• Make sense of your future in family medicine at National Conference, July 28–30 in Kansas City. Experience hands-on learning, get insights on The Match, and set yourself up for success. Early bird savings end June 17, so register today!

    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 hundreds of 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 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's residency search tools.

    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.

    Three Steps for Finding the Right Residency Program

    Step One: Set Goals and Gather the Facts

    • Identify and prioritize what's important to you in a residency program. Considerations might include geographic location, faculty expertise, and community setting. Ask 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 offer. 

    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.
    • Sketch pros and cons for each program as you learn about them. 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 »

    Step Three: Get Ready to Interview at and Rank Programs

    • Accept interview invitations promptly and schedule time with programs that interest you the most. Have a plan for your interviews and follow-up.
    • Ask questions and take notes on conversations and observations during your visit. The AAFP has a list of questions to help you. 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 interactive tools like those in the AAFP's 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 your goals. Consider using logic tools to help quanitify the pros and cons for each program.

    7 Do’s of Residency Selection

    Making and narrowing your list of potential programs can be difficult. Know where to look (and where not to) for guidance.

    • DO ask the chair and other faculty members in the family medicine department which residency programs they consider the best fit for your interests and why. In addition, ask why they chose their own training program.
    • DO keep an open mind about the quality of each program. Consider a residency based on attributes such as geographic location, curriculum, unique rotation and elective opportunities, and community engagement rather than solely on the name value of the institution.
    • DO look for the training program that best meets your unique needs and goals. Different programs excel for different reasons, and individual residency candidates may value the same program for different reasons.
    • DO be wary of any source that attempts to rank programs, such as the U.S. News & World Report ranking of medical schools for primary care or the Doximity ranking for family medicine residencies. Their methodologies rely on reviews, not on objective data or statistics.
    • DO contact physicians who are doing their residencies in your chosen field and ask them why they chose their programs and what other programs they considered. Find out about the practice settings and lifestyles of alumni from programs you’re considering. 
    • DO talk to students who have rotated through a program or who attend the institution with which a program is affiliated, if possible. They can give an objective perspective.
    • DO apply to programs that interest you. Consider applying to a larger number of programs if you have had academic or test-taking challenges, if you’re applying to programs in popular geographic areas, or if you’re applying to combined (i.e., dual-specialty) programs. 

    For more tips on selecting a residency program, download the 2022-2023 Strolling Through the Match guidebook.