2021 ERAS Residency Application Guide

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The ERAS residency application is completed in your final year of medical school—but really—you should begin preparing yourself for this crucial step throughout your entire time at med school.

Although residencies are educational, they’re quite a bit different from medical school. A residency provides on-the-job training for people to acquire their medical license so that they can become a practicing physician.

This means the application components are quite different from your original medical school application. They must reflect a sense of maturity, growth, and deepened dedication to medicine. Continue reading our ERAS residency application guide, which covers the following topics:

  • An Introduction to the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)
  • ERAS Residency Application Timeline
  • What Happens Next?
  • ERAS Residency Application Checklist
  • Residency Application Mistakes to Avoid
  • ERAS Residency Application FAQs

 

An Introduction to the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)

The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) is the centralized online application service applicants use to deliver their application and supporting documents to residency programs. ERAS streamlines the application process for applicants as well as their Designated Dean’s Office, letter of recommendation authors, and program directors.

ERAS includes four individual but connected applications, which were created to meet the needs of each user group involved in the application process. ERAS provides an impartial, confidential transmission of all applications to programs.

The 4 ERAS Applications:

  • MyERAS is where applicants complete their applications, assign supporting documents, select programs, and submit the materials for their selected programs.
  • Dean’s Office Workstation (DWS) is where Designated Dean’s Offices upload medical school transcripts and medical school performance evaluations (MSPEs) in support of the applications submitted through ERAS.
  • Letters of Recommendation Portal (LoRP) is where letters of recommendation authors submit their letters in support of the applicant applying through ERAS.
  • Program Director’s Workstation (PDWS) is where training programs receive and review applications and supporting documents.

How ERAS Works:

  1. Applicants receive a token (one-time access code) from their Designated Dean’s Office.
  2. Applicants use the token to register with MyERAS.
  3. Applicants complete their MyERAS application, assign supporting documents, select programs, and apply to programs.
  4. The applicant’s Designated Dean’s Office and letters of recommendation authors upload supporting documents.
  5. Examining boards receive and process requests for transcripts.
  6. Programs receive the application materials through the Program Director’s Workstation (PDWS).

 

ERAS Residency Application Timeline

Technically speaking, ERAS season begins in June, but you should be thinking about your residency application long before then. Use the earlier part of the year to prepare for application season. In the spring, you should be considering which schools you want to apply to, acquiring letters of recommendation, and thinking about the direction you want to take your personal statement.

Early June

The ERAS season begins in early June. Obtain your token (one-time access code) at this time by contacting your Designated Dean’s Office. This will grant you access to MyERAS. It’s also a good idea to determine if you will need to take the Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics, also known as CASPer.

Here is a list of medical schools that require CASPer. If you need to take the test, read our CASPer Test Guide for information about scoring, preparation advice, and more.

June

Start filling in your application with your work, volunteering, and research experience. Take full advantage of ERAS Tools and Worksheets for Residency Applicants; this will help you to determine exactly what kind of information you need to gather to complete your application.

As you work on your application, search for programs you’re interested in and save them for later so that you can organize the correct documents for each program.

June – August

You can only register for ERAS once. Do your utmost to ensure your application is flawless. DO NOT certify your application before you are absolutely sure it is complete, accurate, and exactly what you want to submit. You can only certify your application once—doing so will lock in your application, making it unchangeable for the rest of the application season.

Get all of your details in order and continue fine-tuning your application. Check in to ensure your letters of recommendation are confirmed, get feedback on your personal statement, and make final decisions about which residency programs you want to apply to.

Read: How to Choose a Medical Specialty in 6 Steps

Request your relevant transcripts (USMLE, COMPLEX, MSPE, etc.) during this time. You should also begin interview prep during these months so that you are prepared and able to present your best self on the residency interview trail.

September

ERAS will start accepting applications at the beginning of September. We highly recommend submitting your application well before the deadline. The site also tends to crash around the time they are due because of the high volume of applicants, so ensure you’re not leaving it to the last possible day.

Applications are released to programs at the end of September, and interview invitations can be sent out as early as the next day, so if you submit your application close to the day ERAS releases your application, you could miss out on the first round of interviews.

