If you’re within a year of graduating from medical school, let me be the first to say, congratulations! It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point. Even though you haven’t crossed the finish line yet, the end is in sight, and you’ve already given more in a few years than most people give in their lifetimes. With that being said, some of your biggest challenges are just ahead. You’ve still got to get through rotations and then comes your residency. Then you’ve got to complete the dreaded Step 3 of the USMLE to receive your license. After that, it will be time to look for a job. You’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point and that’s okay. You’re far from alone. To help make things a bit easier for you, I’ve put together a few tips to help you navigate the next one to three years of your life as you pursue your MD and life beyond medical school.
Give Some Serious Thought to Your Specialty
You’ve probably had a good bit of exposure to different medical specialties by this point. You’ve probably also started getting a ‘gut feel’ about which ones appeal to you and which ones don’t. However, if you haven’t given some careful consideration to which area of medicine you want to specialize in, now is the time to do so. The reason you need to do so now is that, during your fourth-year rotations, you’re going to have more say in the rotations you attend. This is to give you the opportunity to explore the fields of interest to you. If you don’t have a specialty in mind, you’ll squander an opportunity to get some tailored experience. Your personal interests are the biggest influencer on this decision. However, you also need to give some thought to lifestyle, pay, and employability. If you’re not sure how in-demand a specialty is, there are online resources you can use to check the demand.
If You Haven’t Started Applying for Residencies, Do So Now
In order to get your license, you’re most likely going to have to complete anywhere from one to three years of residency training in a hospital. Unless you want to focus exclusively in areas like research, sleep medicine, or pain management, successful completion of a residency program will be required. Since positions go quick, the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.
How to Land the Residency You Want
Your biggest challenge in getting your preferred residency is standing apart from other applicants. There’s no simple way to do this but there are some proven strategies you can use:
- Start Refining Your Interview – Student Doctor Net found that your interview is the single most important aspect of landing a residency. Start drafting answers for common interview questions now. Do mock interviews with your teachers and peers to help prepare.
- Get Strong Recommendation Letters – Having a testament from a working professional in your chosen field is huge. They’re often regarded as second only to your interview.
- Get Your USMLE/COMLEX Scores as High as Possible – For Step 1, your goal should be above 209. Two-hundred nine has been determined as the “minimum acceptable score” for most residencies, while scores of 227 and above are considered competitive.
Research Licensing Requirements Now
The good news is that you won’t have to complete Step 3 of the USMLE until you’re well into your residency. The bad news is that it won’t make it any easier. You can gain an edge by studying for Step 3 starting now. Additionally, you should verify what the specific requirements for licensing are in the state(s) you think you want to live in. Figuring out these requirements now will save you a major headache down the road. I get that studying early for Step 3 may not be feasible for you now. You still have to focus on normal classwork and completing your rotations. However, if you have some spare time to devote to studying, then you should definitely use it.