At the end of your third year of medical school, there are so many emotions. You just completed one of the hardest years ever which is a huge accomplishment! You are also starting to be stressed about the Step 2CK exam. It really never ends!
Going into my fourth year, I was a mess. I was coming off a research year and I had not done any serious medicine in what felt like a decade. Because of how my schedule was set up, I hit the ground running and was on an OB/GYN rotation. Looming over your head is the fact that you need to get everything in order to apply for residency!
In this blog post, I’m giving you some tips on how to effectively prepare yourself for the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) submission. This blog post is not specific to OB/GYN applicants- I’m giving you some tips that could apply to most specialties!
First, you need to start with your mindset! This is such a stress-inducing time, but you should try to be positive and start speaking highly of yourself (to yourself)! You survived 3 years of medical school and maybe even an additional year(s) if you completed a second degree. You should be so proud of yourself for making it this far!
Just so you get an idea of the timeline for the 2022 Match Cycle:
- The application opened on June 9th
- Applications were available for Program Directors to view on September 29th!
My number 1 piece of advice… START EARLY!
The AAMC provides a simple ERAS checklist that is useful to know what goes into the application. Start here.
Your CV is something that is easy and semi-mindless when compared to other tasks. Now is the time to review and update it! It’s probably been a while since you did this because you’ve been grinding on your clinical rotations! You don’t have to do it all in one day, but think about all the things you did and make sure it is in writing! If you do this step now, it’ll just come down to copying and pasting into the application.
Add a section for hobbies at the end. You may not keep this section in your official CV after application season is over, but there is a section in the application for this so just jot down what you like to do! This section is more important than you might think. Your hobbies come up a lot in interviews because it’s a way for interviewers to see what your interests are outside of medicine!
Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) (aka the Dean’s Letter)
Once you’re done updating your CV, you should choose 3-4 activities or designations that were the most important to you. Your school will be reaching out to you to set up meetings and ask what you want to be highlighted. If you are already prepared this will be the least of your worries!
I knew that this would be the most difficult part for me, so I started knowing I had to rip the bandaid off. I’m not saying you need to have a perfect draft. Just start writing down some bullets- stuff you like, things that inspire you, why you love the specialty you applying to, your favorite extra circular activities during medical school, etc. It doesn’t have to be structured or make sense to anyone other than you. For me, it seemed like half the battle was going from having a blank page to having some words on it. I started doing this end of May/early June.
If you tend to work well under pressure that’s fine too. Do what you have to do to make sure you are representing yourself in the best way possible! The most important thing is that you have a mentor(s) read it and give you some feedback before submission! Some things may sound good in your head but may not come off as you intended when read by a future PD or interviewer.
I can do a more in-depth post about personal statement writing if you guys would be interested in that! Let me know by dropping a comment here or DMing me on IG!
You will need a headshot that will be associated with your application. There are so many options- free photos offered by your medical school, JC Penny/Sears, a friend with a DSLR camera, or just using your phone! If it’s not in your budget to spend $100+ on 1 photo, I would go with the phone option. Just make sure you have a plain background and good lighting. This picture will be used to identify and will likely end up on the face sheet alongside your future co-interns!
Here’s a resource for more tips for ERAS headshots!
Making your list of programs
This is probably the part you are most interested in. How the heck do you pick programs? How many should I apply to? Where do I look for information on what each program has to offer?.
Here’s what I did:
Before I started looking at programs, I made a list of all the things I wanted in a program. It wasn’t super long or super specific (some things were), but it was just a general wish list of my ideal program.
Things to consider:
- Type of program – “academic vs community” these terms are sort of fading out as programs may have aspects of both. Traditionally, an academic institution was one that was associated with a medical school and has high amounts of grant funding, and fellows (among other things). A community program typically did not have a medical school associated with it and may not have trained fellows. As you look at programs you may find that some have multiple hospitals and maybe 1 is a university hospital and another is more community-type.
- How many hospitals are in the program- some places may only have their residents work at one hospital. Others may have 3 or 4. So residents may split call at multiple institutions and maybe you don’t get what that means now, but keep it on your radar as you attend resident meet and greets.
- Possibility for fellowship, fellowship match rate- consider this If you might want to do a fellowship or if you think maybe you will figure it out later. A program does not have to have a particular fellowship at their institution for people to match into that subspeciality. The most important thing is finding out if you would be supported should you decide that is part of your career path later on.
- Number of residents per class (would you prefer a small class or a larger one?)
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Elective opportunities (eg Global health, public policy, research)
- Any specific training or career development opportunity (eg OB/GYN specific: family planning/Ryan programs if that is a priority for you)
There may be other things I have not mentioned here, but these are a few of the things I considered. You don’t have to know exactly what you want for each of these but this is something to start to consider and also that you will find out more about as you go through interviews!
If you are like me, you are thinking, Alice should I start this crazy spreadsheet with everything I find out about programs now?! My advice…no! I started doing that and it would’ve been a list of like 90-100 programs!
You can use FRIEDA as a way to make a preliminary list. Although sometimes program info is not up to date, it is an easy way to favorite places you think you’d like to apply to! If you still want to make your Type A spreadsheet wait until you’ve gotten all of your interview invites- that way you can compare and contrast your actual choices!
When it comes to the number of programs to apply to: this is very individual and specialty dependent. I had decent scores, extracurriculars, research, etc, and still applied to 50+ programs (some may say that was too much or too little depending on who you talk to).
Please note: I won’t be discussing ‘signaling” here mainly because it was not an option for me! I will say I wish it would’ve been though!
Not sure if this is worth its own post but I wanted to mention that the actual scheduling of interviews can be stressful (eg. for OB/GYN applicants] the majority of our invites were released on one day). Many people will advise you to schedule the interviews you care the most about in the middle of interview season. Ideally, that would be great but with virtual interviews, you may end up taking what you can get. Or you could come off a waitlist randomly. Don’t stress- my first couple of interviews were actually some of my top choices! If you are lucky enough to interview at your home institution first and maybe one mock interview before that – you are more than ready to tackle interview season! You did all the stuff in your CV and you want to be a (insert specialty here) so you will be fine to talk about it!
That’s all of my major tips for getting ready to submit your application for residency! I hope this post was helpful to you! Let me know if you have any more questions by leaving a comment here or DM me on IG!