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Steps to a Successful Residency Match

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Home  >  Specialty  >  Otolaryngology

Step 1: Explore the Specialty

Before you pursue a career in Otolaryngology, 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 otolaryngologist.


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 Otolaryngology

Step 2: Review Otolaryngology Match Data

Otolaryngology remains a very competitive specialty. In the 2018 NRMP Match, 12 of 288 U.S. senior applicants failed to match. The mean USMLE Step 1 score among matched U.S. seniors was 248. The mean score among unmatched seniors was 238.

Relatively few positions in allopathic residency programs are filled by international medical graduates and osteopathic applicants. Of note, osteopathic students may also apply to the 19 osteopathic otolaryngology residency programs. For more information, visit the AOA website.

Otolaryngology-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. MD 2018

Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. All

National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Allopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.

Step 3: Understand Residency Selection Criteria

"Our program receives about 200 applications for the two positions for a first year otolaryngology resident," writes the Department of Otolaryngology at Saint Louis University. "We traditionally interview 36 applicants for these two positions."


To maximize your chances of matching with your first-choice residency program in otolaryngology, 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:


Otolaryngology-2018 NRMP Program Director Survey

Results of the 2018 NRMP Program Directo

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 otolaryngology 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 otolaryngology.

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.

In one study of otolaryngology residency applicants, "whether applicant received awards" was "significantly associated with the odds of matching."

Step 7: Assess your USMLE Step 1 Score or COMLEX 1 Score

Your USMLE Step 1 exam score is a major factor used by otolaryngology residency programs in the selection process. In 2018, the mean USMLE Step 1 score among matched U.S. seniors was 248. Among unmatched U.S. seniors, the mean score was 238.

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

Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to otolaryngology residency programs. In a survey of otolaryngology residency programs, 88% cited "grades in required clerkships" as a factor in selecting applicants to interview.

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 otolaryngology residency programs, 91% 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.

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