The Ultimate ERAS Guide for Applying to Residency
You have come so far from your first day of medical school; now you are getting ready to pick a career. The totality of your experiences, knowledge, hardships, and joys have shaped the physician you are about to become. Applying for residency with the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) can be stressful, but BeMo is here to support you with this definitive ERAS guide!
ERAS Guide: Overview
- Timeline Overview
- Part I: BeMo ERAS Match Pearls
- Part II: The 16 Steps to Navigating ERAS
- Part III: The Interview, Match Day, and Post Match
- Part IV: Concluding Remarks
ERAS Guide: Introduction
Before we dive into our definitive ERAS Guide, let’s start out by outlining the general ERAS Application Timeline, and what your 3rd and 4th year of medical school should look like. This will help you organize your time and priorities accordingly. Below is an abridged timeline using the information, dates, and resources provided by the AAMC. You can access the following link anytime to get the specific dates for your application year: Also applying to Canada? Check our CaRMS guide here.
ERAS Guide: Timeline from Med School to Residency Application
Third Year Medical School
September – May
• Start developing your Curriculum Vitae (CV). It is more detailed than a standard resume and takes time to get it right. You will be listing your work and volunteer experiences and other highlights of your medical career. Did you get a paper published? Make sure to add it to your CV. Keeping an up-to-date CV is essential and makes getting recommendation letters from doctors easier.
• At this time, it may be a good idea to start looking at the Match outcomes for specialties. You can compare their qualifications and match rates for each specialty. It is good to get an idea of what specialties might require. Knowing what scores you will need on exams and how many letters you will need in that specialty will improve your success.
• It is never too early to get started on your residency personal statement. Make notes of interesting cases you see or memorable patients. Getting ideas early on will keep you from stressing as more deadlines approach, and review residency personal statement examples to help you get started. Still nervous about your personal statement? You may feel more confident reviewing it and editing it with the help of your advisor. Don't be afraid of getting help. Have as many people as you can edit and review your statement.
• This may be a good time to research residency and career planning by reviewing the AMA’s compilation of residency programs and physician workforce data.
Here's a great video with a sample residency personal statement:
June – August
• The summer before your last year is when you should complete your ERAS application via AAMC. It is at this time that you should also be specifying the list of programs that you plan on applying to and where your completed application will ultimately be sent.
• Time to get your hands on your own personal ERAS token from the Registrar’s office. After you’ve gotten your token, click the “Register” button on MyERAS, and complete the application carefully and diligently, as you can only register once
• Next, download the MyERAS Residency User Guide. Our Navigating ERAS: The Definitive Guide and MyERAS’ Residency User Guide will be your two best resources as you navigate this process!
• Make sure to register with the NRMP for the Main Residency Match—here is the link.
• Have you compiled a list of faculty members that you hope write you a letter of recommendation? If not, now is the time to do so!
Fourth Year Medical School
September – October
• The first date to certify and submit your ERAS application is September 5. Once you certify it you can not edit it. It is done once and is final. NO changes can be made once it is certified and submitted. Programs cannot access your application until September 15. All applications submitted before the 15 get date and time stamped for the 15th.
• Time to start interview prep—you can do this!
• Have you taken the USMLE Step 2? If not, you should strongly consider effectively utilizing your time to prepare for it starting now. Make sure to be aware of deadlines (Step 2 Clinical Skills and Clinical Knowledge deadlines are usually the end of December). Step 2 clinical skills exam is only administered in 5 cities in the United States. You will want to schedule it as soon as possible to ensure you get a seat at your preferred location.
October – December
Check out this video with 5 of the hardest residency interview questions with expert analysis!
• Medical Student Performance Evaluations (MSPE) are released early in October.
• Time to print off the Residency Preference Exercise (sign in and click on the provided link under M4) to compare and contrast the programs you are interested in.
• January is important for those who applied for Early Match, as deadlines are usually set at this time.
January – February
• Your interviews should be wrapping up. It is rank order list time! Log into NRMP and create your rank list.
• It’s here – MATCH DAY! Monday NRMP will email you with your results and Friday they will tell you where exactly you matched.
ERAS Guide, Part I: ERAS Match Pearls
What is the Main Match (and how does it work)?
