show them why you truly belong in the program. While it’s okay to talk about the goals and accomplishments that you listed on your CV and discussed in your personal statement, make sure you’re speaking candidly and expanding on your ideas, not just reciting the documents from memory.
  • DON’T act unprofessionally outside of the formal interview slots. Although the interview process varies between programs, most programs include multiple events outside the interview process, like a tour of the hospital or a meal with faculty and current residents. These settings are less formal, but you should still remember that people in the program are paying attention to your behavior. You may not need to wear a business suit to a restaurant, but it’s still important to look clean and neat. It’s also best to avoid controversial topics of conversation (like politics or religion), excessive complaining, and (of course) foul language.

The prospect of an interview for a US medical residency program can be daunting for foreign medical graduates, but if you approach it strategically, you can make your best impression and maximize the chances that you will get matched to the program of your dreams. FMG Portal is here to help you with a wide range of resources that can help you successfully navigate the US medical residency preparation, application, and interview processes. Contact us today to learn more!

Logistical Issues to Consider When Preparing for a Clerkship in the United States


In our last blog post, we discussed some of the benefits of a US-based clerkship for foreign medical students. If you are earning your medical degree at a school outside the United States, getting some of your elective credits through a clerkship program in the United States can offer a wide range of academic advantages, and it may also provide practical benefits if you intend to apply for a residency program in the United States in the future. While considering these opportunities is exciting, you also need to think about the clerkship options from a logistical perspective. In order to make the most of your clerkship experience, you have to make sure that all of the logistical details are in order so that it goes smoothly. Read on for more information about the logistical issues you need to consider as you prepare for a clerkship in the United States.

Setting Up a Clerkship in the United States

A clerkship in the United States is an unprecedented learning opportunity — not to mention a life-changing experience — but setting it up does require some advance planning. The first step of the process is to make sure that you are eligible for a clerkship program. In general, that means you have to meet three key criteria:

  • You are enrolled in a medical school that is accredited by your home country.
  • You are taking enough credits to qualify as a full-time student.
  • You are currently in good standing at your medical school.

If you meet these basic requirements, you are probably eligible to participate in a clerkship in the United States. There are several different clerkship scheduling options you can choose from, depending on your scheduling needs and academic interests. Before you apply, you need to examine some of the options to find one that is right for you. Here are the options offered by FMG Portal:


  • A 3-Month Clinical Elective Plan. With this plan, you will spend three months in the United States, spending each month under a different Attending Physician in a single specialty (or subspecialty) area. This is the plan for you if you have a good idea of your desired residency specialty area.
  • A “Triple Play” Clinical Elective Program. This plan also lasts for three months, but it allows you to gain experience in three different specialty or subspecialty areas. This offers a great opportunity for you to compare specialty options if you aren’t sure about which residency specialty you want to apply for after medical school.
  • A Flexible Clinical Elective Plan. This plan is best for students who are looking for an option that aligns with highly specific personal needs or institutional requirements. A flexible plan can last anywhere from one to twelve months, and you may gain experience in one or more specialty or subspecialty areas, depending on your needs.

As you consider these three options, it is also important to note that you need to get approval for your elective schedule from your medical school. While US-based clerkships are generally well-regarded by medical schools around the world, it is still important to make sure that your school will grant you the elective credits you need to continue your progress toward your medical degree.

Once you have decided on a US-based clerkship option and cleared it with your school, you are ready to start the application and enrollment process. The necessary documentation can vary depending on your country of origin, so make sure you start early! — All documentation materials need to be in at least four weeks before the deadline.


Choosing a Service that Streamlines Your Clerkship Setup Experience


There is no doubt that a US-based clerkship has the potential to enhance your education and boost your future career prospects, but if you choose a service that doesn’t offer the logistical support you need, an exciting opportunity can quickly devolve into a major headache. As a full-time medical student working hard to fulfill academic requirements and become the best physician you can be, you just don’t have time for it. Therefore, it is important to choose a service that offers assistance at every stage of the process. For instance, FMG offers visa embassy interview assistance, which can help you get your documentation in order, as well as accommodation assistance, so you won’t have to spend hours scouring the internet, trying to find an affordable place to live.

