Conquering the match

Matching into your top choice: 8 OMS IVs share their stories and advice

Nicholas Imperato, OMS IV, interviewed his med school colleagues to compile their best tips and their clever techniques for matching into their top-choice residency programs.


In March 2023, more than 7,100 osteopathic medical students and past DO graduates matched into PGY-1 residency positions in 37 different specialties. Specifically, 91.6% of graduating fourth-year osteopathic medical students who applied during this cycle matched into residency programs, which is a new record. Also, 99.5% of graduating DOs were placed into residency programs this year, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

The DO spoke with nine osteopathic medical students who matched into their top-choice residency program in 2023. We asked them to provide advice to help the next class of medical students navigate the application and match cycle. Their advice covers topics such as building a successful ERAS application, preparing for interviews, crafting a rank list and gauging competitiveness at the top programs on their list.

General advice

What are some general pieces of advice for incoming OMS IV students who will be applying to residency programs this year?

“Take things one day at a time and remember that this is just another leg in the marathon of your career. Consider what will fulfill you most and pursue locations or specialties that align most with your goals. Start early, stay ahead of deadlines and take time for yourself so you don’t burn out!” (Frank Mele, OMS IV, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM))

“Think about what kind of life you want in the future. Think about what you value outside of academics too! Be honest about your hobbies and passions. Don’t forget about those intangibles as you look for where to apply!” (Akshita Taneja, OMS IV, PCOM)

“Use this time to really think about what is important to you. Consider perspectives and advice even from people in your life who may not be in health care, but who truly know you best. The application/interview season can be overwhelming and that is a completely normal feeling. Try your hardest to embrace the process and make use of the mentors and support system around you.” (Erika Foerst, OMS IV, PCOM)

“It seems early, but having a developed idea about what you want to achieve during and after residency will make the decision-making process much more manageable.” (Josh Reandelar, OMS IV, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM))

“Start early. The sooner the better. If you don’t already know it, figure out your ‘why.’ This will help you in deciding what programs might be a good fit for you [and] if they align.” (Claudine Nwadiozor, OMS IV, PCOM)

If you could go back through the match season, what would you have done differently?

“I would start preparing, revising and rewriting my personal statement early. If you aren’t an incredible writer (or even if you are), the personal statement can be a challenging piece of writing to produce. Start early, revisit your ideas often and seek input from people you trust.” (Brogan Galbreath, OMS IV, PCOM)

“I would give my application to an orthopedic resident or someone who has taken part in the admission process and ask them to gauge my competitiveness.” (Nick Abate, OMS IV, PCOM)

“I would have reduced the number of places that I applied to/interviewed at. Interview burnout, even in the virtual setting, can significantly impact the way you perceive a program, so I wish I would have been more selective with which interviews I took.” (Foerst)

“I would have better practiced my answer to the question, ‘What are your weaknesses?’” (Reandelar)

ERAS application/applying

What were some of the main factors that you considered when choosing which programs to apply to?

“Location, DO friendly culture, solid inpatient exposure/training and a good pediatric/OB experience.” (Taneja)

“Location, fellowship mentorship/matches, advocacy/community engagement opportunities, program size, X+Y structure, access to standalone children’s hospital.” (Foerst)

“Location, size of institution, resident happiness, work-life balance, friendliness of residents/attendings.” (David Deysher, OMS IV, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine)

“Location/geography, the vibe of the residents during the socials, the relationship of leadership with the residents, opportunities to teach/do research/participate in community service.” (Reandelar)

How many programs did you apply to or how many programs do you recommend applying to?

“For family medicine, I applied to 35 programs, which I personally think was a little overkill.” (Nwadiozor)

“For internal medicine, 20-30 is fine.” (Deysher)

“I applied to approximately 30 surgery programs in the tri-state area. Adequately assessing your competitiveness plays a crucial role in the number of programs you should apply to, as well as whether you should dual apply.” (Mele)

“49.” (Reandelar)

“I applied to 45 programs. I wouldn’t recommend applying to many more.” (Abate)

“I dual applied to med-peds (21 programs) and categorical pediatrics (23 programs).” (Foerst)

How did you gauge your competitiveness as an applicant?

“Class ranking, board scores, extracurricular involvement, feedback from sub-I sites (which clued me into how I might be ranked against other students on the letters of recommendation) and MSPE comments from clerkship preceptors.” (Reandelar)

“Residency Explorer, Doximity and NRMP Charting outcomes are all great resources to understand application statistics for thousands of applicants who have come before you. This is the best way to objectively compare yourself to other DO and MD applicants within a specialty. But use caution in placing too much weight in this because the data can omit certain things about each individual applicant, how well they interview, their activities and other important things that may help differentiate YOU from your statistics.” (Galbreath)

What are your best tips for crafting a successful application?

