Skip to main content
You've made it through medical school and now it's time to apply for and be matched with a residency program. If you're feeling overwhelmed, that makes sense — these might be some of the most stressful months of your life so far. Now's the time to really sell yourself and your strengths and skills. But don't forget, you're also evaluating the program to see if it's a fit for you.

Here’s some advice from residents who’ve been in your shoes.

1. “Know Who You Are”

“You’re trying to find a program that will be your home for the next few years and that will help you follow your dreams,” says Ellen Snyder, a fourth-year resident in the University of Ottawa Public Health and Preventive Medicine program. Because of this, it’s really important to know who you are as a person and what your goals are. “Make sure you know yourself, your values, your aspirations and your quirks,” says Snyder. It’s also important to think about what type of learning environment will help you thrive and what kind of people help bring out the best in you. “Seek that out in your program.”

2. “Put Your Health First”

There’s a high risk of burnout at this stage of your life, says Julia Buthmann, a second-year family medicine resident at the University of Ottawa. “My number one piece of advice to students is to take care of your physical, mental and social well-being,” she says. In order to get through the whole process — from electives, to application, to interviews and then waiting to find out if you’ve been matched with a program — she recommends students seek the support of family, friends and classmates, and to schedule in exercise and downtime. “These activities shouldn’t wait until after CaRMs.”

3. “Harness Your Nerves”

When it comes to interviews, accept the fact that you are going to be nervous, suggests Jaylynn Arcand, a fourth year psychiatry resident at the University of Calgary. “Relaxing or calming down is not the goal before or during an interview. Because the interview is important to you, your heart is going to race and you’ll feel jittery no matter what,” she explains. “These are your body’s physical reactions to an important situation. They are not meant to get in the way of your goals — they are meant to energize you for the task at hand.”

She recommends candidates practice re-labeling these physical feelings as “excitement” rather than nervousness. “Once you do that, you no longer have to worry about hiding those reactions from interviewers because that excitement is exactly what you want to shine through!”

4. “Be the Kindest Version of Yourself”

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: “Be yourself.” Sofia Nene, a fourth-year geriatric medicine resident at McGill University takes that further. “Be yourself, but be the best, kindest version of yourself,” say Nene, who has also been on the other side of the table, as an interviewer. “Programs are looking for residents that they can work with for the duration of their residency — so it’s important to be yourself and let your personality shine through. Interviewers can tell when a candidate is over rehearsed or not genuine in their answers,” she says.

5. “Consider the Whole Package”

After your interviews, you’re going to have to rank the programs in order of preference. When doing that, Franco Rizzuti, a fourth-year Public Health & Preventive Medicine resident at the University of Calgary, says you should strongly consider the current residents in the program.

“Residency is more than just the training program, or the city, it is also about the people. Residency is a team sport, and your co-residents are going to become more than just colleagues, they will become your closest friends, and confidants,” he explains. When going through the interview process, get to know the residents, he suggests. “Getting to know these folks, and picturing if you see yourself ‘fitting’ with the group is an important consideration when developing your rank order list.”

Yes, CaRMS is a stressful time. But it’s also exciting – it will determine the course of your future. Stay true to yourself and you’ll make it through just fine.