Of course, there is also the ever-present question of financing. Given the significant academic and practical benefits of a US-based clerkship, it can be a valuable investment in your future. However, in order to make sure you stay within your budget before, during, and after the clerkship, you may want to look for a service that offers a monthly payment program that is optimized for medical students who come from a wide range of economic backgrounds.
If you’re concerned about the logistical details of a US-based clerkship, take a look at the services FMG Portal has to offer. Our program’s credits are almost always recognized by foreign medical programs, and we streamline the setup process so that when you get to the United States, you can make the most of your experience. Contact us today for more information!

The Benefits of a US-Based Clerkship for Foreign Medical Students

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No matter where in the world you are earning your medical degree, you have to meet a certain set of core credit requirements — but you also have the opportunity to make choices when it comes to how you earn your elective credits. If you have your sights set on entering a US medical residency program after medical school, fulfilling elective credits with a clerkship in the United States offers a wide range of benefits, from both an academic and a practical standpoint. Read on to learn more about why foreign medical students are choosing US-based clerkships for their clinical electives.

Enhancing Your Academic Experience in Medical School

A clerkship in the United States offers an exciting and challenging academic experience that you can’t always get from the standard electives offered at your medical school. For instance, while you are completing your medical school courses, you may discover a passion for a medical subspecialty in which few physicians in your area have significant expertise. By choosing a US-based clerkship as a clinical elective, you could spend three months gaining hands-on experience with three different Attending Physicians who have dedicated their careers to the subspecialty. This would enable you to explore the subject in-depth and gain real-world experience that you wouldn’t be able to get at your medical school.

Alternatively, if you haven’t yet decided on your subspecialty area, there are clinical clerkships in the United States that empower you to explore three different specialty areas over the course of three months. Again, some of these clinical experiences could be in specialty/subspecialty areas that aren’t available in your area. In a US-based clerkship, you may also have the chance to decide between inpatient and outpatient availabilities — another choice that is not available at every foreign medical school.

Even if your medical school does offer electives in your specialty area of interest, it still makes sense, from an academic standpoint, to complete a US-based clerkship if you plan on applying for a US medical residency program in the future. A clinical elective also offers a real-world introduction to the complexities of the US healthcare system, which is a valuable learning experience for foreign medical students who aspire to enter US medical residency programs. The healthcare system in every country is different, and you can learn a lot about what it truly means to practice medicine in the United States over the course of a three-month clerkship.

Practical Considerations for Your Residency Application

For foreign medical students who are planning to enter a US medical residency program after graduation, earning clinical electives through a US-based clerkship makes even more sense from a practical standpoint. Completing a clerkship does not guarantee that you will be matched to a US medical residency program, but it can give you opportunities that will make you a more competitive candidate and help you throughout the application process. Here are a few of the things you would get to do during a clinical clerkship:


  • Make connections with US-based Attending Physicians. Some US medical residency programs require at least one Letter of Reference to be written by an Attending Physician in the United States. During a clerkship, you may be able to develop a positive working relationship with an Attending Physician who could potentially write you a letter of reference in the future.
  • Gain experience in a subspecialty area (or multiple areas) of interest. When you are writing your Personal Statement, you need to be able to lay out a clear set of professional goals and explain why you are a great candidate for a US medical residency program. If you already have experience working in the United States in your specialty or subspecialty area of interest, you can make a much stronger argument.
  • Start preparing for the USMLE. Before you can apply for a US medical residency program, you need to get certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) — and for that, you have to pass the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 – C2, and Step 2 – CK exams. The knowledge and skills you gain in a clerkship can help you prepare for success on these exams.
  • Learn what it’s like to live in a certain region of the United States. Because the United States is a large country with diverse regions, it is impossible to give a simple explanation of “what it’s like to live in the United States.” During a clerkship, you will have the chance to find out about the lifestyle of a medical resident in a particular location, which may help you narrow down your residency application choices based on regional considerations or a preference for an urban or rural residency program.



