Parallel Planning & Dual Application

Parallel Planning

A parallel plan is a way of planning in two specialties with different levels of competitiveness. Starting as an MS1, all students start to identify at least two specialties of interest with different levels of competitiveness.

Students will carry their parallel plans through to the early part of 4th year, when they will be better able to assess, in consultation with their Specialty Career Advisor, their level of competitiveness for their chosen specialty.

Parallel planning ensures you have a strong application and Match strategy. Your Specialty Career Adviser will advise you if you should consider a dual application in your secondary, less competitive specialty as a strategy to increase your likelihood of matching.

Your secondary specialty should be a specialty for which you are competitive in the Match. When identifying a secondary specialty, determine a field you would be happy in that aligns with your personal and professional goals, interests, and values.

A parallel plan:
  • keeps you on track for residency application and Match in case you may need to dual apply with a secondary, less competative specialty
  • optimizes your opportunity to secure residency training while pursuing your primary specialty, particularly if your primary specialty is competitive

Starting as an MS1, all students start to identify at least two specialties of interest with different levels of competitiveness.

As you progress through your clinical rotations and board exams you gain more information about your level of competitiveness compared to that of your primary specialty. You will evaluate your level of competitiveness with your Specialty Career Advisor so you know if you may need to enact your parallel plan by applying to both specialties (dual apply).

Parallel planning involves building a clear plan for two specialties:

For students who go unmatched, the options available in March as part of the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) are minimal at best. Many specialties may not have any positions available in SOAP and so the majority of students need to apply to a one-year Preliminary program or switch specialties.

SOAP is a very stressful process as decisions need to be made in hours instead of days/months. You have limited control over training options.

Dual Application

Some students will apply to residency programs in more than one specialty, and this is called dual application. Dual application requires extra preparation and consultation with different advisors. Plan for additional time to complete a dual application.

Why would I consider dual applying? 
    1. You are not as competitive in your primary specialty and your Specialty Career Advisor has recommended you enact your parallel plan by applying to a second, less competitive specialty in which you will be a more competitive applicant.  
    2. You are interested in two specialties and need more time to decide.  
    3. You are trying to stay in a particular geographic area and are open to training in either of the two specialties to do so.


Dual Applying to Residency Programs

Your Specialty Career Advisor (SCA) will assess your level of competitiveness and risk level in the Match and advise whether you should consider a dual application in a lesser competitive specialty to reduce your risk of going unmatched.

Please meet with your Career Advisor to discuss dual application. They can help you in these areas:

  1. Your SCA has recommended you consider dual application
  2. You are considering dual applying as a strategy for gathering more information and having more time to make your specialty decision
  3. Considerations related to if and how you should speak with your Specialty Career Advisors about dual application intentions

If you decide to dual apply you need both applications ready 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 application.

The main differences when putting together a dual application compared to applying to one specialty:

  • depending on the specialties, you may need to apply in two different application systems
  • two personal statements – one for each specialty
  • two sets of letters of recommendation – both specialties
  • two program lists – one for each specialty
  • two sets of program signals, if applicable
  • Personal Statements

Clearly designate in the application system 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 each specialty. Some letter writers may be willing to write for both specialties. Be prepared to ask several writers to write your letters.
If your letter writers are willing to write two versions of their letter, one for each specialty, it is critical that you designate which specialty the letter is intended for. 

Residency programs do not 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.

When you interview in two specialties, you will need a longer interview season. Try to block out at least 8 weeks, longer is preferable. (if you can still meet graduation requirements with this amount of time allotted).

Refer to the Specialty Guides and TexasSTAR Match Data so you know when interviews are offered and conducted. Accept and schedule all interviews you receive. Do not start canceling interviews before you talk with your Specialty Advisor about the right timing.

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 long-term negative impacts for future students.

Connect with your advisors who can help you go about this process the right way.

Know each of your applications very well. Take time to research each program 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. As you come to a decision and consider canceling interviews, please consult with Career Advising and your Specialty Career Advisor before doing so.

It is a Match violation 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.

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 individual program preferences, may decide to break up their contiguous ranks and prioritize some programs in the secondary specialty over others in their primary specialty

Talk with your Career Advisor about your rank order list strategy before submitting.