How do I select the programs to apply?

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Hopefully by now you have gathered all your documents and mailed them to ECFMG for scanning. Your Personal Statements are ready and Common Application Form certified. Now it’s time to select the programs. This is a very daunting task. Your goal is to get at least 7 interviews. If you had unlimited budget, the task would have been much simpler. Apply to all programs in your specialties and wait for invitations to come. However, typically this is not the case and cost of each additional application becomes prohibitively high after just 20 applications. You want to make sure you target the programs; otherwise your chances of an interview per submitted application deteriorate exponentially.

An average IMG should apply for 50-150 programs depending on specialties and profile. You can use this calculator to calculate the cost:

Please refer to the How many interviews do I need and How many programs should I apply for articles posted earlier to estimate required number of applications.

How do you know where to apply? Here are some major principles to follow:

1. Focus on the programs that you have a chance. You should make sure that your application won’t get rejected automatically just because your scores do not meet program requirements.

2. Spread your application geographically. Many applicants make same mistake of applying to only home state or only for programs in a Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut + Pensilvania) year after year. Even though these states (except Connecticut) are considered IMG Friendly because most programs there are OK to work/sponsor J1/H1 visas, competition among IMGs is much higher there. Programs receive about double number of IMG applications compared to other states. Most applications are coming from fresh graduates with for 9’s. If you are a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident, your "home advantage" is not as significant in “IMG Friendly” states.

3. Make sure you covered enough programs even though you may qualify only for a few. You can extend number of applications by applying to "sister" specialties. For example, you may consider extending your Family Medicine application with some Pediatrics programs.

While items 2 and 3 above are simple to achieve, item 1 is where you will have to spend most of your time. You should start with creating a file or printing a list of all programs in your specialty. You can generate lists for each specialty ordered by state using this link:

Click on “Specialty” to select individual specialty. You can now save/print the list you will be working with. Click on first program and you get program information card with program web site and phone number. Next, you click on program web site to see if they have their requirements posted there. Otherwise, you should call the number from the card and ask them about their requirements. An alternative approach would be to click on e-mail address on the card and inquire the program via e-mail.

Write down information you just obtained on the printed list next to the program or in the file that you saved earlier. Mark the programs you qualify for with green marker, programs you do not qualify with red, and programs you are uncertain about with yellow. After you go over all the programs, you should have three categories of programs – green, yellow, and red. If number of green programs is enough to get you the number of interviews that you need, add programs from the yellow category to your application.