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Succeeding as a Urology Applicant in the American Urological Association Match

If you are thinking of a career in Urology, the first step is to find a mentor within the urology department at KU. We can help by reviewing your interest, your fit, and your academic readiness.

A couple of general online tools:

If you are reading this as a 1st year medical student and are already looking to your future career in Urology, kudos to you for committing to a great specialty early! Now, save this article and get to work achieving high academic marks, finding a urologic mentor, and becoming a well-rounded doctor.

If you are reading this as a 2nd year medical student or a during a research sabbatical, again, this guide will be useful very soon, so keep up the good foundational work described above.

If you are a 3rd year medical student reading this then you are the target audience, and you have the opportunity to make many strategic moves to position yourself as a desired candidate.

If you are a 4th year medical student reading this article, don't despair. Let this guide reassure you that you have a viable plan in place. Adjust as needed for your specific situation and stage of the process.

For anyone interested in urology, I highly recommend that you first visit the American Urological Association's (AUA) webpage on the AUA Match and familiarize yourself with the timeline of events. This can be very helpful in helping your plan your 3rd and 4th year medical school rotations.

After familiarizing yourself with the match cycle, review the timeline* below and adapt the recommendations to your stage of training.

*This timeline assumes a 4 year medical school experience. With some modifications, this information can be adapted to MD/PhD programs, extended track students, foreign medical graduates, or to second time applicants.


Summer/Fall of your 3rd Year of Medical School

  • Focus on 4 primary domains in your 3rd year to prepare for the match in your 4th year:
    • Academic Excellence
      • Commit to a plan for success on ALL clerkships. Utilize the entire clerkship to study. Don’t wait until the end and procrastinate.
      • Utilize the USMLE World question bank to work questions to practice for your SHELF exam. Talk to 4th year medical students or residents on your rotation about the best reference texts for each clerkship
      • Doing well on Pediatrics and Psychiatry may not seem integral to success as a Urologist, but the better your overall transcript, the more programs that will be in your reach.
      • Develop a study plan and timeline for taking and crushing Step 2 of the USMLE. Taking this early enough for your score to be available for the application cycle is more important if your Step 1 score is near the national mean or lower. Some advise deferring Step 2 until later in your 4th year if you have an exceptional Step 1 score. This is an individualized choice that may be influenced by your medical school’s rules on when you must sit for the exam.
    • Research
      • Some programs value this more than others. You are more likely to get an interview at most academic programs if you have substantial research on your CV
      • Most successful Urology applicants have completed basic science, translational, or clinical research in at least one urologic focused project
      • Don’t neglect or abandon current research activities, as these are still pertinent for your application, but urologic research indicates a commitment to advancing the field
      • Contact your home department’s program director or research coordinator and politely inquire about getting involved in research.
    • Building up your Curriculum Vitae
      • Most important items:
        • 3rd year of medical school grades and USMLE Step 1 Score
        • Performance on surgical clerkship
        • Leadership Activities
        • Research
        • Extracurricular Activities
        • Alpha Omega Alpha: very helpful, although not essential to matching. Historically, approximately 25-40% of matched applicants are AOA members
    • Urologic Knowledge Base
      • Start reading the basics now. The American Urological Association has an excellent medical student curriculum with interactive modules and reviews on common urologic diagnoses and treatments. Aim for 100% coverage of this material by the end of your third year.
      • Attend your home department’s didactic conferences or grand rounds if possible. This allows you to get to know people in the department before your sub-internship. Research or even operating room opportunities can often manifest from your presence at conference
      • Download the American Urological Association Guidelines at a glance app for your smartphone and start learning evidence based care of urologic problems.
      • Order Wieder’s Pocket Guide to Urology. This is the most concise pocket reference for the young urologist.
      • Master Genitourinary and abdominal anatomy
        • I recommend Netter’s Anatomy for fundamental review
        • Utilize Hinman’s Atlas of Urologic Surgery to prepare for operative cases
  • Begin reading Campbell-Walsh Urology. This seminal 4-volume text is available in most medical school libraries. Focus on chapters dedicated to anatomy, genitourinary physiology, imaging, and diagnosis and management of the most common urologic disorders.
  • Begin reviewing Smith’s Urology

Winter/Spring of your 3rd Year of Medical School

  • General Goals
    • Continue to excel as a 3rd year student!
    • Begin to plan meticulously for your urology sub-internships, away rotations, and the interview cycle and match
  • Visiting Student Rotations/Sub-internships (“Away Rotations”)
    • Things to consider when choosing where to go on an away rotation.
      • Number of rotations to take (most students do at least 2).
      • Would I want to live here?
        • Do not go on an away rotation to a program that you would not want to attend for residency.
        • You have the highest chance of matching at either your home program, a program with which you have regional ties, or one of your away rotations.
      • Region
        • Urology has a strong regional bias. If you want to get outside of your home region for residency you should highly consider doing an away rotation in the region/section in which you are interested.
        • If there is a specific program that you are highly interested it is most likely a good idea to do an away rotation there.

