Choosing a Residency Program

Which family medicine residency program is right for you?

There are many factors to consider as you build your list of family medicine residency programs. Family medicine is a broad specialty, and the available residency options reflect that variety. For example, there are three- and four-year program options, as well as combined specialty programs that require five years of training. Make time for in-depth research into residency programs by first reflecting on your professional goals and personal needs early in the Match process.  

As you begin to look at your options, keep an open mind and conduct a wide search. Find out about programs by attending residency fairs, talking to your department chair, and reviewing programs' websites. You can build a list and track your favorite programs using the AAFP Residency Search app.

Doing the appropriate research and ultimately selecting programs to apply to is a process that will require almost a year. Breaking the process down into stages can be a helpful way to manage your time and energy.

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.

Three Steps for Finding the Right Residency Program

 


Step One: Set Goals and Gather the Facts

  • Identify and prioritize what is important to you in a residency program. Considerations might include: 
  1. Geographic location 
  2. Faculty areas of expertise
  3. Populations served by the program

    Start by asking yourself questions about your short- and long-term professional goals. Identify people who can help you with this process, for example, your partner or family members, a faculty member, or someone you trust who has been through the Match recently.
  • 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. Most programs' websites will give you a good idea of what unique educational experiences they might offer. At this point in the process, it's important to keep your options open and search widely so you have an accurate picture of the possibilities available to you.
Tips & Tools

Step Two: Build Your Program List and Apply

  • 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. You might consider scheduling an away rotation at a program you have high interest in to get a feel for what it would be like to train there.
  • 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. Ask yourself which programs you would most like to visit for an interview if invited. If you wouldn't want to interview at a program if invited, it may be best not to apply to it.
  • Reflect and prepare applications to specific programs. The residency application process is highly detailed and specific. The National Residency Matching Program process and military match process have different timelines and requirements. 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: Get Ready to Interview at and Rank Programs

  • Accept interview invitations promptly and schedule time with programs that interest you the most.
  • Ask questions and take notes on conversations and observations during your visit. Interview season can be long, so do what you can to help yourself remember what you like most about each of the programs you visit. For example, take photos of the nearby neighborhoods or program facilities, if allowed, and come up with a list of factors you can grade each program on after your interviews. Using an interactive tool like the AAFP's Residency Search app can help you keep your schedule and impressions organized.
  • Create a rank-ordered list of programs based upon your research and impressions. Consult your notes from the course of the Match season and reflect on the goals you have for yourself. Consider using logic tools to help quanitify the pros and cons for each program.
Keep Reading
  • View Preparing for Residency Interviews for a comprehensive overview and helpful tools.
  • Browse suggested questions for your interviews, arranged by topics like maternity care and sports medicine.
  • Learn what happens once you match.
Strolling Through the Match residency guide

FREE RESOURCE

 

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 »