The Main Match is the method by which the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) facilitates and organizes the application process. Thousands of residency applicants compete for residency spots offered throughout America. Applicants will use the ERAS database to apply to residency programs of interest. Programs will then respond to applicants by inviting them for interviews during the Fall and Winter of their 4th/final year of medical school. Once interview season has come to an end, applicants will create and submit a Rank Order List of programs that they would accept a contract with. Programs will also submit a Rank Order List of applicants that they would like to accept as residents. The Main Match algorithm plays “matchmaker” in setting up applicants and programs. The Monday of Match week, residency hopefuls are notified whether or not they have matched, but not to which program they have matched too. For applicants who are not successful in matching, residency positions which remain unfilled are made available for applicants to attempt to secure before the official Match Day results are released. Students are notified on Friday of where they have matched to.
How do I go about making an informed specialty decision?
Med school is YOUR time to explore various fields and specialties in the world of medicine. Take the time, to be honest with yourself regarding your likes and dislikes. Each specialty has pros and cons. Make notes of these as you are exposed to them during electives, rotations, clinicals, and research. Create a pros and cons list for the specialties you are interested in. Also, consider where you want to live in the future and the type of practice you want to have. Certain areas are need of different specialists. This may factor into your decision. If you are undecided between a few specialties, spend more time on rotations with those doctors. Emerge yourself in the field to get a feel of what your life would be like. Do not be afraid of consulting doctors and your advisor. They are valuable resources. Still unsure of a specialty choice? Try this pathway test for specialties.
There are advantages of setting up clerkships, and they may give you an edge. Students are given the option of pursuing a sub-internship and additional elective clerkships during the end of their 3rd year, and the beginning of their 4th year. You should take advantage of this opportunity to work more closely with patients, residents, and attendings. These electives and internships are your chance to really stand out and show your interest in the field. Showing dedication to a field like family medicine is very important come interview season. Elective clerkships are an ideal time to request those letters of recommendation from attendings.
Letters of Recommendation (LOR)
LORs can be influential in securing interviews. They give residency program an in-depth look at who you are as a candidate. Your letter writer should be someone who has seen your performance in clinicals and has knowledge of your skills. Give your writer enough time to get to know you before you ask for a letter. Asking the first day is too soon but waiting until the last day is too late. Let them know during your rotation that you would appreciate a letter from them so they have time to compose the LOR. Remember, they are physicians with crazy schedules, so giving them a copy of your CV or personal statement will assist them in writing it. If a faculty member offers to write you a LOR before you have the chance to request one and appears to be excited to take the time to write you a LOR, SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY!! Don't know who to ask? LORs should be written by faculty members who know you best; those that have observed you and worked with you throughout countless clinical situations, and have watched you shine, especially under pressure. The better a faculty member knows you, the stronger and more impactful a letter will be in supplementing your application.
Ensure that at least two of your letters are written by faculty members that work within your specialty of interest, as they will be able to best describe why you would be a perfect fit for the specialty. Having the correct number of letters can be tricky. Less is definitely more in the case of LORs! Don’t go overboard! If a program requires three LORs, providing them with five LORs will hurt your application. Submitting three exceptional letters will be your best bet in impressing committee members during application and interview season.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
In addition to your LORs, your CV is the place to show your strengths. Highlight attributes that make you stand-out as the talented and intelligent applicant that you are. Keep your CV concise, and include information that will showcase your accomplishments:
- Educational and research background
- Any applicable certifications and licenses
- Work experiences
- Awards and achievements
- Languages that you are fluent in
- Applicable skills
When in doubt, keep it simple. Maintain the balance between professionalism and relevance. Use action words to engage the reader. Making your CV interesting will simultaneously make it memorable to the committee reviewing it. Here are some resources to consult as you begin working on your CV.
Personal Statement (PS)
Your PS allows you to connect with committee members, on a personal and professional level. There are thousands of students in your position attempting to convince committee members that they are the perfect fit for their program. Use your PS as a marketing tool. Make yourself known to the committee and let them know why you would be the best addition to their program. Talk about your interest in the field and why you are pursuing this career. Include research experiences, outside interests, or medical experiences that influenced your decision to enter this field. Also, tell them what you are looking for in a program. Let them know if you are passionate about research or would love to work in underserved communities. State your career goals and how you plan to apply your residency training to future pursuits. Be careful to not reiterate your CV to them. Use this space for information that is not anywhere else on your application. You do not need to waste space telling them why you wanted to become a doctor. (You really should keep it to one page so around 600-800 words. Space is precious.) This should be about you and your relationship to the specialty you choose and how you would thrive at their program. Finally, be sure to check your work. Get a proofreader. Get another proofreader and when you are happy with how it looks, get another proofreader. Be open to critic and don't be afraid of multiple drafts. It takes time to get it right. Check out these excellent examples of residency personal statements.
