The residency application photo may seem like a relatively minor piece of your ERAS application, but it’s still something to take seriously. Getting into residency is no mean feat, and not including a photo, or uploading a poor, apathetic, or overly-casual photo, is not the path to success.
While residencies are educational, they are not the same as medical school. Residencies provide on-the-job training to dedicated young professionals so that they may obtain their medical license and officially become a professional physician. Since it’s imperative that your residency application reflects this growth, it’s important not to take shortcuts when assembling each aspect of your application—including your application photo.
Continue reading to learn why you should include a residency application photo, ERAS application photo requirements, and tips to ensure your photo paints you in the best possible and most professional light.
Why You Should Include a Residency Application Photo
Adding a photo is optional for your application, but we highly recommend you do so. Including a professional, friendly photo will help the people assessing your application remember you and put a face to a name. An application photo humanizes you to the faculty who are evaluating your application and deliberating over your potential candidacy for residency.
It ensures you’re not just another faceless applicant. Plus, it will help them recognize and identify you when you arrive at your interviews.
You want your application to stand out rather than blend in. Keep in mind that the people evaluating your application are also looking at a vast amount of other applications. While they are not assessing you based on your picture, the application photo will help them remember who you are—and this is vital to your chances of acceptance.
Residency Application Photo Requirements
ERAS has specific requirements for uploading an application photo. Ensure you understand these requirements in advance and let your photographer know exactly what you need.
The photo file cannot exceed these requirements:
- Dimensions: 2.5 in. x 3.5 in.
- Resolution: 150dpi
- File Size: 100kb
While completing your application, you can upload your own photo in MyERAS by selecting Upload New Photo in the Actions column.
Residency Application Photo Tips
1 | Wear Professional Clothing
Wear professional clothing; ideally, something that would be appropriate for a medical school or residency interview. If money is tight, you may even want to wear the same outfit you plan to wear to your residency interview.
Essentially, professional clothing simply means wearing a two-piece suit and tie for men and a skirt or pantsuit for women. It’s important to invest in a quality suit, for example, something from Macy’s, Men’s Wearhouse, or Indochino.
For women, it’s important to avoid tight clothing or anything too low-cut. A button-up shirt is a great choice, as this will ensure everything is covered up top. Make sure the shirt you choose contrasts nicely with your blazer if you have one.
A suit is an investment that’s often hundreds of dollars. If money is tight, you’re better off purchasing one medium-to-high quality suit rather than several low-quality suits.
And don’t forget to get it tailored. Wherever you choose to buy your suit, ensure a store clerk takes your measurements so that the suit can be properly tailored to your body. It’s better to have one high-quality, perfectly tailored suit than something that will be uncomfortable or won’t last.
Keep any accessories to a modest minimum, and ensure any tattoos or piercings, besides ear piercings, are concealed. Stay away from large dangle earrings or an overly clunky necklace, for example.
Learn more in our guide to The Ideal Attire for Medical School Interviews.
2 | Choose Simple Colors and Styles
While it’s important to stand out, your wardrobe is not how you do so for your professional photo. Let the rest of your application do that. The application photo is there to help them remember you; it’s not an opportunity to wear flashy, eye-catching clothing. While bright colors and revealing outfits will certainly be memorable, the memory won’t be a good one. You are a young professional; it’s important to dress the part.
Dress sharp, but do so conservatively. While it’s true you may still be wearing a very expensive suit or outfit—flashy colors are not your friend for photos. Regardless of your gender, choose dark, plain colors, such as gray, charcoal black, or navy blue. Stick to solid-colored dress shirts, such as light blue, blue, or white. Whatever shirt you choose, make sure it nicely contrasts with and compliments your suit jacket.
For men, wear a tie that contrasts well with the colors of the rest of your outfit, but once again, this is not the time to be flashy. Avoid any bright colors like yellow, orange, pink, or bright red. For women, make sure any accessories, such as a necklace or earrings, are modest and also not brightly colored or gaudy.
3 | Smile and Look Approachable
It is vital that you appear friendly, courteous, confident, and approachable. Remove any piercings, conceal any tattoos, avoid any edgy haircuts, and men—shave your face. You can have fun with your facial hair another time.
It’s a good idea to get a haircut at least a week before you get your photo taken. This way, you have time to determine whether or not you like it. Plus, you want it to look clean cut, not freshly cut that morning. Make sure you have visited the hairstylist before and are confident in their abilities. A bad hair day is the absolute last thing you want before you get your photo taken.
Naturally, it’s also very important to smile. Now that you’ve been through medical school and have worked on rotations, you already understand how to approach patients and fellow professionals. Be polite, engaged, and confident.
If you struggle to smile in photos and worry about appearing phony or inauthentic, do some practicing at home before photo day. Use a mirror to practice giving a sincere smile. It may help to think of a moment or memory that will make you smile naturally instead of trying to fake your way through.
4 | Invest in Professional Photos
If you know any photographer friends, now 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, it’s important to pay for a professional photo. After the massive cost of medical school, a quality headshot is just another drop in the pond.
Ensure it’s a professional-looking, high-quality photo. Do not settle for less because the professionals evaluating your residency application certainly won’t. The background should be plain and subtle, with nothing there to distract from you.
Don’t be shy about working with the photographer to determine your best look. Let them know what the photo is for and the look you are trying to achieve. If you’re worried or uncomfortable with any aspect of the photography session, be open and honest so that they can help you achieve your desired look.
Getting into residency is serious, so take every piece of your application seriously too. Now is not the time to shrug your shoulders and take shortcuts. While a photo is optional and a comparatively minor part of your application, your attention to detail and dedication to producing the best possible application will not go unnoticed. Take every opportunity you can to demonstrate how enthusiastically you feel and how serious you are about getting into residency and one day becoming a professional physician.
Additional Residency Resources
The Med School Insiders blog is filled with tools, resources, and how-to guides that will help you prepare every aspect of your residency application.
Begin with our ERAS Residency Application Guide, which provides an overview of the entire application process, including an application checklist, mistakes to avoid, and frequently asked questions. We update this guide every year for the new application cycle.
Next, we recommend saving our detailed Residency Application Timeline and Month-by-Month Schedule, which will tell you exactly what you should be working on and when.
We also have guides dedicated to each of the main aspects of the application process, including:
- Residency Letters of Recommendation Guide
- Residency Application Personal Statement Guide
- Guide to Preparing for Residency Interviews
- What to Wear to Residency Interviews and How to Present Yourself
Prepare a Stand Out Residency Application
No matter what you’re struggling with, Med School Insiders can help you prepare a stand out residency application. Our team of doctors has years of experience helping medical students get matched into their ideal program.
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 one-on-one advising. We can help you approach every aspect of your application with care and tact to ensure you’re ultimately matched into the program that best suits your skills and interests.