After residency interviews, while you’re waiting to find out who you matched with, is the perfect time to send your residency letter of intent. It’s a step you can take for a little extra peace of mind as you wait.
It’s a nerve-wracking time, to be sure. After all, you’re about to enter the very last phase of your journey before you officially become a doctor. Where you spend your residency will impact you for the rest of your career, so you want that time to be filled with positive memories and learning experiences.
But you can’t just throw together a letter and put in the mailbox. There are specific criteria for residency letters, including who you send them to and how you send them. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Rewind to the “Match”.
Before we explain the details of a residency letter of intent, we should explain what the Match is. The Match was created by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Using the applications sent through ERAS or CaRMS, NRMP provides applicant data to residency programs. Those programs then interview their top choices.
After interviews are over, residency applicants will create their Rank Order List (ROL). It lists your top choice residency programs, from number one down to however many you have listed. The residency programs will complete their own ROL, and NRMP will match you with the residency program with which you matched.
The Match program is based on three factors:
- How many positions are available for each program
- List of preferred applications from each program
- List of preferred programs from each applicant
Ideally, you’ll match with your first choice program, but this isn’t guaranteed, which is why a residency letter of intent can be very beneficial.
What Is a Residency Letter of Intent?
A residency letter of intent is a personal letter from you to the director of your top choice residency program. It’s a detailed letter explaining why you believe this is the right residency program for you. You’ll explain how you’ll positively contribute to the program and state that they are your first choice to match with for your residency.
A residency letter of intent is like whispering in someone’s ear that you picked them when they wouldn’t already know that. It takes the guessing out of the guessing game. The program director will know they will match with you if they choose you for their program. It’s hopefully a win-win for both of you, but there are no guarantees.
What NOT To Do…
There are ethical guidelines in place for a residency letter of intent. Following those guidelines is imperative to continue forward with a good reputation throughout your medical career.
Don’t… Send Multiple Letters of Intent
First, you can only submit one letter of intent to your top choice program. While it might be tempting to send multiple letters to different programs in hopes of getting selected, it’s unethical to tell multiple programs that they’re your top choice. What would you do if you matched with all of them? You can’t attend three programs at once.
You can have your top five choices, but only one top choice, and it wouldn’t make much sense to send a letter stating that a program was your third choice. You would, at best, be their third choice, too.
Don’t… Send Your Letter to a General Email
A lot of general emails go unchecked, so sending your residency letter of intent to firstname.lastname@example.org has absolutely zero chance of making it to the program director. You can likely find the right email to send your letter of intent by finding the program director’s email on the college’s website.
Title the email “Michelle Jones: Residency Letter of Intent” so that the program director knows what your email is about. Trust us, they get a lot of emails, so you want to be among the ones that get opened.
Don’t… Don’t Talk About Random Stuff
A program director is likely going to be very busy and doesn’t have time for fluff. That means you need to be direct and brief. In a few words, convince them that you’re saving them time by showing how you’re a top applicant to their program.
Only talk about the residency program. Share anything significant that has taken place since your last interview with them. Remind them of what makes their program great, why you’re a great fit for their program, and that you are listing them as your number one choice. Being direct and to the point is exactly what every program director wishes medical students would do.
Don’t… Send a Letter Just to Send One
It’s great to send a residency letter of intent, but it’s not required, and it’s better not to send one if you don’t have a top choice. Sending one just to send one isn’t a good idea, in part because of ethics, but also because you’re ethically bound to attend that program if you get selected. Not sending any letters is best if you just hope to match to any residency program.
What to Include in Your Letter
Now that we’ve gone over what not to do with your residency letter of intent, let’s talk about what to do! You’ll want to have an opening section, the body of your letter, and the conclusion. You want to keep it to one page since the program director is busy, and they already know about you from your interview.
We recommend writing short, concise paragraphs and avoiding casual language or bullet points, as this is a very professional letter. It’s almost like a cover letter but for residency. You wouldn’t put a bullet point in a cover letter (only a resume), so leave it out here as well.
You’ll want to talk about how great the program is, but don’t over-hype it to the point of sounding fake. Discuss the highlights of your interview as a refresher for the director (who may or may not remember you immediately) and then discuss yourself. Include your biggest career hopes and why their program will work so well for you that you’re making them your top choice. And remember to include how you’ll contribute to their program.
Letter of Intent Residency Example
Dear Dr. Lucy Thompson, Program Director, X University,
It was a privilege to interview with Dr. Alice Kong and Dr. Ryan James and tour the university for the Anesthesiology Residency Program. I am writing this letter to express my strong interest in your residency program and my intent to attend your program if I match with you. I am listing you as my number one choice for residency. If you offer me a spot in your residency program, I will accept the position. In addition to stating my intent, I also want to take a moment to update you since things have changed since my last interview with you.
I have three primary reasons for wanting to attend your residency program. These three reasons outweigh what other residency programs have to offer. First, the Anesthesiology program will allow me to learn the most about ambulatory medicine. I want to work in a fast-paced environment, and I believe an ambulatory setting will allow for that. Not every residency program places as strong of an emphasis on ambulatory medicine.
My second reason for choosing you as my top Anesthesiology program is because of all the rotations. While I want to focus on ambulatory medicine, I also want to gain as much experience as possible in all the areas where an anesthesiologist might be needed. I believe your university will provide me with that.
My final reason for wanting to attend your residency program is because of the culture I found myself immersed in when I visited and spent a week there. I loved the interactions I had with current students and faculty members. I felt welcomed, and I felt a sense of belonging, which meant a lot to me. I did not feel like an outsider, nor like I would have to work extremely hard to find my place. I felt like I would fit right in and earn my place.
For those three reasons, I want to attend your Anesthesiology residency program more than any other residency programs with which I’ve interviewed. I believe that my work ethic, integrity, and enthusiasm for medicine – and, specifically, anesthesiology – make me a good match for your program.
Finally, I would like to update you on what has changed since my last interview with you. I was given the opportunity to complete an internship with an anesthesiologist’s assistant. I was able to gain a lot of hands-on experience and now have a thorough understanding of the paperwork and processes that go into preparing a patient for a procedure. It further inspired me in my desire to become an anesthesiologist.
Thank you for your time and for considering me for your residency program.
When to Send Your Letter
You’ll want to send your letter in early February, allowing the program director plenty of time to read your letter and consider your application before making any decisions. Remember, you’ll find out who you matched with in March.
International Medical Aid Can Help
Writing a residency letter of intent can feel daunting, especially for the most competitive residency programs. That’s why International Medical Aid offers residency admissions consulting. We can help you with your residency letter of intent.
Whether you’re creating your outline or struggling to find the right words to convey what’s on your heart, IMA is here to help you polish your draft and turn it into a professional letter of intent.
We also help pre-med students with their personal statements and secondary essays, which might be particularly helpful for you if writing isn’t your forte.
Continue forward on your medical school journey with IMA. Visit our Admissions Consulting tab to get started.