The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unique challenges to the delivery of undergraduate medical education, particularly for current third-year medical students who are preparing to apply to residency. In mid-March, medical schools suspended all clinical rotations for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. As such, third-year medical students may not be able to complete sufficient clinical experiences to make important career choices before they have to submit their residency applications. While the decision to suspend clinical rotations was necessary to protect students, specialty organizations and residency programs must mitigate the deficits in students' clinical education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this Perspective, the authors identify potential challenges for third-year medical students and advocate for solutions to improve the residency application process for students and programs. First, they propose delaying the date that programs can access applicant data through the Electronic Residency Application Service, thereby affording students more time to complete clinical experiences, solidify their specialty decision, and strengthen their residency application. Second, the authors recommend a restriction on the number of visiting rotations that students are expected to complete to allow for a more equitable distribution of these important experiences. Third, they suggest that program directors from each specialty agree on a maximum number of applications per applicant (based on historical data) to curb an upsurge in applications that may stem from the unique circumstances created by COVID-19 without causing applicants undue stress. Lastly, the authors advocate that residency programs develop infrastructure to conduct video-based interviews and engage students through virtual networking events. Amidst the unique environment created by COVID-19, the authors urge governing bodies, specialty organizations, and residency programs to consider these recommendations to improve the efficiency and reduce the stress surrounding the 2021 Match.
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