The Successful Match


10 Steps to a Successful Dermatology Residency Match

"Competitions is intense with 400 - 500 applicants, most of whom are near the top of their class vying for one of the annual positions," writes the Department of Dermatology at the University of South Florida.

Follow our 10-Step Plan for Success Below

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Step 1: Review Dermatology Match Data

Dermatology can be considered a highly competitive specialty. "Each year, approximately 350 applications are submitted to the Yale Dermatology Residency Program; and approximately 30-35 candidates will be invited to interview," writes the Yale University Department of Dermatology.

In recent years, there has been over 360 available residency positions per year. However, there are far more applicants than positions. In the 2011 NRMP Match, 387 allopathic medical students applied to the specialty. Eighty failed to match.

As with other competitive specialties, U.S. allopathic medical students fare better in the Match than osteopathic and international medical graduates. The NRMP classifies osteopathic, IMG applicants, and graduates of allopathic medical schools as independent applicants. In 2011, nearly 60% of independent applicants failed to match. Note that osteopathic students may also apply to
osteopathic residency programs. However, positions are limited in number, and the competition is intense.  

According to the AMA and AAMC, there are 1,080 residents training in 112 ACGME-accredited dermatology residency programs. Ninety-five percent are USMDs, 4% are international medical graduates, and 1% are osteopathic graduates.


Step 2: Understand the Selection Criteria Which Matter to Dermatology Residency Program Directors

To maximize your chances of matching with a dermatology residency program, you must become well informed as early as possible. In particular, you need to know the criteria residency programs use to select residents. We recommend beginning with the following resources:

2012 NRMP Program Director Survey
Selection Criteria for Residency: Results of a National Program Directors Survey by Dr. Marianne Green

We interviewed Dr. Marianne Green, lead author of the above study, in an article written for the Student Doctor Network. You'll find this Q & A very informative.

Learn more about the dermatology residency selection process through our interview with Dr. William James, Program Director of the University of Pennsylvania dermatology residency program.


Step 3: Develop Your Strategy for Success

To develop a strategy for success, use our book, The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match. It's been designated recommended or required reading by the Association of American Medical Colleges, America Medical Women's Association, and numerous allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. AMSA wrote the book "provides the medical student reader with detailed preparation for the matching process."

Read the First Chapter

Read Reviews of the Book

Learn More About the Book

The book can be purchased at Amazon or through our online store.

Did You Know...

In a web-based survey of dermatology applicants,
Dr. Matthew Zirwas, Program Director of the Ohio State University Dermatology Residency, found that 63%
of applicants had either "a lot" or an "extreme amount" of anxiety about matching.

"Fifty-four percent of applicants lost sleep due to anxiety about matching."


Step 4: Make the Most of Your Preclinical Years

The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in dermatology. Although clerkship grades and performance are more highly valued than preclinical grades, your performance in the first and second years of medical school can make a difference. "In schools with non-pass/fail grading systems, high grades may be an important factor in class ranking for nomination to the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Society and for the residency application," writes Dr. Ali Alikhan. "Additionally, because the vast majority of dermatology applicants are outstanding, there is no need to take students with low basic science grades."

With so many highly qualified applicants, dermatology residency programs also look for involvement in extracurricular activities, community service, leadership, and research.
The preclinical years are an excellent time to build these credentials. In our book, Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years, we provide you with a detailed blueprint on how to stand out in these areas as it relates to the specialty of dermatology. We also discuss in detail how to initiate and cultivate a relationship with a mentor who can serve as a strong advocate in the future.

Read the First Chapter

The book can be purchased at Amazon
or through our online store.


Step 5: Evaluate Your Chances for Match Success After Taking the USMLE Step 1 Exam

The USMLE is an important factor in the dermatology residency selection process. In 2011, the mean USMLE Step 1 score among matched U.S. seniors was 244. Note that the mean Step 1 score has increased over the years. In 2005, the mean score was 233. Among unmatched U.S. seniors, the mean score was 227. Forty-four percent of U.S. seniors with Step 1 scores less than 230 failed to match.

Applicants with lower USMLE scores need to strengthen their credentials in as many areas as possible, and work closely with an advisor to develop a strategy for match success. Our E-document, The Successful Match: Dermatology Supplement, provides information on how programs use the USMLE in their decision-making process. Inside, you will find the answers to the following questions:

What is personal statement content program directors would rather not see?
Should you personalize the statement for certain programs?
Should you do an away elective?
How important is an away elective in dermatology?
How can you shine during the elective?
How many letters should be submitted by dermatologists?
How can applicants work with leaders in the department to secure strong letters of recommendation?
Whom should you target for letters of recommendation?
Should you obtain a letter from an away elective in dermatology?

