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Applying to Residency: Emailing Residency Programs

So, you’ve gone for your interview at a residency program. Now what?

Many applicants struggle with when to contact a program after the interview day. Should you send a thank you to every program? Only the ones you are ranking highly? Should you send a hand-written letter or an email? While there are no clear rules for post-interview contact, there are some basic guidelines that you should follow.

4 Tips for Emailing Residency Programs After Your Interview

1. It is polite to send a thank you note to every program at which you interview (unless they tell you not to).

These do not need to be long or elaborate notes, but most programs will appreciate a short thank you note. A general rule of thumb is to thank the program director for inviting you and include a few lines about what impressed you about the interview day. I also chose to thank the program coordinator, as they do an enormous amount of work to coordinate the logistics of the interview day (e.g. pairing you with interviewers, arranging for food and transportation, answering your questions before the interview day). If you would like to thank your individual interviewers as well, you can definitely do that (but it will add up to a lot of letters by the end of the interview trail).

However, if a program tells you explicitly not to send thank you notes, DO NOT send one to that program.

2. After the thank you email, you should only contact interviewers or the program director if you have legitimate questions about the program.

Early in the interview season it is difficult to know exactly what questions to ask on the interview day. As you see other programs, you may wish you had asked certain questions at previous interviews. It is perfectly okay to email either your interviewer or the program director with your question. On the other hand, you should not try to come up with questions in order to have a reason to contact the program (sometimes that can be obvious to the program director).

3. For programs that you are very interested in, you can email them with updates to your application.

Another reason to contact a program after your initial thank you note is with updates to your application. For example, if you have an article that has just been accepted for publication, you can use that opportunity to email a program director to indicate your interest as well as inform them of your new achievement.

4. Finally, once you know your rank order, you can choose to email your top programs to inform them of your interest.

This is the type of post-interview contact that most applicants have questions about. Some applicants (like me) choose only to email their top program and tell them that they are their number one choice. Other applicants email their top five programs and tell them that they are ranking them highly. Either (or neither) is entirely up to you. But you should NEVER lie to a program, and you should NEVER tell more than one program that you are ranking them number 1. Program directors know each other, and you may burn some bridges if a program realizes on Match Day that you were untruthful.

At the end of the day, you should do what feels right for you. Most program directors know to expect thank you notes, and most will not differentiate between an email and a hand-written letter. (Though I did have a program director specifically ask for interesting postcards from around the country.) Try not to stress too much about it, as this is unlikely to affect your match.


Looking for more post-interview residency application tips? Read on:

Write Now: Your Residency Interview Thank You Note Action Plan

Preparing for Residency: Making the Most of Your Last Weeks of Freedom

Top 10 Residency Ranking Factors: An Infographic

Residency Interview 101: Waiting on Your World to Change

The 10 Commandments for Contacting Residency Programs After Interview Season

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