You also have to apply for the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), also known as The Match, around this time, which requires a separate application.

ERAS Residency Application Timeline

What Happens Next?

1 | Residency Interviews

Interview season for residency programs begins in October and lasts until February. Don’t stray too far from your computer or phone during this time as ideal interview slots fill up fast. Keep your calendar updated at all times so that you can pick optimal dates as soon as they become available.

2 | Matched Through NRMP (National Residency Match Program)

The NRMP, also known as The Match, is a system based on a Nobel Prize-winning algorithm designed to allow medical students who are applying for residency to be placed or “matched” into a residency spot at a US program in their chosen specialty.

To participate in a Match, you need to use the NRMP’s secure Registration, Ranking, and Results (R3) system to register and create a username and password. You must have an AAMC ID to register for the Main Residency Match. After registering with NRMP, log back into ERAS and update your profile with your NRMP ID so that program directors can more easily identify you for placement on the program’s rank order lists.

Learn the 7 Things You Must Know About the NRMP Residency Match.

 

ERAS Residency Application Checklist

1 | ERAS Experiences Section

The experience section on the residency application provides an opportunity for you to share your work, volunteering, and research experience. Include all relevant experience—not only the experiences relevant to your specialty. You can tailor your personal statement to your specialty, but when it comes to experiences, you want to highlight all that you’ve been up to and what you’ve learned.

When describing each activity, try to answer these three questions in three sentences: What is it? What did you do? What did you learn? This will help the reader to quickly understand your background and what each activity meant to you. A lot of your interview questions will come from this section, so be sure to review it before any interviews.

2 | ERAS Personal Statement

The residency personal statement is your chance to tell your story, explain why you want to join a certain specialty, and demonstrate why you’re qualified to do so. It’s your single opportunity outside of interviews to personally highlight anything that you feel was underrepresented in other parts of your application and provide necessary context for your accomplishments.

Much of your residency application material focuses on your scores and grades, which don’t tell much about who you are as a person or what you’re passionate about. Your letters of recommendation will shed light on your dedication and professionalism, but the personal statement is your chance to tell your story as you see it.

While this may sound like the medical school personal statement, don’t assume you’ll be able to rehash it when writing your residency personal statement. The two are quite different. Residency programs aren’t looking for medical students; they’re looking for young professionals who have vastly improved their medical knowledge, earned their doctorate, and deepened their focus and dedication to medicine.

Your residency personal statement must reflect these differences. You are no longer a wide-eyed premed. Keep the focus of your personal statement on your professional development and why your experiences have made you want to join a certain specialty. Be confident yet humble about your accomplishments so far, and speak passionately about what you hope to accomplish in the specialty.

Technically, the residency personal statement allows for 28,000 characters. We do not recommend using all of this space. Keep your personal statement to one typed page, which is about 700-800 words.

A stand out essay can be enough to get you an interview offer while a poor statement can shut the door on an otherwise top-tier applicant. View our database of Residency Personal Statement Samples, take careful care editing, ask mentors for feedback, and consider professional personal statement editing.

3 | ERAS Letters of Recommendation

Just like the letters of recommendation for your medical school application, ERAS letters of recommendation give residency programs crucial insight into how professional physicians see you—your work ethic, character, specific strengths and attributes, and how well you’ll fit in and contribute to your chosen specialty.

You are allowed to upload an unlimited number of references, but only a maximum of four letters of recommendation per program. Your MSPE or Dean’s Letter do not count as one of your letters. Your letters do not need to be addressed to the specific residency program but should instead be standardized, so that letter writers do not need to draft multiple letters.

It’s ideal to find writers from a range of different specialties and experiences who you have worked closely with, know you extremely well, and who will speak highly of your skills, work ethic, and personal characteristics. You must have at least one letter from an attending you worked with closely, a department chair, or a mentor in your chosen specialty so that they can speak to your aptitude and suitability for that specific specialty.

Your program may also require a letter from someone outside the field of medicine. Carefully scan the specific program requirements of each program on their website to determine exactly what you’ll need.