AND much more

We combine a thorough search of the literature with inside information from dermatology residency program directors to give you powerful information. This will help you make sound decisions in the year you have left before you apply. You will also avoid common mistakes made by unsuccessful applicants. To learn more about our E-Document, click on the following:


Some applicants are concerned about their chances of matching in the specialty or securing a position in highly competitive residency programs. If you have such concerns, consider our Strategy for Success Session with Dr. Samir Desai. Dr. Desai will perform a comprehensive review of your credentials, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with a specific plan to implement tailored to your unique situation and school.


Step 6: Strive for Success During Core Clerkships

Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to dermatology residency programs. In a NRMP survey of dermatology residency programs, 64% cited "honors in clinical clerkships" as a factor in selecting applicants to interview.

"Clerkship grades from third year are undeniably important – this is the most important year academically," writes Dr. Ali Alikhan. "It is the year that is responsible for stratifying students to provide a measure of clinical competence and significantly affects assessment of competitiveness for residency directors. Obtaining as many 'honors' grades as possible should be your goal."

We have developed a powerful resource to help you excel in core clerkships.

AMSA wrote that our book, Success on the Wards, "offers the preclinical reader insight and an insider's view of what you will face during your clinical years of medical school, and that will allow you to really perform well. It focuses on the details, and those details will be the ones that set you apart from other medical students." (AMSA Review in The New Physician).

Read Q & A with the Book's Authors

Read the First Chapter

Learn About the Importance of Oral Communication Skills During Clerkships

Learn more about our book

The book can be purchased at Amazon or through our online store.

Dermatology Observerships for International Medical Graduates

"For international medical graduates, getting clinical experience and letters of recommendation in the United States can mean the difference between becoming a practicing physician or not."

-American Medical News, a publication of the American Medical Association (March 26, 2007)

See Our List of Observership Opportunities


Introducing a Powerful Resource for Your Core Clerkships

The Clinician's Guide to Laboratory Medicine: Pocket is the only book that walks you from abnormal lab test to diagnosis through a series of steps.

Step 1... Step 2... Step 3... These are step-by-step approaches not available elsewhere.

"Impressive!...straight to the point...organizing the material in a Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 makes it so much simpler... I am certainly going to recommend it to my classmates!"

-Haris, 3rd year medical student

Look Inside the Book at Amazon to see how our resource can elevate your clerkship performance and allow you to deliver optimal care to your patients.

See why Medical Media Review ranked the book as "one of the best medical books of all time."


Step 7: Prepare a Powerful Residency Application

Residency programs require applicants to submit their completed application through the Electronic Residency Application Service, also known as ERAS.

In my experience working with applicants, errors are common in the ERAS Application.  Although spelling and grammatical errors are frequently seen, equally common and dangerous are the less well appreciated errors. Chief among these errors is the use of language or words that makes an applicant's experiences and accomplishments seem less impressive. The words that you use in your description have a powerful impact on the impression that you leave on an application reviewer.

These errors can prevent applicants from securing interviews. Even when interviews are secured, errors in the ERAS Application can lead an interviewer to downgrade an applicant's overall score. This can lower your position on the program's rank list, and affect your chances of matching. We have considerable experience reviewing ERAS Applications and can make sure that your application is polished, professional, and powerful.


"I learned about Dr. Desai's service after reading his book The Successful Match. I was so impressed with the book that I reached out to him to see if he could help me match into derm. He's worked with so many derm applicants that he can easily tell you the strengths and weaknesses of your ERAS descriptions. We worked together to improve my descriptions, and I was so happy with the final result."


"Fantastic service that can't be beat."


"This was my second time applying for dermatology. First time around, I went with another service where I felt like a number. It seemed like they wanted to hurry things and move on to the next client. With Dr. Desai, you're never a number. The work was professional, fast, and top-notch."

Learn more about our ERAS Application Review and Editing Service


Step 8: Develop a Powerful and Compelling Personal Statement

In a survey of dermatology residency programs, 74% cited the personal statement as a factor in selecting applicants to interview. In our book, The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match, you'll find a detailed chapter on personal statement preparation.

