Optimizing Your Residency Application During COVID-19

Amiethab Aiyer, MD | Jonathan Kaplan, MD | Matthew Varacallo, MD

May 13, 2020


Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic there are still a lot of unknowns about when students will get back to school, get back to rotations and how the delays will impact the residency application processes. Even we, as mentors, advisors, and faculty are trying to navigate the best way to guide medical students through these unprecedented times. Below are some considerations to optimize your application as we all face this pandemic together.

1Stay Organized

No matter what year you are in medical school, it is critical to use this current downtime to stay on top of your schoolwork and complete all mandatory requirements. Additionally, starting to gather the necessary documentation for either away rotations (even if they do not happen) and residency applications is helpful. This includes updating your resume, working on personal statements, studying for Step exams and identifying faculty to write your letters of recommendation.

2Community Outreach

Give back to your community by putting together fundraisers and volunteering in ER/clinics that are in need of help. This is a great time to get creative and “think outside the box” with how you can potentially help the world around you. Remember, be prepared to get asked in your future residency interviews, “So, what did you do during COVID-19?”  Your answer does not have to be something dramatic and overly unique and/or compelling, but do your best to speak to some type of experience or outreach/volunteer activity.

3Get Involved with Research

One common theme that has been brought up is how to get involved or get some type of research project going, especially when many students are working from home/working remotely.

A. Perfect Timing

This is the best time to get research done in part because you actually have TIME. That being said, make use of this down time efficiently to not only take care of yourself, but to work on things that you are passionate about. It is also important to not spread yourself too thin, even if you have more time than expected.

B. Types of Projects

While it may be hard to get involved with clinical studies at this juncture, this is high time to identify if review articles, book chapters or case reports are available. As many residents are often swamped with various clinical obligations, this is a perfect time to help them with these types of “slam dunk” research opportunities.

C. Reaching Out

Make sure you start by talking with research coordinators in specialty interest groups at your school to identify the best way to get connected with people involved with research. Additionally, make sure to talk with advising officers/advising deans to identify what opportunities may be available. If there are residents or faculty (in a given specialty of interest) with whom you have recently connected, this is the time to reach out and ask about any available opportunities. Start by reaching out to a few people and then expand your search; we typically do not recommend emailing the entire department. If no department exists at your school, definitely look at local faculty or other academic institutions.  The most important part about the process is to maintain a proactive position and be ready to offer your help/assistance in any way possible.

D. Organization

If you get involved with research, it is critical to hit deadlines and stay in constant communication with involved faculty or residents. We recommend a weekly check-in call or in-person visit – this keeps you on your toes and avoids the potential of letting things fall through the cracks. Remember that eventually you will have clinical or school obligations that you need to maintain your commitment to the project during that time as well. A great thing to do is to define expectations about your involvement from the outset and always maintain an open dialogue with those involved in your research projects.

Lastly, try to remember that we are all in this together. While this is understandably a stressful time, as an orthopedic community we will continue to work together to overcome this adversity. While the unknown can be scary, perhaps in the long run this will allow us to continue to improve on the residency application process. Best of luck!


DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support Dr. Kaplan Medline: Paid consultant, Wright Medical Technology, Inc.: Paid consultant Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.


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