FMG Portal offers top-notch US-based clerkships for foreign medical students who want to earn elective credits in the United States. Contact us today to learn more about what makes our programs stand out!


Participating in the SOAP Process: A Guide for Foreign Medical Graduates


The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) occurs during Match Week. As a foreign medical graduate looking to enter a US medical residency program, there are two ways in which you might end up participating in SOAP: if you don’t receive any interview offers, or if you find out on the Monday of Match Week that you weren’t matched by the algorithm after submitting your ROL. Read on for more information about each of these situations, and find out what you can expect from the SOAP process in 2018.

Next Steps if You Were Not Offered Interviews

After working hard on your application, it can be disappointing to find out that you were not offered any interviews. However, that does not mean that you won’t be starting a US medical residency program in July. You are still eligible to participate in the SOAP process during Match Week, so there is a still a good chance that you can find a spot in an unfilled program.

If you did not receive any interview offers, the only thing you need to do during the fall and winter is to register for the Main Residency Match. For the 2018 Match, the regular deadline passed on November 30, 2017, but the late registration deadline is February 21, 2018. If you haven’t yet registered, you will need to pay a late fee of 50 dollars, but you can still participate in the 2018 Match.  Although the late registration deadline is the same as the deadline for creating a Rank Order List (ROL), it is important to note that you do not need to worry about creating one if you were not offered any interviews, because the algorithm will not match you to a program anyway. All you have to do is get registered and wait for Match Week to arrive!

Participating in SOAP During Match Week

If you did not get any interview offers for the fall or winter, you will know before Match Week that you will be participating in SOAP. However, you might also find out at 11:00 am Eastern Time Monday of Match Week (March, 12, 2018), when the NRMP releases the Main Residency Match results. SOAP begins when the results are released and candidates find out whether or not they got matched. If you find out that you did not get matched, SOAP is your best option.

At 12:00 pm Eastern Time on the Monday of Match Week, you can start preparing your SOAP application in the AAMC ERAS system. It is important to be prepared, because programs can start reviewing your application at 3:00 pm, and they can start contacting you as soon as they receive your application. Communicating directly with a program on the first or second day of the SOAP process can significantly boost your chances of getting matched to an unfilled program, since programs start preparing their SOAP preferences lists at 11:30 am the next morning (Tuesday, March 13). The deadline for programs to certify their preference lists for Round 1 is 11:55 am on Wednesday, March 14.

Five minutes later, at 12:00 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday of Match Week, SOAP participants receive the Round 1 offers. At that point, you have two hours to accept or reject your Round 1 offers, and at 2:05 pm, SOAP Round 2 begins. This time, programs have only 50 minutes to alter and re-certify their preference lists, and you will receive your Round 2 offers at 3:00 pm. Again, you have only two hours to accept the offers, reject, or wait for Round 3 offers.

Programs have all of Wednesday night to alter and re-ceritfy their preference lists, which means that SOAP applicants get their Round 3 offers at 9:00 am on Thursday, March 15, 2018. SOAP ends two hours later (11:00 am Eastern Time), which is the deadline to accept or reject the Round 3 offers. After Round 3, SOAP officially ends.

After Soap: The Post-Soap List of Unfilled Programs

Once SOAP ends, candidates have the opportunity to access the post-SOAP list of unfilled programs. At 12:00 pm Eastern Time on Thursday of Match Week, candidates who have not yet accepted an offer can access the list of unfilled programs, including programs that decided not to participate in SOAP. If you have not yet been matched, you can take a look at the programs on the list and immediately start contacting any program about a possible offer.

