Applying to too many programs. According to Dr. Aaron, the current philosophy for students is to “apply a lot, apply broadly, and keep what you get.” Unfortunately, this can put some students at a disadvantage to match. “More students are being encouraged to apply to 60 to 80 programs, rather than their top 20 or 30,” she said. (Per Dr. Chang, in 2015, applicants submitted a mean all-time high of 64.5 applications per applicant, the equivalent of applying to 60% of otolaryngology programs.) “So a select few applicants go to their top choices, but the other choices they selected don’t get the opportunity to interview applicants who could have potentially matched.”
Explore this issue:June 2018
Additional requirements for otolaryngology applicants. To try to encourage selectivity among applicants, otolaryngology added other requirements, including a customized personal statement paragraph for each program (now optional) and the Otolaryngology Resident Talent Assessment (ORTA), a phone-based pre-interview survey to assess personality traits.
“About the time the paragraph was introduced, applications did go down, but it’s hard to know whether the paragraph was really a factor,” said Dr. Schaitkin. “Most program directors didn’t think it had a big impact—most applicants didn’t write a unique paragraph for each residency program.
“We need to change the narrative that an otolaryngology match is unattainable. Mentors should offer students specific information on what they’ll need to match, rather than telling them they just shouldn’t apply to otolaryngology. —David R. Lee, MD
Although these concerns are valid, otolaryngology is still a highly sought-after field. “We’re very fortunate that the caliber of the applicants we continue to receive is still excellent,” said Dr. Gray.
“We need to change the narrative that an otolaryngology match is unattainable,” added Dr. Lee. “Mentors should offer students specific information on what they’ll need to match, rather than telling them they just shouldn’t apply to otolaryngology.”
Now in its third year, Ohio State’s student-mentoring program is specifically geared toward first- and second-year medical students. “I think they’re very undifferentiated during those years. With our program, they’re at least aware of our specialty and understand the possibilities of a career in otolaryngology outside of the regular Ohio State curriculum,” said Dr. Elmaraghy.
The four-month program begins with reaching out to first- and second-year students early in the academic year through the school’s otolaryngology interest group and encouraging them to apply, with a stated area of interest (oncology, pediatric, etc.). These students are then “matched” with department mentors. Students are obligated to spend eight to 10 hours per month both in the operating room and clinic, and treated as part of the rotation. A series of lectures cover basic otolaryngology principles and career professionalism topics.