ERAS Guide, Part II: The 16 Steps to Navigating ERAS
Time to break down how to tackle and navigate the information-dense world of ERAS! AAMC and this guide will help make your application process go smoothly. Use this reference guide to double check your work and monitor your progress.
Step #1: What are the requirements and deadlines for the programs that I wish to apply to?
• Let’s start off by ensuring that the specialty programs you are interested in are included in the upcoming ERAS cycle. To verify their participation, you can visit the following link
• You can check the requirements of a program through the ERAS portal or by going directly to the program's listed website. It is time-consuming, but it is better to research these programs to make sure they are right for you.
Step #2: ERAS tokens
• Your medical school’s Registrar’s Office or Career Centre will be sending you your own personal token via email, in the summer of your third year. Make sure to stay on the look-out, and to contact your Registrar’s Office/Career Centre if you fail to receive your ERAS token (could be due to a technical glitch).
• If you are a non matched graduate applying to programs and have had a previous token, you will have to purchase a new token for the upcoming year.
Step #3: Register on MyERAS
• You will want to register early and as soon as you’ve received your ERAS token to ensure that all of your uploaded documents and information are in order. Certain documents take a few days to upload. The photo can take 2 days to upload so register that token early and begin uploading your info.
• Visit MyERAS to proceed with registration. Read through and answer the application questions carefully and thoroughly to prevent mistakes. You can only register once!
• Once you’ve successfully registered on MyERAS, you can access your account via this link.
Step #4: Setting up your AAMC ID
• Make sure that you are mindful of carefully following the step by step instructions outlined for you on the website as to how to set up your AAMC ID. If you do not know your AAMC ID and are prompted to enter it, make sure not to input anything into this field! Near the end of registration, the ERAS system will process all your information and generate your own personal AAMC ID. Write it down or print the filled-out registration page. The AAMC ID allows you to access MyERAS account the next time you log in.
Step #5: Time to create your password
• You are definitely no stranger to creating private and secure passwords. Amidst everything that you have to juggle, make sure to keep track of your password. Follow the steps to creating your personal password. In the event that you do forget it, you can always go to your MyERAS login page and click the “Forgot My Password” prompt. They will email you the password.
Step #6: Registering an active email address
• This will be the email address that you will need to include in your application during registration. It is usually recommended to use your school email address to avoid using any potentially compromising email addresses and to prevent any correspondence from going into your junk or spam folders. You can use any email address as long as it is professional. [email protected] is unprofessional and distracting. Use a combination of your first and last name to keep it simple. The admissions committee will use this to communicate important information to you about interviews.
Step #7: Time to register for your MATCH
Step #8: Creating your Personal Information page once you’ve registered on MyERAS
• Now that you’ve successfully registered on MyERAS, it is time to fill out your personal information. You can always come back and update the information on your Personal Information page, even after you submit your application. Ensure that your permanent address is correct; as this is one section of the Personal Information page that cannot be changed after submission.
• Aside from personal information required (full name, contact information, marital status, address, etc.) the following information may have you stumped as to whether they may apply to you. Check only ones applicable to you:
- AOA ID (This is required of all DO applicants)
- NBOME ID (This is required of all DO applicants)
- ECFMG Certification (This only applies to foreign medical graduates)
- A checkbox to indicate participation in NMS/Couples Match (This is optional)
- A checkbox to indicate participation in NRMP/Couples Match (This is optional)
- ACLS, BLS, and PALS Certification information and dates. Be aware of the dates you will be attending your training sessions and which certifications you have already completed successful training for.
Step #9: Time to complete your MyERAS Application
• Click on "My Application" to begin. You only complete one application and once certified and submitted, it is sent to the programs you choose. Your additional documents like LOR and PS can be customized per program and are attached later. Take your time completing your application. You are able to save your work and continue as you want. As long as you have not clicked “Certify and Submit,” you can change any information you have input at any time.
• There will be a section on your application with the heading, “Biographical Information”. This is an optional section that asks for information regarding your race and ethnicity. You may choose whether or not to leave these sections blank.
• Now it is time to Certify and Submit your application. Review it one last time before submission! Check spelling and grammar and that all fields are filled out.
