Frequently Asked Questions by MS1 & MS2 Students
Exposure to the field and creating positive relationships with radiation oncologists are very important. Doing an elective in Radiation Oncology, shadowing radiation oncologists, reviewing the American Society for Radiation Oncology website, and participating in a Radiation Oncology Interest Group all are valuable to pursue.
As Radiation Oncology is a highly competitive specialty, research is essential. Various types of research can be pursued; however, projects that have significant impact are most valuable. Recent data suggest that quality and quantity of research both will be helpful for applicants.
Research opportunities can be accessed through radiation oncologists who are involved with the medical school. In addition, the Scholarly Project office may have ideas and/or a list of radiation oncologists who would like medical students to be involved with their research.
Both of these experiences are helpful for one’s application. However, Step scores and research have more impact.
As Radiation Oncology is so competitive, the applicant should aim for a score above 250 on both Step I and Step II. With important research and other supporting credentials, applicants with lower Step I scores will likely be considered at some institutions as well.
Frequently Asked Questions by MS3 & MS4 Students
Letters should be requested by the summer before the September ERAS application deadline. It is beneficial to request a letter soon after working with a faculty member from whom a letter will be requested when the applicant’s work is fresh in the mind of that faculty member.
Three letters minimum and four is preferable.
When applying to Radiation Oncology, it is necessary to request letters of recommendation from faculty members who are not radiation oncologists. For example, faculty members who are not radiation oncologists, but know the applicant’s clinical and/or research skills well, are extremely valuable to write supporting letters.
This is institution dependent. A letter from a Chairman of Radiation Oncology who knows the applicant well would be beneficial. Similarly, if the applicant has worked with a well-known radiation oncologist, a letter from that person also would be very helpful to support the application.
Away rotations should be considered mandatory. Given the competitiveness of the field, 2-3 away rotations should be completed.
Information Specific to Radiation Oncology
Radiation Oncology currently is one of the most competitive specialties in the Match process. The specialty uses radiation to treat cancer predominantly, but some benign maladies as well. The residency is five years, including an internship that either may be separate, or part of the overall program, depending on the institution. Numerous post residency fellowships are available in Radiation Oncology. Away rotations are encouraged for medical students. ASTRO is the main Radiation Oncology Society that has valuable information for medical students.
Attesting to the competitiveness of Radiation Oncology is that for matched candidates, Step 1 scores are 245 or higher, while Step 2 scores are 250 or higher. Research activities, including presentations and publications, average 15 for matched candidates. Approximately 20% of those candidates who match have a PhD besides their MD, and about 33% are AOA in their class.