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How do "connections"/networking work?
Looking at the residencies that set graduates up for research-heavy academic careers, it seems the majority of residents come from top medical schools. While this doesn't bar other students from these spots, I am curious how networking can possibly improve one's chances. I feel like *all* gunners are going to try to kiss ass to whatever their top choice program is (even before subI) and it will be pretty difficult to stick out among others if your top choice is one of the top programs. 

Am I wrong about this? Can anyone provide examples of how they managed to get leverage a connection(s) for a residency position at a top/academic program?
I think pedigree helps by guaranteeing you serious consideration during rank meetings. The biggest challenge for applicants is standing out in a sea of 50-75 highly qualified people; if a well known chair has vouched for you, odds are the higher ups in the department will know who you are and will seriously consider you. Regarding the benefit of networking, it’s really the same thing, if you are able to effectively schmooze with faculty during a visit (easier said than done) you are less likely to be one of the anonymous candidates nobody really remembers. I think it’s much tougher this year without subIs and mostly zoom interviews, which is why programs will likely favor home applicants. It’s a shitty, flawed process, but it’s all we have.

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