“Let your personality shine! I described my hobbies in what I thought was a quirky, funny way that is similar to how I would tell someone I met in person about it. It led to quite a few ice breakers and made the interview more fun.” (Taneja)

“Once you’ve determined what that ‘thing’ is that you want to achieve in residency, build your application around that.” (Reandelar)

“Don’t include every volunteer experience that you did for two hours one day back during M1 unless it contributes to a narrative you feel is truly meaningful to you. Interviewers want to see your dedication to certain experiences, whether volunteer, research or otherwise.” (Galbreath)


How did you prepare for interviews?

“I used, which is orthopedic-focused but still a great resource for any interviews. It teaches the STAR method of answering interview questions. I googled and read many articles of ‘residency interview questions’ and did mock interviews to help prepare.” (Abate)

“I primarily used Big Interview prep, along with outlining my answers with notes. I drilled down specific talking points for certain questions in a way that allowed for natural conversation.” (Mele)

“I prepared a Google doc for every program I would interview with. Each document contained multiple sections: About the program, information about interviewers, questions for PDs/faculty, questions for residents and prepared answers for behavioral questions.” (Reandelar)

What are some questions you should ask during interviews?

  • What is your favorite/least favorite part of your program? If you could change one thing about your residency experience, what would it be?
  • Do you feel supported by your PD/faculty?
  • How does your program prioritize resident wellness?
  • Where do residents typically live?
  • What types of activities do you do with your co-residents outside the hospital?
  • If you are training at an institution with strong fellowship presence: How do you feel that the fellows impact your learning? Do you still find that you have opportunities for procedures and autonomy to create your own assessment/plan?
  • What benefits do residents get (free parking, meal stipend, financial support for conferences, etc.)?
  • What support is given to residents with subspecialty interests?
  • How and how often is feedback administered? How receptive is administration to feedback? 
  • Tell me how your program gets involved in community outreach.
  • Do you see any changes to your curricula coming within the next five years? (Foerst)

Rank order list

When you were down to your top two programs, how did you decide which was the better option?

“I kept a well-organized document with pre-interview summaries and post-interview reflections of each program I was invited to interview at. I highly recommend doing this or at least taking standardized notes for each of your programs so you can reflect throughout the interview process and have notes to look back on. I felt like I would be happy at my top three or four programs, so deciding where to rank these options ultimately came down to how excited I felt about the program and the interactions I had during rotations/interviews/conversations with residents and faculty.” (Galbreath)

“When narrowing down my top two programs, I prioritized location and my reflections following the interview day. After completing each interview, I wrote a personal reflection that included my thoughts/reactions to the overall culture of the residents, program director (PD) and faculty, as well as highlights of the pros/cons of the given program. I found this to be very helpful, particularly in the virtual platform, because I did not have an in-person experience at any institution other than those where I completed my auditions or chose to visit following the interview cycle. These notes were essential in helping me make my ROL, as it becomes difficult to keep details of each program organized after numerous interviews over the span of three months.” (Foerst)

Final thoughts

I was lucky enough to also match into my top choice for residency: Emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. In addition to echoing all of the fantastic advice that these medical students were so gracious to offer, the most important pieces of advice that I can leave you with are to be yourself, figure out what is most important to you and have confidence in your application.

Don’t ever try to give the “correct” answer in an interview that you think a program director or interviewer wants to hear. Answer truthfully because that will allow for your true personality and passion to shine through.

As you proceed through the match season, you will inevitably begin to realize how similar each program is. Therefore, it is extremely important to determine what is most important to you. It may be location or the chance to work with a specific patient population; for others, it may be the prestige of the program or the strength of a research department.

Whatever your checklist of requirements is, make sure that you identify them early on while interviewing with programs, as this will significantly reduce stress and help you to easily rank programs later on. Additionally, application season is an extremely stressful time, so have confidence in the hard work that you put into these past few years of medical school!

About the students quoted above

  • Nick Abate is an OMS IV at PCOM, and matched into orthopedic surgery at PCOM
  • David Deysher is an OMS IV at PCOM, and matched into internal medicine at Wright-Patterson Medical Center
  • Erika Foerst is an OMS IV at PCOM, and matched into internal medicine and pediatrics at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
  • Brogan Galbreath is an OMS IV at PCOM, and matched into anesthesia at Temple University
  • Frank Mele is an OMS IV at PCOM, and matched into general surgery at Crozer Chester Medical Center
  • Claudine Nwadiozor is an OMS IV at PCOM, and matched into family medicine at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education in Washington, D.C.
  • Josh Reandelar is an OMS IV at NYITCOM, and matched into emergency medicine at NYU Langone
  • Akshita Taneja is an OMS IV at PCOM, and matched into family medicine at Ascension St. Joseph
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading

Finding fit and flow: How to choose a residency path

How important is research to match into your specialty?

What to do if you don’t Match into residency

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