• Prior to submission, there is a section titled “Designated Dean’s Office” authorization to view your application once it has been submitted and certified. Make sure to select yes.
Check out our video to find out how to make your ERAS application stand out!
Step #10: Documents
• This section is for uploading PS, LOR, and transcripts. This is a work area where you will tailor your application to market yourself to program and bring you one step closer to securing your residency spot.
• MD programs need your USMLE transcript and DO programs need your COMLEX transcript. You will have to know your ID number for the type of transcript you are requesting and authorizing the release. You have to assign the transcript to each program you apply to. Your transcript will be comprised of all the tests, dates, and locations of the exams.
• Different Personal Statements can be assigned to programs. You can only send one PS per program. You may also upload as many Personal Statements as you want, just title them accordingly so you know which programs to assign them to.
• Remember, you cannot edit or update a PS once it has been sent to a program. You will have to create a new PS should there prove to be errors in the initial PS that was sent. REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW prior to submission!
Letters of Recommendation
• The documents section of your application has an area that allows you to compose a list of faculty members that you have verified will write a letter of recommendation (LOR) for you to submit to your programs of interest. If your designated writer would like to personally upload and submit their LOR through the LOR Portal, there is a cover sheet print-out that you can provide them with, which includes a unique ERAS ID. If you or your LOR authors have any difficulties in uploading documents, the ERAS help desk number is (202-862-6298).
• You can include as many LORs as you feel necessary in your ERAS documents section. Remember that you will need at least three, but no more than four letters per program. Always make yourself aware of the LOR requirements and deadlines for each program. It can take a few days for letters to uploaded to ERAS before you can assign them. Make sure you give yourself enough time.
• It’s time to upload your photo. Your photograph is a residency program’s first step in putting a face to a name. It can help jog the committee's memory come interview time. Choose a professional photo of yourself where your face is clearly visible. Face front and make sure the background is neutral. Dimensions should not exceed 2.5 x 3.5 inches and the resolution should be under 150 dpi. Keep the file size under 100kb.
MSPE and Dean's Letter
• Your “Designated Dean’s Office” (this could be your school’s Registrar’s Office or Career Centre) will be the party responsible for uploading both your medical school transcript and your MSPE/Dean’s Letter to your electronic ERAS file. It will be electronically sent to each program that you apply to.
Step #11: Select your Programs of Interest
• Find the “Programs” tab, click on it, and Search your programs of interest. Programs can be searched by ACGME #, specialty, or location. Pay attention to whether they are osteopathic or allopathic programs. You can save a program to apply to it later. This gives you the chance to organize which documents you want to send to each program. Just because you have saved a program, does not mean you have to apply to it. This section allows you to edit your selected programs (add/remove) before your official program submission to your “MyERAS Application”. The programs saved in this section are still in their “editing” phase, as your programs of interest have not received your tailored application.
• Receiving an “Incomplete Registration” prompt means that a program is not participating in the ERAS cycle, and cannot be applied to through ERAS. Contact the programs beforehand to ensure they are participating in ERAS.
• Once you’ve officially submitted your application to your selected programs (see “applied to programs” section below) you will not be able to remove a program that you’ve already applied to, but you will be able to be able to request the withdrawal of your application.
• You are only able to remove programs you originally planned on applying to when in your “Selected Programs” list. If you’ve officially submitted an application to a program of interest, you are no longer able to remove this program from your list. In the event that you are no longer interested in applying to a program that has already received your application, you can request an “application withdrawal”. Although the ERAS server does not electronically remove your application from the server of the program you’ve already applied to, ERAS will officially mark your application as, “Withdrawn”. After ERAS has officially marked your application as “withdrawn” from the program you have selected, you should personally contact the program and let them know of your decision to withdraw.
• It cannot be stressed enough that you should review each step multiple times before moving forward for official submission, in ANY stage of the process, as this will not only save you precious time but will also allow you to budget when it comes to your ERAS associated fees (there are no refunds!).
• The Applied to Programs consists of programs you have officially sent your application to. The programs in this area cannot be edited (add/remove) since you have already applied. The assigning documents section can still be changed and is the only area that can be edited at that time.
Step 12: Assigning Documents to Programs
• After you have finalized your list of programs you want to apply to, you will then assign documents to each program. Every program you select to apply to will receive the same skeleton application of documents which include: ERAS application, Dean's Letter/MSPE, transcript, and photo. The documents you must personally assign to each program are your USMLE /COMLEX transcript, LOR, and PS. Double check your PS and LOR to make sure they are going to correct program. The combination of PS and LOR you use is up to you. A LOR is ready for assignment after you have "Confirmed" the letter once it has been uploaded by either you or the author.
