Students often wonder how many residency programs they should apply to. The short answer is that there is no magic number. Most UW students apply to between 25 and 50 EM programs. However, it depends on many factors and you will need to take both your own competitiveness AND the competiveness of the programs you are applying to into account. Certain factors that will make your match more challenging (couples match, low USMLE scores, etc.) will require a longer list. In general it is advisable to apply broadly and then become more selective if/when you get a large number of interview offers; obviously, the longer the list the less likely you are to go unmatched.
The average student who matches ranks 10‐12 programs. It is difficult to work backwards from this number to account for attrition of programs during the application and interview process. The average UW EM applicant receives between 10 and 40 interview offers but there is a very wide variability and no consistent way to predict what percentage of applications will result in an interview.
Applying to programs with a range of competitiveness will help your chances. Competitive EM programs are not necessarily at traditionally more prestigious and competitive schools. You should work closely with your EM faculty career advisor to develop a list that will fit the unique aspects of your application and preferences.
Note that scrambling into emergency medicine is usually not an option. There are consistently very few openings available. Because of this, it is strongly encouraged that less competitive students have a backup plan. This may include applying in other specialties or a transitional year program simultaneously or planning on expanding one’s medical school education by an additional year to strengthen an application.
Adapted with permission from the copyrighted career advising resources developed by Amanda Kost, MD and the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine