This very competitive specialty requires a great deal of planning for success in the Match. Medical students need to work hard throughout all 4 years to achieve the best academic record possible. Earn stellar grades in all of your classes and rotations (especially the surgical ones!), because many competitive programs screen out candidates who have not been elected to AOA. Meaningful research projects, especially in orthopedics, can look very good on your application and will boost your credentials. Programs really put a lot of emphasis on having high board scores, so it is important to do well on the USMLE Step I. Although there is no magic number for making the cut for an interview, aim for a ballpark range around 230.
Orthopedic surgery is one specialty in which it is almost mandatory for students to complete as many well-planned audition rotations at other hospitals as possible. You must work your butt off and shine (without being annoying). Many applicants with less-than-stellar credentials can maximize their chances of matching by impressing the program director with hard work during a subinternship. Most students send out upward of 40 applications. Candidates should submit three to four letters of recommendation, which are typically the most important part of the application. At the minimum, two should be from orthopedic surgeons who know you well, especially if he or she happens to be the program director or departmental chairperson at your medical school. Avoid sending letters from nonsurgical specialties like pediatrics, psychiatry, or internal medicine.
The personal statement should be brief, concise, and honest. Discuss what makes you unique and how you came to choose orthopedic surgery, but leave out any poetry or quotations and do not mention your parents if they are also orthopedic surgeons. Avoid listing personal inquiries as a reason for career choice. Around the time of assembling rank lists, have your advisor or chairperson make calls on your behalf if possible. After all, being proactive and using connections may sometimes make or break your chances at matching at a first-choice program.
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