Preparing to Participate in SOAP

Clearly, participating in SOAP (or post-SOAP matching opportunities) is a highly a complex process with a tight schedule. In order to be successful, you have to be prepared — regardless of whether or not you were interviewed, since you might find out on Monday of Match Week that you were not matched. Going into Match week, you should have a strong familiarity with the schedule discussed above, and you should be ready to provide programs with an updated CV and other information that shows them exactly why you are an excellent candidate for a US medical residency program.


If you’re a foreign medical graduate looking for success in the matching process, FMG is here to help. From the moment you start considering a US medical residency program to the day you get matched, you can count on our resources to help you through. Contact us today for more information!


Creating Rank Order Lists for the 2018 Residency Match: What Foreign Medical Graduates Need to Know


In an earlier post, we discussed the timeline for the 2018 Residency Match. Even though you have made it through some of the toughest parts of the process — preparing your personal statement and CV, submitting letters of recommendation, and surviving the interviews — there is still work left to do. When the Rank Order List Entry opens (January 15, 2018 — mark your calendar!), you have a little more than a month to create your list and get it certified electronically in then NRMP Registration, Ranking, and Results (R3) System. In order to participate in the 2018 Match, your rank order list must be complete and certified by 9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on February 21, 2018. Read on to find out what foreign medical graduates need to know about creating and certifying an Rank Order List (ROL).

The Basics of the Rank Order List (ROL)

The Rank Order List (ROL) is the place where you, as an aspiring medical residents, have the chance to provide the NRMP with a list of programs in which you are interested, ranked in order of preference. After residency interviews are complete, candidates and program directors both create ROLs, and the information on the ROLs is used to determine the outcome of the Match.

There are two types of ROLs: primary ROLs and supplementary ROLs. On the primary ROL, you can list categorical, preliminary and/or advanced programs. If you rank an advanced (PGY-2 level) program on your primary ROL, you can also submit supplemental ROLS of preliminary programs that are linked to that advanced program.

Considerations When Creating Your Primary ROL

The NRMP allows candidates to list 20 different programs on the primary ROL and 20 different programs on each supplemental ROL. After that, you have to pay a fee. However, it is important to note that most foreign medical graduates interview with far fewer schools, so you probably do not have to worry about exceeding the limit.

That being said, foreign medical graduates who have ranked a larger number of programs within their preferred specialty have a higher likelihood of getting matched. According to data from the 2016 residency match, the average number of contiguous ranks for matched candidates was 6.3, as compared to 2.5 for those who were not matched.

When creating your primary ROL, you should also consider the competitiveness of the programs to which you are applying. The NRMP recommends that foreign medical graduates apply to a range of programs that vary in their levels of competitiveness.

Another opportunity you may want to consider is ranking programs as a couple with another applicant. If your partner or close friend is also applying to residency programs in the United States, you can link your ROL with that person in order to increase the odds that you will be matched to programs that are in the same geographic area. Whether your partner is another foreign medical graduate or a graduate of a US medical school, ranking programs as a couple can be a great way to ensure that your Match outcome fits with both your career goals and your personal priorities.

Beyond the Primary ROL: Creating a Supplemental ROL

If you included an advanced (PGY-2 level) program on your primary ROL, you need to include a supplemental ROL with a list of preliminary (PGY-1 level) programs. Getting matched in this way would mean simultaneously securing both a preliminary and an advanced position at the same time. This can relieve stress for foreign medical graduates because it guarantees that you will have the opportunity to complete a “full course of training.”

In most cases, the preliminary programs on your supplemental ROL are tied to the geographical location of the advanced program, so your supplemental ROL may look significantly different from your primary ROL. However, you should note that the matching algorithm will only consider your supplemental ROL if you get matched to the advanced program on your primary ROL. If not, the information on your supplemental ROL will not be considered in the matching process.

