There are three primary stages in the process of selecting a residency program. The objectives of the first stage are identifying the factors that are most important to you in the decision-making process; researching programs; and identifying those programs that you want to learn more about. Your research and the decision-making process should focus on collecting objective information (e.g., community size, region, call schedule, etc.). The websites of individual residencies, online and published residency directories, and suggestions from others will be important sources of information for this phase in the process. Consider attending local, regional, or national meetings and conferences to help gather information.
The second stage of the process begins after you have completed your due diligence in phase one. The objectives of the second phase are to collect subjective information, identify pros and cons for each program that interests you, and prepare a preliminary roster of high priority programs you want to visit for interviews. To get this information, talk to community physicians, alumni from the residency, and colleagues who have completed electives at those programs. Also, plan to attend conferences and residency fairs. The face-to-face interaction at these events is a good touchstone for reconciling your interests with the pros and cons of a program, without the pressure of an interview or elective. These events are also an efficient way to compare many different programs at one time. An example of a national meeting that lets students visit with many residencies in one location is the AAFP’s National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students, held each summer in Kansas City. To learn more about this meeting, visit the National Conference website at
The third stage includes interviewing at a carefully selected group of programs and placing each program in a rank order based on pros and cons for each program. After interviewing, you should have a considerable amount of information about each of the programs in which you are interested. Creating the rank order list is your final task. In this final phase, students often find it helpful to use a logical tool such as a modified decision table to help quantify the pros and cons for each program. Decision tables give students a systematic way of assessing and comparing each program by the factors that are most important to them. An app is available from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP®) to help you keep track of your interview schedule, take notes, and rate programs based on your own input. Download the Match Program Rating and Interview Scheduling Manager app at

Strolling Through the Match

This publication was developed to help you make appropriate decisions about your professional career and to learn more about the process of getting post-graduate training.

Download the document(80 page PDF) or order a free copy through the AAFP catalog.