4 | ERAS Photo

Adding a photo is optional for your application, but it’s highly recommended, as a friendly, professional photo will help those assessing your application remember you. Faculty will see your photo as they make decisions and deliberate over your potential candidacy for residency, and it will help them identify you when you report to interviews.

Upload your own photo in MyERAS by selecting Upload New Photo in the Actions column.

The photo file cannot exceed these requirements:

  • Dimensions: 2.5 in. x 3.5 in.
  • Resolution: 150dpi
  • File Size: 100kb

Ensure it’s a professional-looking, high-quality photo. Wear professional clothing; ideally, something that would be appropriate for a medical school interview. Smile, and ensure you appear friendly and approachable. The background should be plain and subtle, with nothing that will distract from you.

If you know any photographer friends, this is a good time to ask for a favor. If you aren’t experienced using a professional camera yourself, and you don’t know anyone who is, you should pay for a professional photo. You’ve come all this way and have already spent an unbelievable amount of money on medical school. Pay this small cost to ensure you have a quality headshot.

5 | Transcripts

You need to request your USMLE transcript (or COMPLEX transcript for DO schools) for your application. Authorize the release of this document during the summer. As you create a timeline for your final years of medical school, ensure you schedule Step 2CK well before the September of your residency application, as it can take weeks for test results to come back.

If you’ve made the request, your school will assemble your MSPE (Medical School Performance Evaluation) letter and transcripts and upload them for you.

ERAS Residency Application Checklist

Residency Application Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid these common mistakes when preparing for and submitting your residency application.

  • Certifying (locking in) your ERAS application before it’s perfect.
  • Submitting a bland personal statement that doesn’t directly address why you will be a good fit to join a certain specialty.
  • Allowing small mistakes to slip through due to carelessness and sloppy editing.
  • Not getting strong letters of recommendation from people who will speak highly of you.
  • Rehashing your original medical school personal statement.
  • Not bothering to submit a photo of yourself.
  • Submitting a low-quality or distracting photo.
  • Waiting until the deadline to submit your application.
  • Waiting too long to begin researching and considering your preferred specialty.
  • Not taking notes during your work, volunteer, and research experiences. (Notes will help you describe your experiences in detail.)
  • Not considering your residency application throughout your time in medical school.

 

ERAS Residency Application FAQs

How Do I Access MyERAS?

Contact your Designated Dean’s Office to access MyERAS. They will issue you a token, which is a one-time access code to register for MyERAS.

You must acquire an ERAS token from your own Designated Dean’s Office, as your documents will not be accurately uploaded with a token from a different school or organization. You also must make sure that your ERAS token is from the current MyERAS season, as a token from a previous season will not work. ERAS tokens can only be used once to register.

An AAMC account is required to register for MyERAS. If you don’t already have one, you will need to register for one.

How Much Do Residency Applications Cost?

ERAS application fees are based on the number of programs applied to per specialty. If you apply to up to ten programs, it will cost you $99. If you apply to 11-20 programs, the cost is $17 each. Applying to 21-30 programs will cost you $21 each, and applying to 31 programs or more will cost you $26 each.

Additional fees include your USMLE transcript ($80) or your COMPLEX-USA transcript ($80), both of which are assessed once per season.

MyERAS automatically calculates your fees. You can pay online using Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. ERAS does not offer refunds for any reason.

Are There Programs That Don’t Participate in ERAS?

Some specialties or programs do not participate in ERAS. If that’s the case for a program you are interested in, you need to contact that program directly to determine how to apply.

Which Specialties Require a Supplemental ERAS Application?

There are a few specialties that require a supplemental ERAS application in addition to the main MyERAS application. Internal medicine, dermatology, and general surgery use a short (and free) supplemental ERAS application with new questions that provide programs with more information about applicants.

 

Residency Application Editing With Med School Insiders

Approaching your residency application with care and tact is critical to your success. Our team of doctors has years of experience helping medical students get matched with their ideal program.

Med School Insiders can help you prepare a stand out residency application. We offer a number of Residency Admissions Consulting Services tailored to your needs, including personal statement editing, USMLE tutoring, interview prep and mock interviews, and overall application editing.

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