The first one or two months of your fourth year (early to mid-summer) should mark the official beginning of your residency campaign. Now is the time to start thinking about the nitty-gritty of how to apply, where to apply, and what you will include in your application. If you are at this stage, you must make sure that you register for the Americal Urological Association (AUA) Match. Logistically this is painless, costs $75, and you can register right now by clicking on this link. You will get a match number a few weeks after you register. Additionally, this is a reasonable time to register for the NRMP match (the primary match for all of your non-early match friends). Nearly every Urology program requires you also go through the NRMP match (though this is merely a formality), and doing so by December 1st saves you an extra $50. You may also wait until after you have matched to find out whether your program requires you to go through the formality of the NRMP match, however, you will end up paying the extra $50 if they do. There is no longer any need to ask programs to send you brochures, as all of their information is now on the web. However, for non-ERAS programs (there are fewer and fewer of these every year), you need to contact the programs directly in order to receive an application.
The Urology application is a lot like medical school applications, but, for the most part, significantly easier. Urology is part of the ERAS system, which means you write only one essay, fill out your basic resume information, and your application is basically complete. The resume part of ERAS--in which you list activities, research, and other interests--is generally straightforward. List anything you think a residency might think is interesting and that you wouldn't mind talking about during your interview. Some interviewers won't read this, but some will; at one point in time or another, you will be asked about every piece of information on your application. People love to hear about interesting non-academic things, so don't forget these. Also, don't forget about any research you have done, papers you have published, or any awards or honors. There is some debate over whether to list all your posters and abstracts--if this is an issue for you, it is a good one to bring up with your advisor. In general, if the work pertains to urology it is reasonable to list everything, otherwise, a sample of your posters and abstracts may be sufficient. You don't want to seem like you are padding your application.
The most difficult part of your ERAS application is the personal statement. Allow yourself plenty of time to write this essay--it is not trivial to present yourself in one written page. And people will actually read this: probably only half of your interviewers at most, but certainly the program director and chairman will give it a good read. Numerous questions will come from your personal statement, and it truly is your way of introducing yourself. Set specific goals for what you want to get across. Why did I choose Urology? What do I bring to Urology? Why will I be a good Urologist? What are my career goals? Of course, you can't truly answer those questions and give an impression of who you are all in a single captivating page. In general, it's a good idea to keep it simple--remember your audience consists of busy academic urologists--and try to throw in something interesting (preferably early on) that makes it readable. As always, you can't overrate having a good introduction, and keep it under one page single-spaced. Know that some programs will rate your personal statement, which will then be factored into an overall score.
The next question is how many programs to apply to. Broadly speaking, 10 is probably too few and 40 may be too many. That said, AUA statistics reveal that, over the past several years, applicants are applying to an average of 39-41 programs! This is up from five years ago, no doubt due to the adoption of ERAS among Urology residencies. And if you don't believe these numbers, take a look at this 2006-2007 UrologyMatch poll. Remember, however, that these numbers include the people who applied to all 111 programs in the country--and there are definitely those individuals out there. In general, applying to 30-35 programs (at most) that are within your competitive range should be sufficient. Obviously, a large portion of people do not match each year, however, it is questionable whether applying to 60 schools truly helps those on the bubble. Our advice: no more than 35 applications and concentrate your efforts on those! But no matter how great an applicant you are, make sure you send out some applications to programs not considered to be top-tier. You need to have "safety" programs, because you never know what is going to happen, and it is certainly an incredibly competitive process.
Finally, once you have your application finished, get it sent off. It is a very good idea to be on the early side of things. Early September is when you can first send off your application, and you should definitely have it in by mid-September. Many programs offer interviews on a rolling basis, and it may be somewhat easier to garner an interview early rather than late. Not to mention the fact that you will have more flexibility with scheduling if you are getting interviews earlier than other applicants. Also, several programs have a mid-September deadline for receiving applications, and nearly all are due by the end of September. These deadlines include your ERAS application and letters of recommendation, but not your Dean's letter since that does not get sent until November 1.