Residency Application & Matching Resources

Residency Application Timeline

Includes key dates, deadlines, and checklist by month.

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Application and Match Links

Links to ERAS, NRMP, SF Match, Urology Match

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Specialty Residency Advisors

UCSF faculty who have been selected by their department to advise medical students through the specialty selection and residency application process.

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Letters of Recommendation

Information and guidelines for letter writers.

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Information on the UCSF Medical Student Performance Evaluations (aka, "the Dean's Letter").

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Away/Visiting Rotations

Most specialties do not require or recommend away or visiting rotations; however in some specialties these rotations are essential. Please visit the Specialty Residency Advisor page for recommendations by specialty. Most applications are handled by the AAMC Visiting Student Learning Opportunities (VSLO) or Visiting Students Application Service (VSAS).

AAMC VSLO Website  UCSF Away Rotation Instructions

Post-interview Communication General Advice

Letters of Intent

A letter of intent is an optional letter that an applicant writes to a residency program stating their strong interest in matching at that specific program. Re: letters of intent, the best advice comes from the specialty non-confidential residency advisors, as much of the etiquette about post-interview communication is specialty-specific. But some general recommendations are:

  • Send a thank you email to all of the programs you are going to rank, unless not recommended in your specialty or were instructed not to do so during your interview
  • If there are any major application updates (a publication, an award, etc) then notify programs directly
  • Write a very brief letter of intent to your #1 program with specifics about why they are your #1, unless not recommended in your specialty or were instructed not to do so during your interview. If you do write this letter, make it clear they are #1.
  • Consider writing individualized letters to your top 3-5 programs stating they are a “top choice” (or some other similar wording)—again with specifics about why. This is tricky, as some residency directors might interpret “top choice” as “not #1” so input from the specialty advisors is incredibly helpful here.
  • Absolutely do not tell multiple programs that they are your #1. This is likely to be very harmful for your current match or future career planning (particularly if a program ranks you as an  applicant to match and then you don’t rank that program #1—at that point, people start talking).
  • Overall, the letter of intent is not seen as majorly persuasive for programs. But the #1 letter is unlikely to hurt, unless your specialty etiquette recommends against letters of intent, or specific programs advised you against sending these letters. Again, if the etiquette is not clear, contact the specialty residency advisors in your field.  

Update for the 2021 NRMP Match

Advisors in the following fields have endorsed the general recommendations for post-interview communication (though there may be individualized advice for specific applicant situations):

  • Anesthesia
  • Emergency Medicine
  • General surgery
  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Obstetrics-gynecology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pathology
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiation Oncology

Advisors in the following fields have recommendations that differ from the general recommendations for post-interview communication:

  • Pediatrics recommends against post-interview communication except for thank you letters
  • Anesthesia recommends only sending a #1 letter (not other "top" letters)



    Rank Order General Advice

    For all applicants, including those applying to Categorical programs:

    • Rank all programs at which you interviewed and would be happy to attend – this is true for both primary and supplemental rank lists (if applicable)
    • The only reason to leave a program off your list: you would rather not Match than go to that program.
    • Rank order should be entirely based on desirability (in your mind) of the programs. Clarify for yourself what are the most important features of a program (geography, specific faculty/attendings, prestige, fellowship opportunities, salary/benefits, commuting times, facilities, culture, educational/research options during residency, etc) – and then re-affirm that the top programs on your list tick off the most important boxes for you. Envision your professional future, about 10-15 years off, and ask yourself – do your top programs get you closer to where you want to be?
    • Do not base your rank list on likelihood of Matching. The NRMP Match favors your rank list over the program’s rank list.
    • The best resource for advice on creating your primary rank order list is generally the main (non-confidential) Specialty Residency Advisors. These advisors are likely involved in the residency selection process and know the most about it.
    • Enter your rank list well ahead of the deadline and certify your list. You can de-certify and re-certify your list as many times as you like. However, the list must be certified at the time of the rank order list deadline. Try to avoid last minute changes to your list—to both avoid the risks of having the rank order list deadline pass without a certified list in the system, and to avoid regret from rushed/ill-considered changes.
    • There is no reason to rank any programs at which you did not interview, any Reserved/Physician (R) programs, or Fellowship programs. There is no way to Match in these programs.

    For applicants applying to both Advanced (starting in PGY2) and unrelated Prelim/Transitional (PGY1) Programs:

    • Create your primary rank list first.
    • Then create as many Supplemental rank lists (listed in the NRMP as Suppl ROL) as needed.
    • For each primary rank that is an Advanced program, a specific Supplemental rank list can be attached.
    • The primary rank list is processed first. If you Match in an Advanced program, then the specifically attached Supplemental rank list is processed second. If you successfully Match in an Advanced program but not a Prelim/Transitional program, you will be notified on the Monday of Match week that you are eligible for SOAP (for Prelim/Transitional programs only)

    If you are applying to a Joint program (which includes a linked Advanced and Prelim program):

    • Create your primary rank list first
    • Then create as many supplemental rank lists (listed in the NRMP as Suppl ROL) as needed
    • For each primary rank that is an Advanced program, a specific Supplemental rank list can be attached
    • For Advanced Programs that have a joint prelim program, the attached Supplemental rank list must have its first rank be the joint prelim program.
    • Applicants can only Match to a joint Prelim program if they have Matched first in the (joint) Advanced program.