Early Summer of your 4th Year of Medical School

  • Registering for the The AUA Match
    • Registration usually opens in June
    • Registering for the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)
      • Registration also usually opens in June
      • ERAS acts as an electronic curriculum vitae to standardize applications for all programs.
      • Entering your activities, research, leadership, and personal statement is time consuming.
      • Start early and DO NOT wait until days or hours before the application opens in September, as this program is known to crash due to high traffic (from procrastinators) during this period.
      • Talk to your medical school’s career and academic counseling office for more best practices.
      • The ERAS Application typically opens in Mid-September and you will apply to your list of desired Urology programs through this service.
  • Personal Statement
    • Start early, write multiple drafts. Again, don’t procrastinate on this important piece of your application.
    • Have this ready and polished by the beginning of your sub-internship so that it is available for potential letter writers
    • Prepare in advance and enlist a writing expert or consultant to help you craft this most crucial piece of your application. Remember, this document represents you to all prospective interview committees.
    • Keep your story concise and focused      
    • Should be well written, minimally unique, but well thought and executed; 500-600 words
  • Home Rotation/Sub-internship
    • I highly recommend doing this rotation before setting out on away rotations if possible
    • Generally, your home rotation will be more intuitive as you should be familiar with things you likely take for granted such as getting around the medical center, navigating the EMR, the routine of your daily commute, etc.
    • Use your sub-internship to further familiarize yourself with common urologic problems and treatment
    • Seek out ALL opportunities to insert and manage catheters, perform small procedures, change dressings on rounds, etc. This will pay dividends down the road.
  • Visiting Student/Away Rotations
    • Do at least two
    • Every day is a job interview. Do not squander any days on your away rotation.
    • See below for specific tips for success
  • Things to do to succeed when on a Away Rotation
    • Work hard. Impress the faculty and residents.
    • Make sure to prepare for cases exhaustively by reading up on the pertinent clinical information (Wieders, Campbell-Walsh Urology, AUA Medical Student Curriculum) and the operation/anatomy (Hinman’s, Netter’s)
    • Reflect each day and take notes. Consider whether you like the program.
      •  Five to six years is a long time to spend somewhere that based upon name alone.
    • Research opportunities while on an away rotation
      • Getting involved in research at a program you are visiting is by no means essential, but it may be beneficial to seek out research opportunities.
      • You can contact the urology research coordinator ahead of time to ask about opportunities.
      • Remember you will have a lot going on each day and your clinical responsibilities will ultimately come first.
      • If you decide to undertake research make sure to complete it with careful and meticulous care. Establish a clear timeline with the principal investigator on when tasks should be completed
    • Secure letters of recommendation from key staff, including the chairperson.
      • Find out who you should contact to set up a meeting with the chair or anyone else from whom you would like a letter.
      •  Schedule this meeting during the first half of the rotation and plan to meet with pertinent faculty during the second half of the rotation
    • For more information on how to succeed on visiting student rotations, peruse the other articles on this topic (including mine) on this site!
  • Letters of Recommendation
    • General information
      • You should have three to four letters to submit for ERAS. All should be from urology faculty. Every other type is worthless in the AUA Match no matter how strong your relationship may be with the letter writer.
      • NEVER use a letter from someone who was not enthusiastic about writing the letter for you.
        • A mediocre letter from a well-known faculty member is less valuable than a stellar letter from someone else (within academic urology) that writes you an outstanding letter.
      • Ensure that letters will be strong by asking the letter writer, “Would you feel comfortable writing me a strong letter of recommendation?”
        •  Any answer less than a resounding yes should give an applicant pause about using that letter.
    • Letters from Away Rotations
      • Ideally, you should have garnered at least one high-quality letter of recommendation from each visiting student rotation (including Chair of department)
      • You will get to choose four letters to submit with your ERAS application, but understand that you can (and should) personalize the specific four letters you submit to each program. I recommend tailoring this choice by region and/or by other known existing networks.
        • For example, if the during your meeting with a chair at a visiting rotation,  the chairperson comments that they know a specific faculty member at your home institution and admires him or her, perhaps this is a better letter choice than someone else. 
        • Use your own discretion.

