Applying for residency can be an exciting yet anxiety provoking process critical to every medical student planning for their future career as a physician. When you apply is just as important as the content of your residency application. With ERAS applications opening today, September 1st, we wanted to equip you with six tips to help you achieve success in the 2020-2021 residency application season and get MATCH’d to your dream program. Don’t forget to check out the reviews and ratings on 4,000+ residency programs on Residency Navigator before submitting your application!
Research the Programs: Go Straight to the Source
One way you can assess the competitiveness of your candidacy for a specific speciality and learn more about a program is by talking to residents or faculty from that specialty or program. Leverage them as a resource to understand their opinions on specific programs or specialties.
Doximity’s Residency Navigator is an excellent tool to get additional insights and perspectives from reading real, hand-written reviews from current and former residents across 28 specialties on topics such as work-life balance, learning opportunities, culture and more. See a list of current and former residents that you can directly connect with on Doximity. What better way to learn about a program than talking to someone from the program itself?
Put your Best Face Forward
Your ERAS photo is an important part of your residency application. It’s very likely that your photo will be viewed for hours by faculty while they deliberate your candidacy. As a result, many applicants will get professional headshots made of themselves. Make sure you know the ERAS photo requirements.
While there are an increasing number of institutions that don’t look at photos in an effort to eliminate bias in the application process, they will use your photo once they interview you to remember you as they evaluate you and decide where to put you on their rank list. What’s more, this photo will likely be used by the program that you match on their communications collateral on Match Day - one more reason you should look your best!
For men, a navy blue or charcoal grey suit suit with a white shirt and tie is appropriate, while many women opt for black or charcoal grey suit jacket with a white or colored shirt or blouse.
Choose Your Experiences Carefully
ERAS breaks down your experiences into 3 categories - work, volunteer, and research experiences. A common misperception amongst applicants is that they think they have to include every activity they’ve ever done. This is incorrect - listing every extracurricular you’ve signed up for will dilute the overall quality of your application. Make sure to focus on the activities you’ve had meaningful engagement with.
Spend some time to properly explain your experiences in the description, using a small narrative paragraph to go into detail about your learnings and any medical or professional skills you developed. However, keep in mind not every experience needs an essay description - save the lengthy ones for the experiences that mean the most to you. You don’t want the application reviewer to avoid aspects of your application due to reading fatigue.
Pro Tip: Be sure to keep your Doximity profile up-to-date with your activities, too. There are Program Administrators on Doximity who could review your Doximity profile to learn more about your experience and skills.
Diligently Craft Your Letters of Recommendation
Ideally, you should pick recommenders that know you best, although it’s sometimes OK to choose a “big name” if you’re applying to a competitive field - use your best discretion! Setting up a meeting with the person writing your recommendation is a great way to have conversation with them about your interests and passions, particularly if it’s been a long time since your interaction or if they don’t know you very well. If they’ve ever given you an evaluation, it can also be helpful to print out their positive comments about you so you help jog their memory. Come prepared to bring your resume, recommendation form, a list of potential programs, and your personal statement if you’ve completed it; it will help inform their recommendation.
Apply As Early As Possible
Even though the ERAS process is technically not "rolling", you should submit your ERAS application as soon as possible when you feel your application is complete. There are programs out there that will start combing the applications early and even start offering interviews. If you are in the early group of submissions and they start reviewing applications early, they’ll have lots of interview spots open and you’re more likely to get one. Even programs that don’t review applications early will typically review applications in the order they were received.
Make Sure to Respond to Interview Invites Promptly
You will be contacted via email if a program wishes to interview you. They will provide options for dates, which can fill up very quickly - sometimes within minutes! An invitation to interview is not a guarantee to interview - many programs will send more invitations than they have spots so make sure you’re ready to respond as quickly as possible so you don’t miss out on any opportunities. Setting up a unique email for ERAS correspondence can make sure an email doesn’t get lost in your inbox.
The majority of interview invites comes from the following three email addresses - email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, noReply@aamc.org. Add these emails to your “VIP” list on your iPhone mails apps so you’ll hear a custom notification sound when you start receiving those emails.
Good Luck to Everyone Applying in the ERAS 2020 Season
The Residency Navigator team wishes this year’s MS4s the best of luck with this year’s ERAS application. If you’re ready to get a jumpstart on preparation for your virtual residency interviews, check out these helpful tips to set yourself up for success.