Dual Application

Students apply to residency programs in more than one specialty, called dual application, every year for a variety of reasons. Dual applying requires extra preparation, organization, and consultation with different advisors. Plan for additional time to complete a dual application.

Why would I consider dual applying? 

Reasons may include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  1. You are interested in two or more specialties and need more time to decide  
  2. You are not as competitive for your primary specialty choice and need a parallel plan in a second specialty in which you will be a more competitive applicant  
    • Planning ahead will only work to your benefit
    • SOAP gives you much less control over backup options; during SOAP, decisions are made in hours instead of days/months
  3. You need to stay in a particular geographic area and are willing to work in either specialty in order to do so 

A parallel plan is a way of making progress in two different specialties of interest so that if one does not work out, you have not fallen behind. In a parallel plan, you value both specialties that you are pursuing.

  • These are not backup plans

Parallel plans are based on your individual needs and goals, so they will differ for everyone. You can speak with your career advisor to explore different options. Once you have chosen a plan, work with your career advisor and specialty advisors on developing the right strategies to keep you on track for your parallel plan.

Pursuing a parallel plan keeps you on track in case it needs to become your main plan:
  • allows you to dual apply when you decide to apply to both specialties for residency
  • optimizes your opportunity to secure residency training while allowing you to still pursue your primary specialty, particularly if your desired specialty choice is competitive

Subsequently, your alternative specialty should be a specialty for which you are strongly competitive. When identifying a secondary specialty, determine a field you would be happy in and aligns with your desired personal and professional goals and values.

Parallel planning involves putting in a strong effort for both specialties:

It is common to parallel plan throughout medical school, even starting as early as the Foundations Phase. The earlier you parallel plan, the better.

As you gain more information about your level of competitiveness compared to the competitiveness of your preferred specialty, you can evaluate if you need to enact your parallel plan by dual applying to both specialties, or only applying to your alternative specialty.

Know that the options available in March as part of the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAPare minimal at best. Several of the commonly applied to specialties may not have any positions available in SOAP. 

During SOAP, decisions need to be made in hours instead of days/months. SOAP gives you much less control over backup options.

  • Planning ahead will only work to your benefit

 

Dual Applying to Residency Programs

You may consider dual applying at any time. Finalizing this decision is dependent on:

  • having a full understanding of your competitiveness related to your specialty of interest (i.e. 3rd-year clinical grades, Step 2 CK, grades in your specialty rotations)
  • consulting with your Career Advisor or Specialty Career Advisor

We suggest that you not overly broadcast your intentions to dual apply. You may speak with Career Advising about dual applying, and we encourage you to ask us for guidance about how to speak with the Specialty Career Advisors about your dual application intentions. 

If you decide to dual apply you should do this by the residency application deadline date
  • Waiting to put together a dual application until after residency programs download applications increases the likelihood that residency programs will not review your (late) application.

The main differences when putting together your residency applications:

  • you will need to write two personal statements – one for each specialty
  • you will likely need to request additional letters of recommendation
  • you will need to create two program lists – one for each specialty
Personal Statements

For the personal statements, be sure to clearly designate for which specialty each personal statement is intended. This will help you keep your application materials organized and avoid sending the wrong statement to the wrong program.

Letters of Recommendation 

Carefully consider who you will ask to write your letters for the two specialties. You are striving for letters that will best support your application in both fields. Some letter writers will be willing to write for both disciplines. Others will not. Be prepared to ask several writers to write your respective letters. 
 
If your letter writers are willing to write two versions of the letter, one for each specialty, it is absolutely critical that you designate which specialty the letter is intended for. In ERAS, you do this through the Letter of Recommendation Portal (LoRP).

  • When residency programs download your materials they will not be able to see how you designated your letters. However, you will be able to view this information and it will help you when you need to assign your letters of rec to your specific application.

The number of programs to apply to for each specialty will vary by the competitiveness of the specialty and your respective competitiveness within that specialty. Meet with Career Advising and your Specialty Career Advisors to discuss your application strategies.

We encourage you to speak with Career Advising (Tonja Brown, Linh Ngo, and Sarah Thomson) first before speaking with your Specialty Career Advisor(s) about your specific application strategy.

Some departments are supportive of students dual applying. Others want to hear that you are 100% committed to their specialty. Others fall somewhere in between.

Career Advisors know the views of the various departments toward dual application and can advise you accordingly.

Since you may be interviewing for two specialties, block out preferably 8 weeks or longer (if you can still meet graduation requirements with this amount of time allotted), for an interview season.

  • Typically the lesser competitive specialties extend interviews earlier in interview season. Accept and schedule these interviews as soon as you are contacted.
  • When you are contacted by the more competitive specialty, you can cancel conflicting interviews.

Canceling interviews needs to be handled so that it does not negatively affect your future opportunities or opportunities for future UW applicants.

  • If residency programs feel that you have not been appropriately respectful and professional in canceling an interview this can have severe long-term impacts for future students.
  • UWSOM has received letters, emails, and phone calls from programs about students who have made late cancellations.
  • Connect with your advisors who can help you go about it the right way.

Know each of your applications very well and have specific explanations that address the parallel planning that will most likely be observed in your application. It is considered unethical for interviewers to ask if you are dual applying, but some may still do so. We recommend that you not disclose your dual application status.

Take time to thoroughly research each specialty and prepare for each interview. Students going through the dual application process often find clarity about their specialty preference by participating in interviews for both specialties. After figuring out their preferences, they may choose to move forward with interviewing in only one specialty and cancel interviews in the other. Please consult with Career Advising and your Specialty Career Advisor before you cancel interviews.

Canceling interviews needs to be handled appropriately so that it does not negatively affect your future opportunities or opportunities for future UW applicants.

  • If residency programs feel that you have not been appropriately respectful and professional in canceling an interview this can have severe long-term impacts for future students.
  • UWSOM has received letters, emails, and phone calls from programs about students who have made late cancelations.
  • Connect with your advisors who can help you go about it the right way.

Students who are dual applying may apply to both specialties at the same institution. Applying to two different specialties in the same hospital can prove awkward, and no program director wants to feel as though their program is a backup option.

  • If students are offered interviews in both specialties at the same institution, most of the time, they choose to interview with only one of them.

There are strategies to consider when putting together your rank order lists.

Knowing that the NRMP Match data is based on contiguous ranks in the primary specialty, students may decide to:

  • list all of their primary specialty programs first, and then all of their secondary specialty programs after
  • or, because of program preferences, may decide to break up their contiguous ranks and prioritize a certain number of programs in the secondary specialty over others in their primary specialty.

Talk with your advisor about your rank order list strategy before submitting.