This time of year marks the annual start of the residency application process through ERAS (electronic residency application service) for every 4th year medical student pursuing a residency position in the specialty of his or her choice. Like your application to college and medical school, you’ll need to gather a number of documents in a timely fashion. Below, we’ll cover the key components of your residency application, separated into two categories: items for which you are primarily responsible and items that your medical school will complete on your behalf. Additionally, be on the lookout for the ERAS “token” (provided by your Dean’s Office) to enter the ERAS website, and be sure to keep your AAMC ID and password in a safe, secure area.
What you must complete:
- Letters of Recommendation(s) (LORs) – It takes some mentors and physicians a significant amount of time to complete a LOR in support of your application. Give your writers 4-6 weeks (with gentle reminders) to write your letter and send them to your Dean’s Office. It is customary to provide these letters with your curriculum vitae (CV, discussed below), Personal Statement (also discussed below), and a document waiving your right to review the letter (every medical school has their own form). Furthermore, visiting each program’s residency website will give you a head’s up as to how many and which types of letters are suggested (e.g. surgical vs. non-surgical letters). Depending on the specialty, 3-4 letters will be required. Ask other med students or even the Dean’s Office at your medical school to help you identify which people will provide strong letters.
- Personal Statement (PS) – This is another critical component of your application. Use your personal statement to explain your decision to pursue interventional neuro-urologic psychiatry (or whatever it is you want to do). Depending on your comfort level, give yourself at least one month, and up to three months, to finish your PS, and ask a few friends, relatives, fellow students to edit it for grammar, spelling, and style. You will then upload this to ERAS, but don’t worry if you think of a better way to word something after you upload it; you’ll have the opportunity to edit it until you submit your application. Depending on the specialty and program, this part of your application should not make or break your candidacy but is nonetheless very important.
- Curriculum Vitae (CV) – to be completed on ERAS website
- Anatomy of the CV: medical education, other education (e.g. undergrad, master’s program, pastry school), membership and honor/professional societies, USMLE and/or COMLEX scores, work experience, volunteer experience, research experience, publications, hobbies & interests, language fluency (other than English), other awards/accomplishments
- Be certain that your CV is updated and truly reflects your accomplishments. Over-embellishments and inaccuracies can and will be picked up by program directors. Remember: people can Google you, call your references, or even check you out on social networking websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
- Photo – It is incredibly important to have a professional photograph of yourself taken. Make sure you are well groomed and professionally dressed for this photo. Once you are happy with your photograph, submit it to your Dean’s Office. There is always the opportunity (prior to the MSPE release date, see below) to submit a new picture if you are not satisfied with your original.
- Review of Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE or “Dean’s Letter”) – Many schools offer the opportunity to schedule a meeting with your Dean’s Office to go over the accuracy of your MSPE (i.e. grades, accomplishments, USMLE scores, AOA status, clerkship grades/comments, etc.). Be on the lookout for and/or proactively schedule this meeting.
What your medical school will complete:
- MSPE (a.k.a. the “Dean’s Letter”): Released to programs October 1st
- Anatomy of the MSPE: identifying information, unique characteristics, academic history, academic progress, summary, appendices
- The infamous Dean’s Letter describes who you are and what you have done during your medical school career. It is standardized and will shed light on how you performed in comparison to your classmates.
- Uploading to ERAS: Your medical school will take care of uploading the MSPE, transcripts, photograph, USMLE scores, and LORs to ERAS. But you need to do your due diligence in making sure these things get done on time.
Throughout the next several months, be sure that all of the aforementioned documents arrive at your Dean’s Office in a timely manner. Consistent communication will prevent you from missing deadlines. Remember, the ultimate goal is to have a complete application by or near the MSPE release date.
Got any ideas that will make the residency application process easier to navigate for your fellow students? Post them below!