Fall of your 4th Year of Medical School

  • Interview offers
    • Interview offers will come via email. 
    • It is important to respond ASAP; spots are available on a first come first serve basis. 
    • Set a unique (even obnoxious) alert on your smart phone for emails and set your email to PUSH delivery so that the moment you get an interview offer you can respond.  
    • Many interview offers do not come out until after October 1. So don’t start freaking out too soon if you don’t hear from programs on September 16th after submitting your application on the prior day.
  • Contacting programs after submitting your application
    • Sometimes communicating with programs can help to get an interview or a spot off the waitlist.  Call or send an email to the program coordinator indicating your interest in the program.
      • Calling is probably more effective than emailing since it is hard to ignore.
      • I secured 2 interviews by calling the program coordinator at programs I was very interested in visiting; an interview offer followed only hours after my phone call
    • Timing of calls to programs
      • It is difficult to say when it is okay to do this.  I would recommend against calling before the programs submission deadline has closed.
      • You probably want to contact program within 2 weeks of offers being sent out from that program.
  • Pre- or Post- Interview Social gatherings
    • You have secured an interview. Now you actually get to visit.
    • Most programs have a social gathering with residents and perhaps some staff members (usually the night before).
    • The absence of a large proportion of the resident complement, or residents who seem to be closely moderated by staff during the event is likely a red flag.
    • You should try very hard to make this event, but it is not a necessity and due to travel constraints you may not be able to make it. Enjoy the time and learn about the program.
    • If you choose to imbibe, limit alcohol intake to two or fewer drinks. Use this time to gather information about the personality of the program to help discern if you are a good fit.
  • Interviews
    • If you make it to an interview, you have met the programs minimum requirements and at this point your application is finally in your hands (and words, and actions on interview day).
    • Practice and prepare (but don’t sound rehearsed).  Utilize mock interviews at your medical school if they are offered. Have a mentor interview you before you depart for the interview trail.
    • Look up information about the program ahead of time and know the landscape regarding where faculty trained, what regional or national committees they serve upon, or what major research or publications/guidelines they may have contributed to in recent years.
    • Sample interview questions on the AAMC website
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewers
    • One of the most common questions asked on interview day: “What questions do you have for me?”
        • Some interviews consist of ONLY THIS. Be Prepared.
      • Example Responses:
        • What brought you to this program and what has kept you here?
        • What qualities do you seen in your strongest residents?
    • View other sample questions
  • Be your self, be kind, and be humble. Programs want someone who is a team player and that they will enjoy working with for thousands of hours over the next five to six years.
    • Yes, thousands of hours.
  • If you have an updated curriculum vitae, take it along. Some faculty may be interested, but your application is usually sufficient. Take it and you will be prepared for the one interviewer who asks for a copy.
  • Keep track of your thoughts to help you with ranking programs. Make rubrics, spreadsheets, or just trust your instincts, but take a few notes for each program.

December/January of your 4th year of Medical School (Post-Interviews)

  • Post interview Contact and Second Looks
    • Thank you notes
      • Although thank you notes are not required, applicants may write post-interview thank you notes if they choose to do so.
      • Programs cannot respond to thank you notes written by applicants
    • Second looks
      • The Society of Academic Urology strictly prohibits requiring visiting rotations or mandating or offering second looks. Required rotations or visits and mandated second looks for consideration by a program to match with that program are over-burdensome for many applicants, unfair to all applicants and not in line with the SAU-AUA Match process
  • Submitting your Rank List
    • Remember the AUA Match Timeline and Deadlines
    • Rank only programs that you can imagine attending. You have to live with this decision for many years. However, if you want to be a urologist, you have to match.
    • Submit your list and be confident in your ability to discern the places that would be best for your training.
    • Celebrate! That was the most fun you hope you never have again.

Best of Luck!

Woodson Smelser, MD (KU Urology Chief Resident):
Moben Mirza, MD (KU Urology Program Director):
Casey Kowalik, MD (KU Urology Associate PD):

Last modified: Jan 30, 2020