For those applicants seeking even more specific advice as it pertains to the specialty of dermatology, turn to our E-document The Successful Match: Dermatology Supplement. Here you'll find tips and quotes from program directors offering important advice about the personal statement. Understand what program directors are looking for in the statement. What turns them off? You'll learn how to avoid content that program directors are tired of seeing. This will help you create a statement that sets you apart from other applicants.

In your personal statement, program directors seek to understand why you have chosen to pursue a career in dermatology. In our E-document Why Dermatology?, you’ll learn the reasons that led dermatologists to choose the specialty. The document features actual quotes from 28 dermatologists.

For those requiring additional assistance, we have an exceptional personal statement review and editing service.


"In my class, there were 15 students going into dermatology so I really needed to stand out. When we were done, I had quite a statement. In fact, my school wanted to use my statement in their annual residency guide."


"Going with you was the best decision I made"


"Excellent work. The essay was a big part of my success. I had 22 interviews, and matched with my # 1 choice."

Learn more about our Personal Statement Review and Editing Service


Step 9: Impress During Your Dermatology Residency Interview

An invitation to interview is exciting news, and confirmation that you are considered a competitive candidate for a residency position. However, your work is not done, and you need to be diligent in your interview preparation to maximize your chances of success. In the most recent NRMP Program Director Survey of dermatology residency programs, “interactions with faculty during interview” and “interpersonal skills” were the second and third most important factors for ranking applicants with mean importance ratings of 4.9 and 4.7, respectively, out of 5.0 (scale from 1 [not at all important] to 5 [very important]).

In our book, The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match, you'll find four extensive chapters to prepare you for the residency interview. Be sure to also read our article How to Succeed in Your Residency Interview to learn how you can stand out from other applicants.

In our E-document The Successful Match: Dermatology Residency Interview, you'll find tips and quotes from program directors offering important advice. Learn about interview do's and don'ts directly from residency program directors. What are qualities you should specifically highlight during the dermatology residency interview? What are the most commonly asked interview questions? The resource also includes a list of dermatology interview questions asked at interviews. This is a list that we have developed from follow-up with our mock interview applicants over the years.

In our E-document, we provide you with an insiders’ perspective on the dermatology residency interview process based on our own experiences advising applicants, conversations with program directors in the field, and a review of the literature. This is crucial information you must have.

Our experience has also shown that applicants often sound the same in interviews. When this happens, applicants miss out on an important opportunity to significantly improve their rank order position. In our mock interview service with Dr. Samir Desai, we'll show you how to deliver winning responses that will set you apart from other applicants.


"Dermatology residency was particularly competitive this year, as most programs revealed they received a record number of applications.

I'm almost certain I wouldn't have matched without Dr. Desai's coaching. He uses his previous coaching experience and intimate understanding of the interview process and the interviewer to give advice.

He thoroughly reviewed my application and helped me find the theme to my individual story to convey to my interviewers. We reviewed common  interview questions and tweaked my responses for precision and brevity.

I couldn't possibly have been more prepared. All my responses were natural and I left all my interviews feeling confident that I nailed it."

- One of our Clients

Learn more about our
Mock Interview Service


Step 10: After the Match

If you have matched successfully into dermatology, let us congratulate you. If your efforts were unsuccessful, all is not lost. With intense competition for dermatology residency positions, some highly qualified applicants go unmatched. We have had great results helping re-applicants  match successfully. Applicants who find themselves in this position should consider consider our Strategy for Success Session with Dr. Samir Desai. Dr. Desai will perform a comprehensive review of your credentials, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with a specific plan to implement tailored to your unique situation.

For those of you who have secured positions, you will find the following articles informative as you prepare for residency and make further career decisions in the specialty:

Future directions in pediatric dermatology

The future of academic dermatology in the United States: report on the resident retreat for future physician-scientists, June 15-17, 2001

Factors affecting resident career decisions: the first five years of the society for investigative dermatology resident retreat

Physician career satisfaction within specialties

Pediatric dermatology workforce shortage

So you want to be a dermasurgeon: how to get training or choose a fellowship

Challenges facing academic dermatology: survey data on the faculty workforce

Thinking About Fellowship Training in Dermatology?

What does it actually take to secure a position in the subspecialty and program of your choice?

In our book Resident's Guide to the Fellowship Match: Rules for Success, we answer this important question.

Read the First Chapter

As with our book, The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match, we provide specific evidence-based advice to maximize your chances of success.

Includes a Chapter on Dermatology Subspecialties

We also provide consulting services to fellowship applicants. All applicants work directly with
Dr. Samir Desai.