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Category: Students


Student Resources


Preparing for Residency

Oh, the places you'll go!

A step-by-step guide to finding your ideal residency

Your classroom training and clinical rotations have prepared you for the next stage of your career. Now it's time to update your CV and explore residency programs.

Your final years of osteopathic medical school will include many milestones. You’ll complete rotations, conquer COMLEX-USA Level 2 and prepare to trade your short coat in for a longer version. You’ll also map the course of your future career by choosing a medical specialty and securing a residency training spot. It’s time to start preparing for residency.

Select an option below to learn more about the process of crafting a personal statement, searching for training slots, acing residency interviews and completing the Match.

Weave your personal story and unique experiences into an unforgettable application.

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CV & Personal Statement

'The Bachelor' meets med school? Not quite, but sort of. Here's how to succeed.

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Match: The Complete Guide

Search for an osteopathic medical internship or residency program.

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Finding a Residency

Prep for common questions and learn how to make a lasting impression.

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Residency Interviews


Prepping for COMLEX

Ready, Test, Go!

Your guide to COMLEX Levels 1 and 2

The COMLEX-USA is a three-level exam series that prepares you to obtain your medical license. Here's what you need to know.

All osteopathic medical students are required to pass COMLEX-USA Level 1 and Level 2 in order to graduate from osteopathic medical school. You’ll take the first level of the exam near the end of your second year of medical school. Typically, you’ll take Level 2-Cognitive Evaluation (CE) and Level 2-Performance Evaluation (PE) during your third or fourth year. You can take the two parts of the Level 2 exam in any order, but you must complete both before you can take Level 3 during your residency.



Rotation success

Making the most of your rotations

After hitting the books the first two years of medical school, it's time to begin applying that knowledge in a clinical setting.

Typically, you’ll complete three month-long clinical rotations and four eight-week clinical rotations over the course of your third year of medical school. Your college of osteopathic medicine will help you set up these rotations in core areas.

During your fourth year of medical school, you can complete elective rotations to try out specialties you’re considering for your residency training. Although not required, you also may set up an audition rotation, which is a two- to four-week residency program interview.


Medical School Timeline

DO in the Making

Your DO journey starts here

Map your path from day one of osteopathic medical school all the way through graduation and medical licensure.

Osteopathic medical students typically spend their first two years on campus, followed by two years completing clinical rotations before matching into residency training. Check out the medical school timeline below for important milestones and checkpoints you’ll pass on your way to becoming a DO, from COMLEX exams and clinical rotations to the residency Match and graduation.

Year 1: Getting started

June-August: Medical school begins

Welcome to medical school! As you get settled in, your first priority should be managing your schoolwork and figuring out which study strategies work best for you.

Join the AOA

Activate your free AOA student membership and consider joining the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA).

Bonus activities

Current medical students recommend getting involved in one or two activities outside the classroom that you find meaningful. Examples could include taking part in an ongoing volunteer or service project, serving in a leadership role, or pursuing involvement in research.

Create your CV

Create a CV that’s clear, concise, complete, consistently formatted and current.

Summer prep

Get an early start on mapping out how you’ll spend your summer. “The summer after your first year of medical school is a great opportunity to set yourself apart and pursue your interests through summer internships or research opportunities,” advises Kate de Klerk, OMS IV, president of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association.


Keep in mind that you’ll take the COMLEX Level 1 exam during your second year of osteopathic medical school. Many students recommend waiting until your second year begins to start preparing and studying, but it’s a good milestone to keep on your radar.

Year 2: Exam and rotation prep

COMLEX planning

Current students suggest you spend the first semester of second year getting familiar with COMLEX Level-1 study materials. During the second semester, you can create and carry out your study plan. The DO has tips on how to get started.


You’ll take COMLEX Level 1 between May and July, depending on your school’s timeline. If your school requires you to take the USMLE Step 1 exam, it’s typically given once you complete your second year.


Start getting ready for the COMLEX Level 2-CE and Level 2-PE exams, which you’ll take during your third and fourth years.

Peer learning

Gear up for clinical rotations by checking in with your school and third- and fourth-year students. You might ask for tips on learning in a clinical setting, rocking each of your rotations, and performing well on the subject-specific COMAT exams you’ll take throughout the year.

Year 3: Clinical rotations

Core rotations

During your third year, your school will arrange your core clinical rotations in family medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and emergency medicine.


Sign up to take COMLEX Level 2-CE and Level 2-PE during your third or fourth year.

Depending on your school’s timeline, you’ll likely take COMLEX Level 2-PE between January and October and COMLEX Level 2 CE in the summer between your third and fourth year of medical school.

Elective rotations

Once you’ve completed core rotations, take the next step by setting up elective rotations to try out specialties, care settings, and geographic regions for residency training consideration. You’ll be largely responsible for setting up your elective rotations. Get tips on securing a spot and getting the most out of your rotations.

CV Updates

Keep updating your CV, being sure to add successful rotation evaluations.

Choose a specialty

Start narrowing your specialty focus for residency. In late winter or early spring of your third year, set up your clinical rotations for fourth year.

Year 4: Building toward residency


Continue studying for COMLEX Level 2-CE and Level 2-PE, if you haven’t taken them already. You’ll need to pass both, plus COMLEX Level 1, to graduate from osteopathic medical school.

Finish your rotations

Continue completing your core and elective clinical rotations, and consider whether to set up audition rotations between summer and winter. Audition rotations aren’t required, but many fourth-year students complete them to make a positive impression on their top choice residency programs.

The Match

Learn more in our Match Guide. View the 2020 Match timeline here.

Manage your finances

Check out our financial tips on budgeting for fourth year, managing student loan repayment options once you start residency, and student loan forgiveness programs.


In May, give yourself a big pat on the back as you graduate from osteopathic medical school and embark on your residency training. Congratulations!

Get licensed

You’ll need to become licensed to practice in the state where your residency is located—and don’t forget to share your updated contact info with the AOA so you can stay connected to the osteopathic family.


Student Doctors

You're starting your journey toward becoming a DO. Our resources can help guide you through medical school and prepare for the next steps in your career.



As a medical student, you’re looking toward a bright future as an osteopathic physician. By choosing AOA Board Certification, you’ll be joining a proud tradition of medical excellence and commitment to patient-centered care. As one of two nationally-recognized credentials, AOA Board Certification provides a competitive advantage throughout your career and is valued by employers, insurers and patients. Check out the video below to learn more.