Which ERAS timeline should you follow? How does the residency match work? In short, medical students are matched into residency programs using a computer algorithm that considers the preferences of both students and programs. For a match to occur, the applicant and the program must both rank each other and there must still be space available in the program. In the United States, the process is coordinated by the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) and the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP). Each year, thousands of residency applicants compete for residency spots throughout America. Applying to residency can be stressful, so this blog will go over the best ERAS timeline to match to any program.
Note that specific application season dates can vary from year-to-year, so it is important to verify the exact dates for each application cycle.
Here's what you'll learn:
Although the ERAS season does not open until early June, and residency programs will not begin reviewing application materials until October, it is advantageous to begin planning for application season well in advance. Proper planning will help to ensure that the application process goes smoothly, that you will have ample time to secure strong letters of recommendation, that your application materials are of the highest quality, and that you have time to consult with experts for feedback before deadlines begin to approach.
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March – May
In the months leading up to application season, here is what we recommend:
- Begin to compile your list of residency programs.
- Research and contact programs of interest to find out more about their programs, requirements, and deadlines.
- To help you decide which programs to apply to, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides a Residency Preference Exercise. It will be helpful to revisit this exercise once you complete the interview stage and the time comes to rank residency programs in February.
- Familiarize yourself with important ERAS and NRMP deadlines.
- Brainstorm ideas for your personal statement. You will need to submit a personal statement for each specialty for which you are applying. Before you begin, take some time to review successful residency personal statement examples.
- Seek expert feedback on your personal statement and revise as needed until your statement is perfect.
- Confirm if your chosen programs use CASPer and review CASPer test dates.
Prefer to watch a video on how to construct your residency personal statement?
- Write a CV that will get your application for residency noticed. Organize your CV to demonstrate that you are a suitable match for your top programs. Check out these effective residency CV examples.
- Decide on ideal recommendation letter-writers. Approach possible letter-writers, preferably in person, to request a letter of recommendation. Meet with each letter-writer to discuss the content of your letter and be prepared to discuss the qualities you hope each letter-writer can highlight within their recommendation. Remember, physicians have very busy schedules, be sure to provide your letter-writers with any materials they may need, such as your CV, and give them ample time to write the letter.
- Who should you ask for a letter of recommendation? Letters should be written by faculty members who know you best. The better a faculty member knows you, the stronger and more impactful a letter will be in supplementing your application. Ideally, this should be a clerkship rotation (core or elective) preceptor or a clinical research supervisor, and people you have interacted with DURING medical school.
- At least two of your letters should be written by faculty members that work within your specialty of interest. They will be able to best describe why you are an excellent fit for the specialty.
For candidates using ERAS and NRMP, here is a timeline of key dates that will culminate in Match Week:
- Early June – Acquire your token to access MyERAS.
- Contact your Designated Dean’s Office who will issue you an ERAS token, which is a one-time access code used to register on MyERAS.
- Begin CASPer preparation. Make sure that you understand how the CASPer test is scored and how long it will take to prepare for CASPer. Review our blogs to learn how to prepare for CASPer and to review CASPer sample questions.
- Start of June – ERAS application season opens.
- Use your ERAS token to register in MyERAS and begin working on your application.
- Utilize the ERAS guides and worksheets to determine what type of information you will need to gather to complete your application.
- As you work on your application, search for your programs of interest and save them to apply to later. Saving a program will allow you to organize the documents required for each program.
- Be diligent as you complete your ERAS application, you can only register once.
- Applicants must register with both the ERAS and the NRMP to use the services of each.
- If you are interested in plastic surgery, ophthalmology, or urology, make sure to register for early match using the correct service. The military also has its own match program with its own timeline.
Looking for tips on how to make your ERAS application a cut above the rest? Check out our video with 7 tips to make your ERAS application stand out:
Begin interview prep. Review our residency tips and prepare for common residency interview questions and MMI questions. If you're applying to emergency medicine programs, check out our guide for acing the Standardized Video Interview (SVI).
- Start of September – ERAS begins accepting application submissions for residency programs.
- It is important to note that once you certify and submit your ERAS application, it will be final and no changes can be made.
- It's important to submit your application before the date that they are released to programs. For example, if applications are released to programs mid-September, programs may send interview invitations as early as the next day. If you submit your application late, it may not be reviewed in time for the first round of interview invitations.
- Mid - September – NRMP registration opens (the deadline for standard registration is at the end of January, additional fees apply for late registration).
- Mid - October – Residency programs begin reviewing applications.
- Medical Student Performance Evaluations (MSPEs) are released to residency programs. In this document, your medical school evaluates your performance, highlighting your experience, abilities, academic performance, and noteworthy characteristics that make you an excellent candidate. Your medical school may have a meeting with you and a faculty member where they give you an overview of what will be discussed on the MSPE (and check that your residency applications are on track). In general, the letter is composed from the comments that you received on your core third-year rotations by the different evaluators you interacted with. Students usually cannot alter the contents of an MSPE, but you may be able to see it. Ask your program to confirm.
- Interview season begins in October and extends through mid-February.
