It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I started working on ERAS! It’s the Electronic Residency Application Service and it’s a universal application for US residency programs. Let me tell you, it is a process. Many different working parts and pieces, and it feels like a series of hoops to jump through but there isn’t any other way around it. The application opens in June and isn’t submitted until September, giving plenty of time to work through it bit by bit. (That’s the way I chose to do it but I know some people who sat down at did it in one fell swoop.) I made a mistake on mine and I think it cost me a little bit, so here’s my thoughts on getting everything in order so it goes off without a hitch.
-The first thing to know is that this costs monies – be ready to spent about $500; more if you apply to more than about 30 programs.
-Your CV and Personal Statement should already be done since you need them to ask for letters of recommendation. Congrats! These are the most difficult portions of the application.
-Have several eyes look at your personal statement – people who know you in and out of medicine. The key to a personal statement is that it is personal! Seems simple, but difficult to execute. I took my first version to a wonderful (and honest) attending. She read it and told me it was a nice essay but that was it – just a nice essay that didn’t tell her anything about me. That caused me to start from scratch and have something truly personal, and my interviewers noticed.
-Our library has a writing service, and I sent my final draft to them for a grammar and punctuation and spelling check.
-Arrange to get a good headshot! I chose to do mine outside, in business casual. My school also offered us our gown and hood composite photos to use. They have to be a particular size, so find someone who understands those things to make it the right size.
-Start with the easy parts of ERAS – your demographic and contact information. It’s like a little boost of confidence just having a little bit of the application done.
-Open your CV and use that to fill in the honors, awards and experiences.
-Copy and paste your personal statement.
-Don’t forget to spend a little time on the hobbies and interests page! Nearly everyone I talked to said that they were paired with an interviewer with similar interests. Flesh out the topics – instead of “reading,” I wrote “reading – historical fiction, romance, biographies, classics.” Makes it longer!
-Under languages, I put my Spanish fluency but nearly forgot to put English! Be honest, but put in every language you have fluency in.
-Spend some time considering the programs you want to apply to! Before submission, you can save as many as you want.
-Start assigning letters of recommendation as soon as you know them. An automatic email goes to the assignee which serves as a good reminder to them.
-Here’s where I went wrong: I gave USMLE permission to release my scores, but I didn’t realize I had to submit them to each individual program. Be sure to do this!! It was only thanks to my program director telling me that she couldn’t see my photo and scores that I realized this. My application looked incomplete and I wouldn’t have gotten interview offers. Thankfully, we noticed and solved the problem only three days after application submissions and not any later.
-That being said – getting everything filled in ahead of time is the way to go!! But when it comes time to submit, there isn’t just one giant “SUBMIT” button (I wish there were – way easier!) Go through every single section and make sure it is submitted. Check and double check! Triple check even!
-ERAS is the application and NRMP is the people who run the algorithm to give a match. You have to go onto NRMP and pay $50 to get a number. Be sure to take that number back to ERAS and plug it in. This is under personal information and can be done after submission of the application. (This and LORs are the only sections that can be altered after submission.)
Best of luck! There are many steps to this process, but give it some attention to detail and get it done. Congrats! Fourth year is an amazingly fun time!