More Is More: Drivers of the Increase in Emergency Medicine Residency Applications

Author Department

Emergency Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Introduction: The average number of applications per allopathic applicant to emergency medicine (EM) residency programs in the United States (US) has increased significantly since 2014. This increase in applications has caused a significant burden on both programs and applicants. Our goal in this study was to investigate the drivers of this application increase so as to inform strategies to mitigate the surge.

Methods: An expert panel designed an anonymous, web-based survey, which was distributed to US allopathic senior applicants in the 2017-2018 EM match cycle via the Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine and the Emergency Medicine Residents Association listservs for completion between the rank list certification deadline and release of match results. The survey collected descriptive statistics and factors affecting application decisions.

Results: A total of 532 of 1748 (30.4%) US allopathic seniors responded to the survey. Of these respondents, 47.3% felt they had applied to too many programs, 11.8% felt they had applied to too few, and 57.7% felt that their perception of their own competitiveness increased their number of applications. Application behavior of peers going into EM was identified as the largest external factor driving an increase in applications (61.1%), followed by US Medical Licensing Exam scores (46.9%) - the latter was most pronounced in applicants who self-perceived as "less competitive." The most significant limiter of application numbers was the cost of using the Electronic Residency Application Service (34.3%).

Conclusion: A substantial group of EM applicants identified that they were over-applying to residencies. The largest driver of this process was individual applicant response to the behavior of their peers who were also going into EM. Understanding these motivations may help inform solutions to overapplication.