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Each time I participate in the UMMS interview day, my own interview day seems farther and farther away (and I’m usually quite thankful not to be wearing a suit). Well, the time for dusting off the suit is coming soon. In medical schools across the country, preparation for the upcoming residency application season is beginning. Students are attempting to craft personal statements (which, like when applying for medical school, is a task that sounds much easier in theory than it is in practice), updating their CVs, and asking for letters of recommendation.

In terms of letters, the residency application has an additional kind: the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) or, more colloquially, the Dean’s Letter. Written by one of the medical school deans, the MSPE gives a summative evaluation of your performance in medical school, including comments from third-year clerkship evaluations, as well as notable characteristics that are evidenced by extracurricular and co-curricular involvement.

In order to create these letters for each graduating student, the deans meet with students individually to discuss their content and for us to give input. For example, at my MSPE meeting last week, we decided to include my love of learning languages as a notable characteristic (I’m fluent in French, but am working to improve both my general/medical Spanish and Mandarin Chinese).

The other aspect of the application process that bears mention at this point would be narrowing down the residency programs to which I will be applying. I will be pursuing a residency in family medicine, which means there are over 500 programs to which I could apply. That number is slightly overwhelming to say the least.

I spent several weeks (at least) freaking out over how I could possibly narrow down to 20-ish programs and soliciting advice from everyone I knew who has already been through the process. The principal answer: start by defining your geographic preferences then decide what program characteristics are important to you (for family medicine, common factors are the strength of OB training and desired population characteristics, such as focus on the underserved). Several people steered me to the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) website, which has a search engine of available residency programs that easily delineates these characteristics.

Prepping my application has a long way to go, but baby steps. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed being an M4, including my vacation time last month. I was able to go to London with my family and we had an amazing time.

This sign made me laugh. I was on the upper deck of a tour bus and was going to try to get a clear shot but the bus went up on a curb and I had to abort that mission or I would have dropped my phone on the pavement (not sidewalk, our tour guide said that was too descriptive for the Brits). “Changing priorities, 50 yds ahead” indeed.

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.