Finalizing Your ROL(s): The Certification Step

Once you have finished an ROL (either a primary ROL or a supplemental ROL), it must be certified. That means you have to click the “Certify List” button in the R3 system, at which point you will be prompted to enter your username and password. This confirmation should not be taken lightly — when you certify an ROL, you make a binding commitment to enter any program at which you match.

Nevertheless, it is still possible to change an ROL after it has been certified — as long as the February 21 deadline has not yet passed. When you have made a change, you must re-certify the new ROL so that it can be properly processed by the Match algorithm.


Getting matched to a US medical residency program is a long and challenging process, but FMG Portal is here for you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about everything we offer!

Important Dates for the 2018 Residency Match


For foreign medical graduates who are looking to be matched to a US medical residency program in 2018, the winter months of waiting for Match Day can feel just as hard as the application process — but you need to remember that there are still a few key deadlines you need to meet. If you are participating in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) Main Residency Match in 2018, there are several important dates that you should keep in mind as you look ahead to the new year.

January 15, 2018 — Rank Order List Entry Opens

In less than a month from now, the rank order list entry opens at 12:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. Even though there is another month after that before the rank order list entry closes, it is important to start thinking about your rank order list in advance. That way, you will be able to dedicate enough time to the development of a strong rank order list, and you won’t end up feeling rushed as the deadline approaches.

When you participate in the Main Residency Match, you will submit a primary rank order list that may include a combination of categorical, preliminary, and advanced programs. Depending on your interests and career goals, you may also decide to submit a supplemental rank order list of preliminary programs that are linked to more advanced programs, which would enable you to lock down a PGY-1 and a PGY-2 position at the same time. It is important to take the time to explore these options before and during the period in which the rank order list entry is open.

As we discussed in an earlier post, the number of programs on your rank order list may also matter if you are a foreign medical graduate. According to data collected by the NRMP after the 2015 Main Residency  Match, foreign medical graduates who ranked a larger number of programs within their preferred specialty area were more likely to be matched within that specialty area. Specifically, the average number of contiguous ranks for those who were matched was 6.3, as compared to only 2.5 for those who were not matched.

The NRMP also advises foreign medical graduates to include a combination of more-competitive and less-competitive programs on their rank order lists. Right now is a great time for you to start exploring the options and considering the competitiveness of your programs of interest, while also accounting for personal considerations, like institution locations. That way, by the time January 15 rolls around and the rank order list entry opens, you will already have a solid list of programs in hand.

February 21, 2018 – Three Major Deadlines

Five weeks after the rank order list entry opens on January 15, you need to have your list finalized. At 9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on February 21, 2018, all rank order lists must be certified. Make sure yours is in by the deadline!

That same date — February 21, 2018 — is also the late registration for the 2018 Main Residency Match. The regular registration deadline was November 30, 2017, but if you missed it, you still have the opportunity to participate. Unfortunately, you have to a late fee of 50 dollars alongside the regular registration fee, but that is a relatively small price to pay if you are truly committed to pursuing a US medical residency in 2018.

This deadline also applies to Match withdrawals. If you elected to participate in the 2018 Main Residency Match but want to withdraw your application for any reason, you have to do so by February 21, 2018. Withdrawing your application from the Main Residency Match is a serious decision, considering all of the hard work you have already put into the residency application process, so you need to make sure you give yourself enough time to fully consider your options before the withdrawal deadline arrives.

Match Week: March 12 – March 16, 2018

Match Week starts on Monday, March 12, with the start of the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance (SOAP) program. At 11:00 am Eastern Daylight Time, you will find out whether you got matched. If not, you can participate in the SOAP until it concludes on Thursday, March 15.

Friday, March 16, 2018, is the day you’ve been looking ahead to for months — Match Day! At 1:00 pm Eastern Daylight time, Match results are sent to applicants by email and posted in the R3 system. On that day, you will find out if you made it into the program of your dreams and are on your way to a US medical residency program in July 2018.
If you’re a foreign medical graduate looking to make that dream a reality, FMG Portal is here to help you at every step of the process. Contact us today for more information about what we offer!

