Step 1: Explore the Specialty
Before you pursue a career in Neurosurgery, it's important to be well informed about the specialty. We've put together a great collection of articles and resources which are essential reading for the aspiring neurosurgeon.
These articles will give you a better idea of the pros and cons of a career in the field, trends in the specialty, and hot-topic issues for trainees.
Step 2: Review Neurosurgery Match Data
Neurosurgery remains one of the most competitive specialties. In 2018, 13% of U.S allopathic seniors went unmatched.
In the 2018 NRMP Match, 3 osteopathic applicants matched into an allopathic residency program. Osteopathic students may also apply to the 11 AOA-approved neurosurgery residency programs.
Only 10 international medical graduates matched into the specialty in 2018.
Neurosurgery-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. MD 2018
National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Allopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.
Neurosurgery-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. DO 2018
National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Osteopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.
Neurosurgery-Charting Outcomes in the Match for IMGs 2018
National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match for International Medical Graduates, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.
Step 3: Understand Residency Selection Criteria
"Our program is very competitive, and we receive applications from many of the top medical students in the country," writes the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Utah. "For the 2016 match, we received over 280 applications and interviewed 47 candidates for our three positions."
To maximize your chances of matching with your first-choice residency program in neurosurgery, 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:
Neurosurgery-2018 NRMP Program Director Survey
National Resident Matching Program, Data Release and Research Committee: Results of the 2018 NRMP Program Director Survey. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC. 2018.
Check out these other recommended resources
Step 4: Develop your Strategy for Success
As competition for positions in the neurosurgery residency match intensifies, it's more important than ever to have in place the "right" strategy for success. To develop the optimal strategy, use our book, The Successful Match. It's been designated recommended or required reading by the Association of American Medical Colleges, American 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." For more powerful information, sign up for our weekly update.
Step 5: Make the Most of your Preclinical Years
The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in neurosurgery.
Step 6: Apply for Scholarships and Awards
Winning medical school scholarships and awards can provide a major boost to your residency application, and set you apart from your peers. Awards can be placed in the application, MSPE (Dean's Letter), letters of recommendation, and CV. We have found that interviewers often ask about awards during residency interviews.
Step 7: Assess your USMLE Step 1 Score or COMLEX 1 Score
The USMLE or COMLEX is an important factor in the neurosurgery residency selection process. In 2018, the mean USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX 1 score among matched students were 241 and 621, respectively. Among unmatched U.S. seniors and osteopathic students, the mean scores were 234 and 570, respectively.
Step 8: Strive for Success During Clerkships, Observerships and Externships
Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to neurosurgery residency programs. In a NRMP survey of neurosurgery residency programs, 76% cited "grades in required clerkships" as a factor in selecting applicants to interview. Neurosurgery rotations are also of obvious importance to international medical graduates seeking positions in the field.
Step 9: Prepare a Powerful Residency Application
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.
Step 10: Develop a Powerful Personal Statement
In a survey of neurosurgery residency programs, 72% cited the personal statement as a factor in selecting applicants to interview.
Step 11: Deliver an Impressive Interview Performance
An invitation to interview is exciting news, and confirmation that you're 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.
What if I didn't match?
If you were unsuccessful during your initial match cycle, you'll need to sit down with your dean or advisor to review your match strategy. In planning your reapplication, each of the steps above becomes even more important.
For those who seek additional expert assistance, we can provide that. Dr. Desai has had significant experience in helping re-applicants match successfully.
This is provided via a Strategy for Success Session. 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.