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  • Writer's pictureMaureen Decker

Journey to Residency: What It Entails and How to Navigate It?

Updated: Jun 21

Journey to Residency

Residency is a great transition for medical students. It can be both exciting and challenging at the same time. It's a long commitment that requires dedication, perseverance, and strategic planning.

Many medical students may feel overwhelmed by the transition; however, adequately preparing and knowing what to anticipate, can be a fulfilling experience.

In this blog post, we’ll cover details about the medical residents and residency period, including what to expect and how to get the most from your experience.

What does it mean to be a medical resident?

The residency offers medical students the opportunity to gain hands-on clinical training in their chosen specialty, allowing them to develop practical skills in diagnosing and treating patients. 

Throughout the residency, you will acquire the essential abilities needed to practice medicine, all while being guided by seasoned mentors. In addition to honing your critical thinking skills, you will also learn to collaborate effectively in teams, master time management, and much more.

Fourth-year medical students apply to numerous residency programs in their desired field through the National Residency Match Program. They eagerly wait until mid-March, when Match Day reveals if and where they have been selected to participate in a residency program.

What does the journey to residency look like?

The journey to residency is like a long-distance race for aspiring doctors. Here's a breakdown of the stages:

The Foundation (Medical School)

The first two years are about building a strong knowledge base through lectures, labs, and studying.

Years three and four involve clinical rotations, where you put that knowledge to use in real-world settings like hospitals and clinics. This is also when you start figuring out which specialty you might like (think areas like pediatrics, cardiology, or surgery).

Finding Your Fit (Specialty Selection)

This is where you get to explore your options! Research different specialties, shadow doctors you admire, and talk to residents in your desired field to get a feel for what each one is like.

The Application Hurdle (ERAS and the Match)

During your third or fourth year, you'll put together your application through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), an online system. This involves your transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement that highlights your experiences and why you'd be a great fit for residency.

The Match is a big matching process where you rank your program preferences and residency programs rank their applicant preferences. A computer program then matches you to a program based on these rankings.

How does residency work? How long does it last?

Residency programs have different durations, ranging from 3 to 7 years, depending on the specific specialty. During residency, you will likely spend long hours working on active patient care duties. 

This includes diagnosing and caring for patients, as well as participating in research projects. You may also be responsible for teaching other medical students and residents.

In addition to patient care duties, you will likely need to complete administrative tasks such as writing up notes on patient cases, attending lectures and conferences, maintaining accurate paperwork, and working with medical teams.

How do I navigate through residency?

Early Preparation

Start early in your pre-med and medical school years to build a strong academic record and gain relevant experience.


Build relationships with mentors, attend conferences, and participate in medical organizations. Networking can provide valuable opportunities and insights.


Thoroughly research residency programs and understand their requirements and culture. This will strengthen your application and showcase your interest in a specific field. It also demonstrates your ability to think critically and contribute to the medical field.

Financial planning

With some financial planning, you can navigate residency without letting your finances get out of control. Focus on budgeting and follow the 50/30/20 rule. Allocate 50% of your income to essentials (rent, groceries, transportation), 30% to spending (entertainment, dining out), and 20% towards financial goals (debt repayment, savings).

In case of any emergency, aim to save 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund. It provides you with financial safety in case of any unexpected hardships. 

Interview Skills

Practice interview skills and be prepared to discuss your experiences, strengths, and fit for the program. Mock interviews can be particularly helpful.

Work-life balance

Maintain a healthy work-life balance to manage stress and avoid burnout. Self-care is crucial for long-term success and well-being.


The journey to residency requires hard work and sacrifice, but with the right preparation and approach, it can be a fulfilling experience that sets you up for a successful career in medicine.

Prime Financial Services specializes in tax management, retirement planning, and comprehensive financial guidance tailored for post-residency life.

Whether you're advancing to a new residency year, preparing for fellowship, or aiming for private practice, PRIME FINANCIAL SERVICES is committed to equipping you with confidence and practical financial knowledge through our Summer Seminar Series.



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