Original Research

Dermatology Residency Applications: Correlation of Applicant Personal Statement Content With Match Result

Author and Disclosure Information

The personal statement is a narrative written by an applicant to residency programs to discuss his/her interests and express his/her personality, but it is unclear how the personal statement impacts the dermatology residency application process. The aim of this study was to analyze personal statements from applicants to a dermatology program at a major academic institution to identify common themes and determine if certain themes were associated with successful matching. All personal statements submitted to the dermatology residency program at UNC School of Medicine (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) during the 2012 application cycle (N=422) were analyzed to identify 9 common themes of content. Certain themes differed in prevalence between matched and unmatched applicants. Further investigation is needed to elucidate the impact of personal statement themes and other application content on the residency selection process.

Practice Points

  • The most common themes discussed in applicant personal statements include personal accomplishments/attributes and positive qualities of dermatology.
  • Presentation of dermatologic cases was more prevalent in personal statements of matched applicants.
  • Name-dropping was more common among unmatched applicants.


 

References

The personal statement is a narrative written by an applicant to residency programs to discuss his/her interests. It is one of the few places in the residency application process where applicants can express their personalities.1 Applicants believe the personal statement is an important opportunity to distinguish themselves from others, thus increasing their chances of successful matching, particularly in competitive specialties.1,2

Dermatology is a highly competitive specialty, with 614 medical students applying for 440 total dermatology positions in 2016.3 According to the results of the 2016 National Resident Matching program director survey, 82% (27/33) of dermatology program directors reported that the personal statement was a factor in selecting applicants to interview. Furthermore, dermatology program directors, on average, rated personal statements as more important than the Medical Student Performance Evaluation/Dean’s Letter, US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 2 scores, and class ranking/quartile.4

Prior studies have sought to evaluate the impact of personal statements on the application process. A 2014 study of personal statements submitted by dermatology residency applicants found that the prevalence of certain themes differed according to match outcome.5 However, some of the conclusions drawn in this study were not supported by the reported results or were based on low numbers of participants. The purpose of our study was to examine personal statements from applications to a dermatology program at a major academic institution. This study identified common themes in personal statements, allowing for an analysis of their association with successful matching into dermatology.

Methods

All applications to the dermatology residency program at UNC School of Medicine (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) during the 2012 application cycle (N=422) were eligible. All submitted personal statements (N=422) were included with all personal identifiers removed prior to analysis. The investigator (D.S.M.) was blinded to other Electronic Residency Application Service data and match outcome.

The investigator initially reviewed a small, randomly selected subset of 20 personal statements to identify characteristics and common themes. The investigator then analyzed each of the personal statements to quantify the frequency of each theme. All personal statements submitted to the dermatology residency program at UNC School of Medicine were analyzed in this manner. Dermatology match outcomes for each applicant were confirmed later using dermatology program websites.

Differences in the prevalence of common themes between matched and unmatched applicants were calculated. Analysis of variance tests were used to determine if the differences in prevalence were statistically significant (P≤.05).

Next Article: