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My Five Tips for Your USMLE Journey – Dr. Rajat Dhand

MATCHED (2020 Match)

SUNY Upstate; Internal Medicine


STEP 1: 258

STEP 2 CK: 252

STEP 2 CS: Passed on 1st attempt

STEP 3: 231

YOG: 2015

Non-US IMG (Attended a government medical college in India)

Timeline Explained

Worked in a variety of jobs since the completion of medical college. I started my USMLE journey in early 2017. Got done with Step 1 and CK six months apart. I was scheduled to fly after CK for Step 2 CS in 2018 but the Visa got rejected and the timeline got thrown off by a year due to long wait periods for CS and visa.

I went ahead in early 2019 and took step CS. I completed one observership and came back home and then went for two more observerships right before applying for the match. Took step 3 between interviews and passed.

Advice for Aspirants; My Five Points

I’ll briefly share a few of my insights, which might help you tackle your situation better. Everyone has different challenges. Remember, no single formula works for everyone. The key is to keep an open mind and do what works best in your case.

  1. Spend time and energy on understanding the entire process, right from taking your steps, getting US experience in the form of electives or observerships, researching programs, and applying. This is best done at the start of the journey, so you have a mental plan of when you’d complete the various steps of the journey.
  2. Investing time and energy in getting an above-average score is a good idea if you are yet to take your exams. I say this because throughout the process I came across many excellent people who lost confidence just because they didn’t have a score of their choice. If you’re already done with the exams and don’t have the scores of your choice, its best to focus on making other parts of your application strong, such as USCE, LORs, research, networking, and personal statement. Just a word of caution here. Getting a good score doesn’t automatically imply that you will match into a good program or will match at all. At the most it can get you interviews. You still need to develop good interviewing skills and a well-rounded CV to match the program of your choice.
  3. Networking is a critical part of the whole process. Very often, you’ll have random people helping you out throughout this journey, in small or big ways. On a similar note, don’t shy away from helping as many people as you can, even if it’s something small and seemingly inconsequential. In the bigger scheme of things, everything adds up to you. Also, make sure you stay in touch with these people as much as possible.
  4. Please take your rotations seriously, particularly if you’re an IMG, and will possibly get very limited experience in the US. Whether it be a clerkship or an observership, go each day with the intent to learn and help to the best of your capacity, without being nosy. Go well-read, well-groomed, and well dressed every day, smelling nice if you can, and behave professionally. If you do all this, you stand a better chance of getting higher evaluations and strong LORs from the rotation. In the long run, this is good preparation for the interviews as well.
  5. Interviews are the final checkpoint of your control over this journey. The interview period is relatively taxing because of the sheer amount of traveling involved. Plan your travel smartly and travel light. It’s a good idea to have a home base where you can return after you complete a few interviews. Also, take care of your health! Eat healthy whenever possible, maintain hydration and sleep. I would take naps at the airports between flights, although I wouldn’t advise doing so if you’re a heavy sleeper (or snorer).

These are just some basic tips I could think of at the top of my head. Good luck!


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Dr. Rajat Dhand

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