With over 10 years’ experience in guiding candidates in applying for medical residency, and having critiqued and edited 1,000+ ERAS applications during that time, I have seen firsthand just how far the way in which you fill out your ERAS application goes in communicating to program directors the kind of resident you would be in their programs. Are you thorough in your work? Do you take care of every detail? Do you present information in an easy-to-read and efficient format, and make your information as easy to receive as possible?
All these characteristics are ones you can demonstrate through how you fill out your ERAS application. It communicates how you will approach meeting, diagnosing and caring for the program’s patients, and working with the attendings, your fellow residents and others in the health care team. In this article, I will cover the details residency applicants commonly overlook as well as answers to common questions that relate to the ERAS application.
After you’ve covered the basics discussed in this article, sign up for our ERAS Application Editing & Feedback service, which comes with a free second edit, so we can provide you our expert advice tailored to your particular application.
Step 1: Get Your Addresses Right
The first item residency programs will see are your addresses. Are they, or at least one of them, in the U.S.? Are the spelled, capitalized and punctuated correctly?
Do not skip over these details. Make sure you have a U.S. mailing address, if not also a U.S. permanent address. If you are not in the U.S., then you need to find a way to get here. Even if you are here for only a few months for an observership, put your U.S. address as both your mailing and permanent address. You want to show you are fully committed to being in the U.S.
Make sure your address is spelled, capitalized and punctuated correctly.
DLA Editors & Proofers
1700 post oak bvd
2 blvd place, st 600
Houston TX 77056
DLA Editors & Proofers
1700 Post Oak Blvd
2 Blvd Place, Suite 600
Houston, TX 77056
Step 2: Check Your Phone Numbers
Make sure you have a U.S. phone number, and to list your mobile phone number. Ideally your mobile phone number is a U.S. phone number. If you are in the U.S. and don’t have a U.S. mobile phone number, get one.
List your mobile phone number as your preferred phone number and vice versa. You want to come across to program directors as fully available to them.
Make sure your phone numbers are formatted appropriately and consistently. Use either (###) ###-#### or ###-###-#### for the format; if in doubt, use ###-###-####. Do not use #########, and do not use ###.###.####. You do not want to come across as someone who is not thoughtful, professional and conservative in the details.
8774544957 or 877.454.4957
877-454-4957 or (877) 454-4957
If you have a long international phone number, make sure to break it up into small even segments separated by spaces or hyphens for readability. Spaces are preferred over hyphens to help distinguish them clearly as international phone numbers.
338774544957 or +33 8774544957
+33 874 544 957 or +33 87 45 44 95
Step 3: Work, Volunteer & Research Experiences—The Header
For each work, volunteer and research experience you list in your ERAS application, put as much information in the header for the experience as possible. The “header” means the organization, position, supervisor, country, state/province, city and average hours/week.
First, completely fill out all fields for each experience, even if the fields are marked as optional. Next, put as much contextual information as possible in each field, as appropriate, to remove the need to put it in the description. For example, for the position, put “Internal Medicine Observer” instead of simply “Observer,” or put “Dept. of Medicine, Jones Hospital” instead of simply “Jones Hospital” for the organization to avoid having to state in the description that it was a position in internal medicine. This will allow your description to get directly to the point.
Step 4: Work, Volunteer & Research Experiences—The Description
Do not repeat information in the description from the header. Each item of your description should start with a specific past participle; it should not be a sentence, and it should not be vague (e.g., worked). You do not need to bother with trying to format them as bullet points. They will be easy enough to read as it is, and trying to get the formatting such that it appears correctly when exported as a PDF is often quite challenging in the MyERAS form.
Keep the descriptions focused on what you did. If describing a research experience, for example, do not talk about what the project or lead investigator was doing as something separate from you. Instead, describe what you did within that project.
Be specific, concise and thorough, and tailor your descriptions toward the specialty/specialties you are applying for.
Step 5: Work, Volunteer & Research Experiences—The Reason for Leaving
Unless the experience is current or ongoing, always provide a reason for leaving. If nothing else, put “Successfully completed ___.”
Step 6: Work, Volunteer & Research Experiences—Clinical Rotations
Medical school clinical rotations are not work experience. Candidates from medical schools providing a dean’s letter instead of an MSPE, or an incomplete MSPE, or candidates from Caribbean medical schools will want to put the rotations as work experience. The better option is to get your medical school to send a well-prepared MSPE. You can also discuss your rotations in your personal statement, and they can be discussed in your letters of recommendation. Finally, you may list them in the Other Awards/Accomplishments section.
Step 7: Work, Volunteer & Research Experiences—Observerships & Externships vs. Volunteer Experiences
Observerships and externships are work experience, not volunteer experience. It is not a question of whether the position is a paid one. A volunteer experience is one you do to give something to someone, like building houses for Habitat for Humanity or going on a medical mission.
Step 8: Hobbies & Interests
Do not gloss over your hobbies and interests. This is a unique opportunity for you to stand out from the other candidates. Think about hobbies and interests as potential conversation starters during an interview. Provide two or three that are unique to you, specific and well-developed. For example, instead of “reading,” put “reading 19th-century Russian literature”; instead of “baking,” put “baking and decorating brownies for my friends’ birthdays.” Put whatever is true.