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Steps to a Successful Residency Match

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Home  >  Specialty  >  Ophthalmology

Step 1: Explore the Specialty

Before you pursue a career in Ophthalmology, 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 ophthalmologist.


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. 


Hot Topics, Concerns, and Future Directions in Ophthalmology

Step 2: Review Ophthalmology Match Data

The ophthalmology match is not sponsored by the NRMP but by the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) through the San Francisco Match Program. Ophthalmology match results are announced in January. According to the AUPO, 484 of 790 applicants matched in 2018. A total of 306 applicants failed to match.

Of the matched applicants, 93% were U.S. seniors, 4% were graduates of U.S. medical schools, and 3% were international medical graduates.

Osteopathic applicants may also apply to 12 AOA-approved osteopathic ophthalmology residency programs.

Step 3: Understand Residency Selection Criteria

"We receive more than 400 applications each year and invite approximately 50 applicants for a personal interview," writes the Department of Ophthalmology at VCU.


To maximize your chances of matching with your first-choice residency program in ophthalmology, you must become well informed as early as possible. In particular, you need to know the criteria residency programs use to select residents.


Check out these recommended resources

Step 4: Develop your Strategy for Success

As competition for positions in the ophthalmology 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 ophthalmology.

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 ophthalmology residency selection process.  In 2019, the mean USMLE Step 1 score among matched U.S. seniors was 244. Among unmatched U.S. seniors, the mean score was 231.

Step 8: Strive for Success During Clerkships, Observerships and Externships

Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to ophthalmology residency programs. 

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

The personal statement is an important factor in the ophthalmology residency selection process.

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.

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