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Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Comprehensive Approach for Application to an Ophthalmology Residency

Comprehensive Approach for Application to an Ophthalmology Residency

by: Chris Watts, MD (written in his third year of ophthalmology residency)

The University of Iowa
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

July 28, 2011

While in medical school, medical students face an enormous challenge. The burden of clinical rotations, taking call, and the expectation to memorize and understand significant and complicated volumes of material can be exhausting. The cost of a medical education varies depending on private or public education, as well as location and cost of living, but the average medical student in the United States graduates with $156,456 US dollars in debt. [source: AAMC. Association of American Medical Colleges, Academic Affairs. 2009 Medical School Graduation Questionnaire. Available at]

At the end of medical school, students face the complicated decision of where to continue their training, as well as the additional costs of application and traveling for interviews. Navigating this process can be overwhelming, both mentally and financially.

If you are choosing ophthalmology as the area of medicine in which you hope to practice, the information below aims at offering a consolidated resource for guiding you thru this application process.

From the Resident Perspective

You are nearing the end of your third year of medical school, or are starting your 4th year, and have made the decision to apply for a residency in ophthalmology.

What next?

Common Questions:

1. Where can I find a comprehensive list of all the programs that have an ophthalmology residency?

The most comprehensive site listing all available residency programs is found at
The American Medical Association’s FRIEDA website:

Here all programs are listed by state and have links to each programs website and other useful information.

2. Where can I find the application for an Ophthalmology Residency?

The application for Ophthalmology Residency is done thru the SF Match (San Francisco Match). The application is known as the CAS application (Central Application Service). From here, you fill out one application that is then used and accepted by all Ophthalmology residency programs, and the SF Match will distribute this to the programs you wish to apply to.

The application is found at the SFmatch website.

3. When should I have the "CAS" application complete?

It is recommended that you have the application complete by no later than the end of August. This includes letters of recommendation.

Ophthalmology Residency falls under the "Early Match". This means interviews typically begin in October and are completed by December, and residents then match with their respective program in early January. Because Ophthalmology is "Early Match", you will find yourself applying much earlier than your fellow medical students choosing other areas to go in to.

4. Where and how do I apply for the Intern/Transitional Year?

As discussed above, Ophthalmology programs utilize the SF Match. However, hopeful applicants must still apply separately for their Intern or Transitional Year completed prior to starting an Ophthalmology residency.

To apply for the Intern/Transitional Year, the application and programs are done thru the NRMP (National Residency Matching Program) and American Association of Medical Colleges ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service).

Most Ophthalmology programs will automatically offer a spot as a categorical Intern at their affiliated hospital if accepted into their Ophthalmology residency. However, if you wish to complete your intern year in a separate location, you must apply separately thru the NRMP and ERAS applications.

5. How much will it cost to apply and interview for ophthalmology residency?

The cost will vary depending on a number of factors:

  • number of programs you apply to
  • number of interviews received and the cost to travel to these locations (plane, lodging, and rental car)

If your medical school has an ophthalmology residency, see if you can find a mentor to help give you advice on the strength of your application and suggest programs you would be competitive at. Depending on the strength of your application as well as other factors, it will guide how many programs you apply to and interview at.

Most medical students can expect to budget $5,000 to $10,000 for the application and subsequent traveling to interviews. This will vary largely on the cost and distance of travel with airfare being the greatest contributor.

Excellent Article to Read:

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips on residency application

Suggested citation format:

Watts C. Comprehensive Approach for Application to an Ophthalmology Residency. July 28, 2011. Available from:

last updated: 07-28-2011

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See Related: The Iowa Guide to the Ophthalmology Match (updated 7-15-2013)