    If you are applying in a highly competitive field, consider adding to the end of your primary rank list:

    • Preliminary/transitional programs – if you are open to attempting to SOAP into an Advanced program
    • (Important: a prelim/transitional Match is binding (as are all Matches). You must start this program, even if you are unable to successfully SOAP or otherwise find an Advanced program.)
    • (Important: it is not possible to SOAP into positions that would conflict with a Match. If someone Matches in an Advanced program, they cannot SOAP into a Categorical position (as they are committed to starting the Advanced program in their PGY2 year).)
    • Backup specialty programs – if you have already applied and interviewed in these specialties

    If you have already Matched in an early Match (Ophthalmology, Urology, Military):

    • For Military Match: If you successfully Match in the Military Match, you must inform the school (contact the Career Launch Advisor or the Dean of Student Affairs) so the school can withdraw you from the NRMP Match; do not submit a NRMP rank order list. If you proceed with an NRMP Match already with a Military Match, you could be subject to NRMP sanctions.
    • For Urology Match: Most urology programs are joint programs that include both preliminary and advanced training in urology. Application is through the Urology Residency Match Program.  You might have also considered applying to a backup specialty through the NRMP. However, if you Match in urology, you must not submit an NRMP rank order list; doing so could subject you to sanctions from both NRMP and urology.
    • For Ophthalmology Match: Most ophthalmology programs do not include a joint prelim year. Applicants should apply to ophthalmology Advanced positions through the SF Match and should rank prelim programs (+ backup specialty, if desired) through the NRMP. These prelim/transitional programs should be placed on the primary NRMP rank order list. If you Match in ophthalmology, your NRMP rank order list should only include prelim/transitional programs. If you Match in both ophthalmology and an Advanced program in another specialty through the NRMP, you may be subject to sanctions from the NRMP and SF Match.

    If you are planning to Couples Match:

    • Please schedule a meeting with the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Lee Jones (if you have not already done so)

    Update for the 2021 NRMP Match

    Advisors in the following fields have endorsed the general recommendations for rank order lists (though there may be individualized advice for specific applicant situations):

    • Anesthesia
    • Internal Medicine
    • Neurology
    • Pathology
    • Psychiatry
    • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    • Radiation oncology

    Advisors in the following fields have recommendations that differ from the general recommendations for rank order lists:

    • Anesthesia recommends discussing rank order lists with the confidential (not main) advisors
    • Dermatology recommends discussing rank order lists with mentors
    • Pediatrics recommends discussing rank order lists with specialty residency advisors



    Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP)

    SOAP is the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program, run by the NRMP, which can place students who are unmatched into unfilled internship and residency programs.

    More information about SOAP is available here

    Updates for the 2021 NRMP Match/SOAP

    A reminder: we strongly recommend that you be in one place with reliable phone and internet access for the week of the NRMP Match (March 15-19). This will allow the UCSF team to optimally support you in finding a residency if you have not matched. Because of the unclear impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the NRMP Match, this is a recommendation for all students, even if you are highly confident in your likelihood of successfully Matching. In order to be eligible for SOAP, you must be registered with the NRMP. Schedule:

    • Friday March 12th – You will receive a notification from the NRMP that you are SOAP-eligible. This does not mean that you have matched or not matched. It only means that in the case you do not match, you can participate in the SOAP process that starts the following Monday.
    • Monday March 15th – 8am – Applicants will be notified whether they are fully or not fully matched* by the NRMP. The Student Experience Team will be available to support, guide and assist applicants with the SOAP process.

    This is very important – if you are notified that you are not fully matched, you must not contact any programs yourself during the SOAP week, and you should not ask anyone to contact programs on your behalf. This is considered a match violation and may jeopardize your chances of securing a position through SOAP (and in some severe cases, can jeopardize your opportunity to participate in future NRMP matches). The Student Experience Team will work closely with you to provide all of the instructions about how SOAP works and how to submit applications to unfilled programs.

    Fully matched means:

    1. An applicant has matched in a categorical or primary care program, OR
    2. An applicant has matched in both an advanced (PGY-2) program + a prelim/transitional program (PGY-1), OR
    3. An applicant has matched in a prelim/transitional program - without applying for a PGY-2 position through the NRMP.


    Post-Match Reports

    Data on UCSF students who have recently matched into residency programs, and their advice for applicants in that specialty.

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    Match Results Summary

    Summary data on number of UCSF students matching into each specialty over the past 20 years.

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    AAMC Report on Residents

    An online collection of tables that provide information on certain characteristics of residency applicants and residents, as well as information on outcomes of residents.

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