US Residency

Proposed Timeline for Foreign Medical Graduates

If you are thinking about applying to Residency in the United States, you should start planning during your first year of medical school. The way Medical Schools and hospitals are organized in Poland, is very different from the way things are done in the United States. US residency application reviewers want to make sure that you know what those differences are BEFORE you apply! That means, you need to plan on doing at least a couple of rotations (clerkships or clinical courses during the second half of your studies) in the United States and score relatively high on your USMLE Steps 1, 2CK, and 2CS. This is a timeline noting approximately when you want to have certain things done if you want to start residency the summer of your graduation from medical school.
  • Ask yourself: Do you have a general idea of what you want to specialize in? (if not, check out this book: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty). Most medical students don’t know what they want to specialize in, but it’s good to start thinking about it early so you can start building a better-than-average understanding of the field.
  • Observerships in the US: Plan out your summer, do not waste it! The more experience you have in hospitals and the more contacts you make (need precious letters of recommendation later), the higher your chances of success. Call and email doctor’s offices and ask if they would be willing to let you observe them as they work. You will not be able to apply for electives in the US just yet because you won’t have your “Core Requirements” fulfilled after your first year.
  • Buy the First Aid for USMLE STEP 1: Almost all students use this book to prepare for the Step 1 (of course, it’s not the only source they use). Familiarize yourself with this book as much as you can. Use it to prepare for your classes all throughout your first year and second year. By the time you take your step 1, it should look pretty beaten up!
  • Familiarize yourself with the following websites: (where you will apply for the steps), (you will also need to apply for the steps through this site, you usually need your ECFMG certification to apply for residency), and (can purchase practice tests here to make sure you are prepared for that NBME Basic Sciences test at the end of your second year!).
  • Medical Missions: This will look great on a future residency application! Consider planning a mission for the summer!
  • STEP 1, STEP 1, STEP 1: Set your mind right off-the-bat that you WILL be taking the NBME in June/July, and this summer you WILL take the Step 1. “Planning prevents piss poor performance” so start thinking about your plan. How are you going to attack this exam with everything you got!?
  • Talk to people that have taken it: Get a feel for what kinds of mistakes people made and what worked and didn’t work for them. If you don’t know anyone, join a USMLE forum!
  • Decide how you are going to prepare: There are infinite sources out there for step 1 prep. Pick something that you feel will fit your learning style. Most medical students will recommend the First Aid for USMLE Step 1 and the Doctor’s in Training (DIT) prep course.
  • Apply: The application process is much more extensive than the process for the MCAT (you will have to bring forms to your deans office, the office will have to send them out, you will have to wait for a reply from the NBME), but you don’t have to do it too far in advance. You can even apply a few months before your exam. In the united states, Prometric Testing centers (where you will take your exam) can be found in almost any city! Many cities outside of the US also have such centers.
  • Other summer plans? In the United States, medical students are expected to take the Step 1 soon after classes end their second year. After that, they do observerships or research. So if you think you could handle studying for step 1 and working in a hospital, go for it! But if you think you will be overwhelmed (seeing as Kaplan courses recommend you study around 10 hours a day), don’t worry about it, just focus on getting the highest Step 1 score you can!
  • Student Clubs: During the school year, consider joining a student club in the specialty that you are interested in. 3 years in Surgery Club will look really good on an application for a surgical residency don’t you think?
  • Apply for Rotations: Right after you get your Step 1 score results back, start applying for rotations in the US (most programs require that you have passed the Step 1). Check out the Elective Rotations link on the Side Bar for info on how to apply. You definitely should try to do an away rotation or elective in the US in the specialty of your interest. **You must apply 6 months in advance! Note: There are some courses that your medical university will not allow you to miss, always make sure the dean’s office is informed of your plans of taking courses somewhere else and you receive their approval.
  • STEP 2, STEP 2, STEP 2: Recommended sources include the Uworld Question Bank, and the Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 book.
  • Rotate in the US: Remember it’s important to make a good impression because you are going to be fishing for those precious letters of recommendation! If possible, strive to get a LOR from a program director.
  • Student Clubs: Clubs frequently give you the opportunity to write up Case Studies, publish papers, or even present at conferences!
  • Apply to residencies: Once you pass your Step 2 start the residency application process. Register for a MyEras account. Your application should be submitted the day programs start accepting applications (usually early september the year before you would start residency).
  • Interviews: After submitting your application programs will send you invitations for interviews if they believe you are a good candidate for their program. Interviews are usually scheduled from September to January. It is important to be prepared, confident and honest during your interview. Make sure you have read up on the program and have questions for them. Also make sure you know your application inside out!
  • Ranking programs: The deadline for ranking your programs is in January. You can only rank programs that invited you for an interview.
  • Match day: Usually around March 20th of the year you would start residency. On this day you find out if you have been accepted to a program!
  • Rotate in the US: Hopefully you applied for some rotations in the US during this year as well. If you managed to turn your application in already, you don’t really have to worry about beefing it up anymore, however, if you haven’t applied yet you should be rotating in the US.
  • Pass your classes: Now all you really have to worry about is Med School. This year is pretty intense so don’t slack off!