education, medical, graduate; program selection; internal medicine residency; choosing a residency; promoting a residency; internship and residency; career choice; surveys and questionnaires


Health and Medical Administration | Interprofessional Education | Medical Education



While medical school graduates compete to get matched into the best residency programs, programs also compete to attract the best applicants. The applicant’s decision to rank their programs of interest is determined by several factors, many of which are not always apparent.


This study aimed to evaluate significant factors involved in an applicant’s residency program selection. A 12-question survey was sent between June 2020 and September 2020 to all first-year internal medicine residents in the United States (US) through an online national database of residencies using the Survey Monkey platform. We asked them to rank the most significant factors that enticed or deterred them from choosing a specific program. We also compared domestic with international medical graduate (IMG) average ranked responses wherein differences were evaluated using an independent two mean samples t-test. The association between outcomes and predictors was analyzed using Pearson's correlation and chi-square analysis.


Out of 9,127 residents, 102 responded to the survey, which equaled a 1.11% response rate. The findings showed that the location, culture, and organization of a program are high-value factors for applicants. Salary, the number of cases seen, and friends near the residency location were not.

There are statistically significant differences between graduates of US medical schools and IMG applicants, with the former placing higher importance on the quality of life during residency. Male and female residents also have different priorities with the latter emphasizing program culture and work environment improvement.

Residents who chose programs based on academic competitiveness also placed significance on the prestige of the program (r = 0.418, P < .001), program organization/structure (r = 0.3, P = .006), fellowship match rate (r = 0.307, P = .006) and word of mouth (r = 0.520, P < .001). Residents who chose programs based on program culture also put an emphasis on the perceived happiness of the residents (r = 0.450, P = 0.001), and work-life balance (r = 0.359, P = .004).


Programs can attract stronger applicants if they emphasize modifiable factors that are important to potential residents.