• In the event that a LOR has been officially submitted to the program you have chosen to, and needs to be revoked and re-submitted, (due to an error correction by your LOR author, for example) the original LOR author is authorized to replace the original document with the corrected document, allowing the program to only view the corrected version.
• Your photo must be assigned to each program.
Important to Note: Keep in mind that un-assigning a document from any designated program does NOT remove the document from the program’s server. A program may have already viewed the original document transmitted to them and may refer to it, even if you’ve uploaded a revised version of your document. Take your time throughout the entire process, and be mindful of what documents you choose to send to your selected programs.
Step #13: Payment and Fees
• Now it is time to officially apply and pay. Before the official transmission of your application to your respective programs, you must submit payment via MyERAS (view fees here). Look over all associated ERAS fees to understand fee breakdown, calculations, and to better manage your residency budget.
• Once you are ready to submit payment and are taken to the invoice, make sure you review and understand your fee breakdown. Complete payment, and make sure to keep the final processed invoice in your records.
Step #14: Check the status of your applications
• Two vital MyERAS electronic sections that you should routinely check to keep an eye on the progress and status of your applications, once you have submitted them include: Programs applied to and message center. The message center displays any correspondence from the programs. Check on it to make sure you are receiving all your messages.
Step #15: Applying to more programs
• Applying to additional programs can be done at any time during the ERAS application season. As you initially did when searching potential programs you previously wanted to explore applying to, select your programs of interest, assign your documents, review all of your uploads, and officially transmit your applications to their respective programs.
Step #16: Keeping your “My Profile” up to date
• The “My Profile” section has important information for how the programs can get ahold of you. If you move or change phone numbers, update this immediately. Keep your NRMP match participation up to date. Are you an International Medical Graduate? Make sure your Visa status and ECFMG status are current.
ERAS Guide, Part III: The Interview, Match Day, and Post Match
•Scheduling your interviews can be stressful and difficult. Since your first few interviews will prove to be your most stressful and difficult, make sure to schedule your most important interviews (with the programs you hope to impress the most) in the middle of your interviews. Your first few interviews will serve as practice runs as you get the feel for them. Try and schedule your interviews for the programs that are not too high on your “list” towards the end, as it is inevitable that you will grow tired at the tail-end of the interview trail.
• Preparing for the interview is important. Prep resources are available here. Researching programs for information about their location, population demographics, and patient populations will help you understand what they are looking for in a candidate. Plus it will help you create questions to ask them during the interview.
• Interview Time is here! This is your time to meet the programs in person. Make that first impression count. Professionalism is key. From the time you walk in the door until you get into your car to leave, you are representing yourself as a potential physician at their hospital. Be nice to everyone you meet. Dress professionally (pants/skirts/ suits) and in neutral colors.
• When you have completed your interviews, you will have to rank the programs. Factors to consider are programs you are willing to attend, the location of the program, the overall work environment, personalities of the affiliated residents, and financial commitments, etc. Rank ALL programs that you are willing to attend in the order you want to attend them. There is no benefit to having a short ranking list.
Want to increase your chances of matching? You should write a residency letter of intent to your number one choice. Check out our video below to find out how!
• Match week begins on a Monday when applicants are notified of whether or not they have matched, but are not told what program they have matched to.
• Applicants who have not been successful in matching will have the opportunity to match into the unfilled positions through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). There are three rounds of SOAP where you will apply to the available programs with your already completed ERAS profile. The programs will contact you if they would like to video call or phone interview you. They will then make a list of students and if you match, you will be notified. If not you would continue on to the next round of SOAP until it concludes on Thursday of Match week.
• Matched candidates are told on Friday where they have matched to. Your school might have a ceremony where they give you the letter telling you where you matched. Enjoy this time. You have earned it.
Prior to starting your residency, carve out some time to relax, hit the pause button, and take some time off! You’ve worked so hard, and deserve some much-needed rest, and a huge congrats!
ERAS Guide, Part IV: Concluding Remarks
Applying for residency is confusing and time-consuming. Your future rests on having the best application possible. Reference this guide throughout the application process. Refer to it when you don't know what to do or when you want to double check your progress. Use this guide as a reference tool. Good luck as you begin this next part of your career.
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