More Lessons from the 2016 Residency Match Data: Are Outside Experiences Important?


Last week on the blog, we discussed the NRMP report on the outcomes of foreign medical graduates in the 2016 Main Residency Match. To create this report, the NRMP tracked the rates of match success for foreign medical graduates based on a number of key measures, such as program ranking choices and test scores. As we mentioned in last week’s post, there are clear lessons that you can learn from the data on ranking choices and test scores as a foreign medical graduate preparing for a U.S. medical residency.

However, when it comes to the report’s information on foreign medical graduates’ outside experiences, the implications of the raw data are less clear. Read on for more about how you can understand the numbers and apply the information to maximize your chances of match success as a foreign medical graduate.

Statistics on the Outside Experience of Matched and Unmatched Foreign Medical Graduates

As a foreign medical graduate, you might find yourself asking the question of whether or not it is important for you to get outside research and/or work experience before you apply for a U.S. medical residency program. At the outset, the data in the NRMP report doesn’t seem to provide much help in answering that question. For all the different types of outside experiences that the NRMP measured, the average numbers for matched and unmatched foreign medical graduates was almost exactly the same. Consider the following statistics:

  • For foreign medical graduates who were matched in 2016, the mean number of research experiences was 2.2. For those who were unmatched, the mean number of research experiences was also 2.2.
  • For unmatched foreign medical graduates, the mean number of abstracts, presentations, and publications  was 6.4 — slightly higher than the same statistic for matched candidates, which was 6.1.
  • The mean number of work experiences was 5.3 for matched foreign medical graduates and 5.5 for unmatched candidates.
  • For foreign medical graduates who were matched, the mean number of volunteer experiences was 3.5, as compared to 3.4 for candidates who were unmatched.

When you look deeper into the data and examine these same statistics broken down by specialty area, the numbers only get more confusing. For some specialty areas, the mean number of experiences reflects the overall average — about the same for matched and unmatched candidates. There are only a few where the average number for matched candidates significantly outweigh those for unmatched candidates. There are even some specialty areas where the average number of experiences is considerably higher for unmatched applicants.

What the Statistics Mean for You as a Future US Medical Residency Applicant

Considering these statistics can be daunting for foreign medical graduates. Based on the data, it just isn’t clear whether having more outside experiences — or any at all — can truly help you in the matching process.

One of the reasons why it is so hard to draw conclusions from the data is that averages are prone to skewing. Consider the data for abstracts, presentations, and publications. While the average for both matched and unmatched candidates was around 6, nearly 40 percent of the of the applicant pool of foreign medical graduates in 2016 had no publications at all. This indicates that certain applicants are skewing the data, so if you have less than 6 publications, it doesn’t mean you fall short of the “average” applicant.

Ultimately, the main takeaway from the NRMP data about outside experiences is that the number of outside experiences you have does not really matter. What matters is the quality of the outside experiences — and your ability to illustrate that quality on your application. An outside experience can be worthwhile if you can weave it into your personal statement — writing about how it has prepared you for your residency and how it has influenced your career goals — or if you can get a letter of recommendation from a supervisor or mentor who can speak to your excellent performance during the outside experience. Otherwise, if the outside experience is just a line item on your CV, it probably won’t make much of a difference for whether or not you end up getting matched.

Thus, one of the best options for an outside experience is a clinical externship in the United States. Completing a clinical externship in the United States is ideal because it shows residency programs that, as a foreign medical graduate, you are already comfortable working in a clinical setting in the United States. After completing a clinical externship, you may also be able to get a letter of recommendation from an attending physician in the United States, which is preferred (or even required) by many U.S. medical residency programs.


If you’re interested in completing a clinical externship before you apply for a U.S. medical residency program, FMG Portal offers 3-month and 6-month externship options in a wide range of specialty areas. Contact us today for more information!