- Applicants travel to attend interviews, which help to determine program fit.
January – February
- As you complete interviews and visit programs, make a pro-con list for each program and begin to work on your Rank Order List (ROL).
- Contact your number-one program (at which you have interviewed) with a letter of intent letting them know that they are your top choice.
- Review our tips on how to create a memorable residency letter of intent and read an example letter of intent to get you started in the writing process.
- Start of February – NRMP Rank Order List entry opens and medical schools begin verifying credentials.
Review our video to avoid common mistakes in your residency letter of intent:
- Main residency match results through NRMP become available in mid-March; however, certain specialty programs have their own timeline for releasing match results.
- Start of March – submission deadline for Rank Order List on NRMP.
- Match Week - Mid March
- Monday of Match week - National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) main residency match results are available. Applicants are informed by email of whether they successfully matched, but not where they matched.
- Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) begins. During Match Week, if you are unmatched or partially matched, you can participate in the SOAP to try to obtain an unfilled residency position.
- Thursday of Match week – SOAP concludes and a final list of unfilled programs is posted.
- Friday of Match week– Match Day, all matched applicants open an envelope which lists the program they will attend for residency.
- End of May – ERAS season ends and MyERAS closes.
- End of June – NRMP match system closes and reports are no longer available.
Want to watch a video that summarizes the entire residency application process? Here is a video that summarizes the entire residency application timeline, beginning from your third year of medical school right up to Match Day.
This video also includes some tips on how to make your residency application stand out:
- Most medical students will apply using ERAS and will match through the NRMP system; however, there are some exceptions:
- Urology – Candidates will apply in ERAS, but match into residency through the American Urological Association (AUA) Match service.
- Ophthalmology & Plastic Surgery – Candidates will apply and match with a service known as the San Francisco (SF) Match, check timelines for each type of program as they can vary.
- Military Match - Some aspects of the military match process are similar to the civilian process. Applicants still use ERAS to upload their personal statement and letters of recommendation, but military students will use a different online ranking program. The decision-making process involves negotiation between specialties, programs, faculty and applicants.
1. What is the best time to apply using ERAS?
It's best if your entire application is completed and submitted to ERAS on the day that the application process opens for your given specialty. The sooner your application is submitted, the sooner it can be reviewed by programs and the more flexibility you will have in securing interviews.
2. How do I find out which specialties and programs will be participating with ERAS?
A list of participating specialties and programs can be found on the ERAS website. If a program does not participate in ERAS, contact that program directly to determine how to apply.
3. When I register with MyERAS, am I automatically registered to participate in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP)?
No, registering with ERAS does not register you for the NRMP or any other matching service. You must register separately through the matching service for your specialty.
4. Does the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) count as a letter of recommendation?
No, the MSPE is not a letter of recommendation. It is a separate requirement for the ERAS application.
5. What does the MSPE look like?
The MSPE does not have a standard format and it is up to each medical school to decide what format they would like to use. The MSPE includes six sections: Identifying Information, Noteworthy Characteristics, Academic History, Academic Progress, Summary, and Medical School Information. Ask your medical school if you can review your MSPE before it is submitted to ERAS. Please note that most schools do not allow any student alterations to the MSPE, but you may be able to see it (although some programs may allow you to see it only AFTER your application is submitted). This will allow you to understand its contents and even ask for revisions to be made. If you cannot secure a MSPE from your medical school, you will need to indicate this within the ERAS application and a neutral placeholder letter will be provided for you to use instead.
6. Does submitting my ERAS application early give me an advantage over other applicants?
For the ERAS application cycle, residency programs will begin reviewing applications in Mid - October. Applications submitted early will not be reviewed before this date, so you will have no distinct advantage in regards to residencies seeing your application early. Many residency programs will not review applications until MSPEs are released. Once residency programs begin reviewing applications, if you are still working on your application, aim to submit as soon as possible to ensure the best chances for securing interviews at your programs of interest.
However, we do recommend getting your documents ready for submission in advance of the deadline so you are not feeling rushed. Remember, you will be in your clerkship year and may be quite busy, so ensure you start preparing your documents in advance.
7. What if I am an International Medical Graduate (IMG) applying for residency in the United States or Canada?
Check out our blog on International Medical Graduates, which outlines the eligibility criteria for IMGs in Canada and the United States, how to prepare your residency application, tips for writing your personal statement, and recommendations for how to prepare for a coveted residency interview.
Matching to your top residency program is the next big step in your medical career and it can be a daunting process. You are competing with thousands of other applicants for limited spots, so don’t delay in getting started on your ERAS application. Give yourself ample time to work on your CV, secure strong letters of recommendation, and perfect your personal statement – these are all important documents that will need to be uploaded to ERAS in a timely manner. As you complete your ERAS application, be as diligent as possible since you can only register once. Remember that registering for ERAS does not automatically register you for NRMP, you will need to register for each system separately. Lastly, pay attention to unique deadlines for certain specialty programs. Once your ERAS application is submitted, and the interview season is underway, BeMo will be here to help with interview strategies and preparation. We are here to support you every step of the way leading up to Match Day!
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