Choosing a Residency Program

Which family medicine residency program is right for you?

Where and how you will continue your education in family medicine during residency is an important decision. Taking the time for in-depth research into residency programs and personal reflection on your professional goals is vital to finding and matching with a program that will serve your needs.

Doing the appropriate research, visiting programs, and ultimately selecting programs to apply to is a process that will require almost a year of your time. Breaking the process down into stages can be a helpful way to manage your time and energy, and keep you on track to meet required application deadlines.

Here's an overview of what a good residency program selection process can look like.

Residency Application Timeline & Checklist

Know what you should be doing when. Use this helpful tool to manage your time during the residency selection and application processes.

How to Determine Which Residency is Your Best Fit

STEP ONE: Set Your Goals and Gather Information


  • Identify and prioritize what is important to you in a residency program. Considerations might include: location, faculty, populations served, etc
  • Collect objective program information through print and online sources, meetings, and conferences. Gather information on community size, region, call schedule, and other facts that define each program.
Tips & Tools

STEP TWO: Consider, Prioritize, and Apply to Programs


  • Collect subjective information on programs that align with your goals. Talk with community physicians, residency program alumni, and colleagues who have completed electives through programs that interest you.
  • Plan to attend conferences and residency fairs to compare programs efficiently and gain personal interaction with program representatives without the pressure of an interview. Browse this list of family medicine conferences and meetings to get started, and register for the AAFP's National Conference, which features one of the largest residency fairs in the country.
  • Begin to sketch pros and cons for each program as you learn and prepare a preliminary roster of high-priority programs you would like to visit for an interview.
  • Reflect and get ready to apply to specific programs. The residency application process is highly detailed and involves specific documentation requirements. Take time to learn about the process before you begin to ensure that your application is complete and on-time for the next residency match. Learn more about the residency application process »


AAFP National Conference
for Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students

Connect with peers and meet representatives from residency programs around the country.

STEP THREE: Interview with Select Programs

  • Schedule on-site interviews with programs that interest you the most.
  • Ask questions and take notes on conversations and observations during your visit. Arrange time to speak with faculty and current residents of each program.
  • Create a rank-ordered list of programs based upon your research and impressions. Consider using logic tools to help quanitify the pros and cons for each program.
Tips & Tools



Strolling Through the Match residency guide



Updated for 2018: Strolling Through the Match

This practical resource from the AAFP is a must-read for students interested in a career in family medicine. Get your copy now for updated information on navigating the Match process, access to helpful timelines, and tips on applying to and ranking programs.

Download Strolling Through the Match »(84 page PDF)

Order the printed version for free »