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Number of Programs

August 1, 2011

I was speaking to an IMG who is now a fellow at my institution and asked about the application strategy that they used.  This individual focused on programs that took IMGs from his medical school.  By using a network of medical school alums who did residency in the US, this IMG was able to find programs that were welcoming. The number of programs applied in this person’s case was 30 which resulted in a match in IM at a small community hospital program.  That got me thinking, for an IMG, how many program applications is enough?

If we look at figure IM-4 from the NRMP we see some interesting insights into the match for IMGs.  The data is based on a survey given to all applicants (AMGs and IMGs) that sent in a match list (those that interviewed).   45% of “Independent applicants” (IMGs) who submitted rank lists returned the survey so the data is probably representative.

The Median number of applications submitted for those who matched was 60, for those who did not match was 66.  The way to understand Median in this data is that about half the matched IMG applicants have less than 60 applications, and about half have greater than 60 applications.  The Median numbers of interviews offered to those IMGs who matched was 8, for those who did not match it was 2.  If we look at AMGs who matched to their first chosen specialty, the median number of applications was 18 and interviews 10.

75% of IMGs ranked all programs where they interviewed compared to 48% of AMGs.  This makes sense as few IMGs have loads of interviews.  Not surprising, a major factor for ranking programs for IMGs is H-1B visa sponsorship and board pass rates.  10% of those IMGs who responded ranked one or more programs where they applied but did not interview.  This is a lot more than AMGs and I don’t have a reason for the difference.

So applicants successful in obtaining interviews apply to a large number of programs but get fewer percentage of interviews per application (13.3% for IMGs versus 55.5% for AMGs).  I don’t think that we can extrapolate the data to say that if you are an IMG an you apply to 100 programs you will get 13 interviews.  My advice is to apply to programs where you have the best chance.  Target those places where IMGs are featured on the programs website, where you meet the program criteria, and where medical school classmates of yours are doing their residency.   If a program takes one IMG every year and you don’t meet the program criteria then don’t apply to that program.

The views expressed in this post are those of Kenneth Christopher, MD and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dr. Christopher’s employer Partners HealthCare.

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