In this post I’m going to discuss everything application related. ERAS stands for Electronic Residency Application Service. This is the site where you will apply for residency and upload all supplemental documents. I’m going to walk you through all the steps and provide advice & guidance. Just a friendly reminder, these are my tips and advice, I am by no means an expert and these are pointers based off of my personal experience. Always consult your school, because everyones experience will be different and you want to ensure you are setting yourself up for success!
So here it is:
- Initial meeting with your respective institution/Advising:
This process is long and can be very stressful, the first step before going on this wonderful journey is to have an initial meeting with your respective institution (they may have one huge meeting with all 4th years or separate ones). At these meetings they will provide an overview. My school had an initial meeting for all the 4th years to introduce us to everything and it was very overwhelming. Don’t worry, there will be more meetings and you will familiarize yourself with the entire process.
Next, depending on your school, there will be different faculty members in place to assist with different parts of your application (i.e., CV, MSPE, Personal Statement etc), make sure you seek out those individuals to help you complete these documents!
In addition, you want to find an advisor in your respective specialty. This person will help you navigate everything in the specialty you are going into. They will be able to provide advice on programs, look over your personal statement, give input on your desired programs and truly ensure your application is the best it can be to optimize your chances of snagging interviews.
2. Letters of Recommendation:
When choosing who your recommenders will be, it is important to choose individuals who will speak highly of you and write favorable letters of recommendation. You are going to waive your rights to view the letters which means you will not be able to see what they write which shouldn’t be a problem if you choose people to write strong letters.
Here are my tips for choosing the best recommenders:
-Choose individuals you have worked closely with, whether that’s in your specialty of choice or someone who you worked with closely in some capacity (i.e., community service project, faculty member from pre-clinical years, 3rd year clerkships, mentor, etc)
-Choose individuals who will agree to write a FAVORABLE letter. You need to make sure you say favorable or any words along that line, the last thing you want is someone to write you a letter that is not highlighting you the way they should be, because you chose a recommender who didn’t know you very well, who doesn’t have the time or who doesn’t really want to write the letter.
-You should choose at least 2-3 recommenders in your intended specialty to write a letter for you. Maybe reach out to 4-5 people just in case you have a few who can’t write them for you. Also if you are entering a specialty with a surgical subspecialty (i.e. if you are going into Ob/Gyn you may want to get a general surgeon to write one). This of course is dependent on which specialty you are going into, so look up what each program you are applying to and what each one is requesting and talk to your advisor. But the maximum letters you can upload to ERAS is 4 so that should give you an idea how many to request.
-You want to reach out to your letter writers as early as possible. The deadline to upload of course is September. You want to give them enough time because life happens; they may be super busy, because after all they are physicians that also wear many other hats. They may also be writing other applicants letters too. I would say if you can try and reach out to them 2-3 months in advance, that will give them adequate time to create an amazing letter for you. You can’t expect a great letter if you don’t give them a decent amount of time. I know 2-3 months may sound early but believe me that is a good amount of time, you can send gentle reminders along the way to them, but they do understand and know how important this is for you and will make sure to submit it, but it never hurts to remind them! 🙂
-This varies among specialties, but some require a letter from the department chair person, just check in with your institution as well as specialty advisor to see if this is a requirement for you.
Next, here are my tips on what to provide to your letter writers to assist in them writing your letter:
- Updated CV
- Personal statement-this doesn’t have to be the final draft since you will be requesting your letter writers pretty early and you may not have your final draft, but at least provide them with something and if you want to send an updated version later that is fine too.
- Transcript- This is up to you, I didn’t personally provide mines because my letter writers didn’t feel as if they needed it because they had so many other things they wanted to highlight.
- Characteristics/Topics you would like them to highlight in your letter- examples include but not limited to: qualities such as enthusiasm, confidence, teamwork, dedication, knowledge, or commitment, progression of surgical skills as a medical student, patient care/interaction, interaction with other medical staff/faculty, communication, professionalism, the list can go on.
- Letter form on ERAS-once you input their information into ERAS and request them, a form will be sent directly to them.
- Anything else you deem important to provide to your letter writers to HIGHLIGHT YOU!
3. ERAS Application:
So alas the actual application. Lets talk. The application is where you will literally input any and everything about yourself. Your basic demographic information, School information, Awards and honors, Societies and all your experiences that include research, work and volunteer; that is why it is so important to work with your school personnel and update and clean up your CV, because you are going to basically input your CV into the application manually. Another part is inputting your hobbies/interest, this is important to an extent, because programs want to see what you do outside of medicine and it’s fair game to ask at interviews. You want to get a head start on your application and adding to it. I suggest add a little information daily that ensures you are not overwhelmed and waiting until the last minute. I also can’t stress enough the importance of multiple passes of PROOFREADING. You should print the application out and read it that way as well as send it to your advisor, faculty members etc to view it for changes and errors. PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD is key. The first day to submit your official application is September 15th but you can begin submitting I believe September 1st, so of course you want to submit before September 15th to avoid any hassle or problems. I wouldn’t advise submitting after September 15th, because programs can access your application starting September 15th, so you want to be in that FIRST batch, especially if you are going into a competitive specialty or have blemishes on your application. JUST REMEMBER EARLY is ALWAYS BETTER!!
4. Program list compilation:When creating your list of desired programs you want to apply to, you want to start early (see a pattern here?). The reason you want to start early is because you should do your research on each program. I recommend FRIEDA (https://freida.ama-assn.org/Freida/#/), which is an excellent residency data base and it allows you to look up programs and gather information about them, such as Step exam requirements, # of LORs they request, salary, vacation, # of spots, contact information for PD and coordinator, etc. It is also a great idea to sit down with your specialty advisor to go over your list, I did this and I found it to be very helpful. I created an excel sheet based off of what I personally thought were important factors when deciding what programs to apply to. Factors may include, but not limited to: Location, Class size, salary, community vs academic program, Step 1 cutoff, health/dental insurance Options, couples matching, current family, etc. An excel sheet help me see everything at once and allowed me to keep everything in order so I highly recommend. Also it is important when compiling a list that you are honest with yourself, by that I mean, know yourself as an applicant, if your Step 1 score isn’t a certain number for multiple programs, I wouldn’t apply to a large number of programs who don’t meet your score cutoff, I’m not saying you shouldn’t reach, you should most definitely have reach programs, but you also want to optimize your chances of snagging a decent amount of interviews, so with that being said have some reach programs but apply where you will have the greatest chances. That goes for the other factors too, if you hate the snow or cold weather I wouldn’t apply to a huge number of programs in those areas. I can’t stress enough, how important your advisor will be in this process, so use this invaluable resource!
I know that was information overload, so please, please, please leave questions below or anything additional you believe will be helpful!
Stay tuned for part 3 next week 🙂