This might seem like one of the more daunting tasks standing between you and interviews, but it doesn’t have to be if you prepare early.
1. Update your CV throughout the year.
This was by far the most helpful advice I got. I ended up modeling my CV after the ERAS activities section, so that when ERAS actually opened up, I literally copy/pasted my CV into the relevant sections. The format is standard each year (see below), so you can start preparing now. Also, having an updated CV will help you when applying for away rotations.
2. Register for ERAS early!
You can register as early as June. This way, you can start filling in your application well in advance of the official submission date (sometime in September). Check out the official timeline here.
3. Maintain quality over quantity.
Even the most accomplished entrepreneurs can still have a CV 1-page long. That means impactful, meaningful experiences should take the place of lesser experiences, NOT in addition to. In other words, do NOT try to list all of the extracurricular clubs you ever joined but were only a perfunctory member of. Being the president of one club carries more weight than being a “club member” of five.
4. Include experiences relevant to your time in medical school… (unless it’s really unique and makes you you).
There are differing schools of thought regarding how much one should include in their experiences section. I personally think it’s totally based on the individual, so let’s first break down each of the three categories:
Research experiences are the easiest to categorize. Each research project should get a separate category, including research projects that have not yet been published. Be sure to describe your role in the project, mention any significant findings/impact, and the papers/presentations/posters that have resulted from your work. I also think if you had significant research experiences during college/before medical school, you should include them here.
Work experiences include any paid opportunities you had during medical school. Once again, I think you should focus on experiences during medical school, but I think it’s also a good opportunity to showcase your unique background if you had interesting work experiences prior to medical school. Now is the time to mention if you used to work in finance, used to be a piano instructor, or traveled with the circus for a year!
Volunteer experiences include anything that does not belong in the aforementioned categories. I limited this section to things I only did in medical school, mainly because there were a few experiences I was particularly proud of and wanted to focus on, so I didn’t want to distract the reader with a deluge of other less meaningful extracurricular experiences (see #2). I also think it’s a great place to include hobbies you have achieved certain recognition or demonstrated advanced skill in (ie, athletes, musicians, competitive chess players, etc).
5. Stick to one style.
If you like bullet points, do bullet points. If you like paragraphs, do paragraphs. But try not to jump between styles, because it makes the application look less polished.
6. Keep it brief but detailed.
What an oxymoron. Not every “activity” needs an essay description. Save the lengthy descriptions for a select few hobbies or experiences that really mean a lot to you. If you were a TA, just briefly go over the subjects you taught and how you prepared for each session. Unless you somehow revolutionized the teaching curriculum or really want your passion for teaching to shine through, there’s no need “over-explain” your experiences.
7. Set up a unique email for ERAS correspondence.
This was really helpful for me when I started scheduling interviews, so that my ERAS emails wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle of junk mail, newsletters, and the like. I forwarded my ERAS to my phone, and would get a text message each time I got a new email. I also made sure to configure my settings so that NOTHING went to spam. Check out this tutorial for setting up text forwarding.
8. Make sure to proofread!
Once again, typos are so easy to correct and make such a terrible impression to the reader. I printed my ERAS out multiple times and went over grammar/typos with a fine-tooth comb.
9. Have someone else look over it.
This is ideally an adviser of yours, in the specialty you’re applying into. But it’s also helpful to get someone who has a good grasp of the English language to proofread for eloquence and flow.
Lastly… a word on publications/presentations
There’s an art to crafting a formidable publication list. Include everything that’s been published to peer-reviewed journals from undergrad and beyond. I think there’s also an option to list “non-peer reviewed” publications, so that might include science articles you’ve written for your school website or a nationally recognized website. But I don’t think blog posts would count, unless if you were maybe featured on some established medical blog. It’s a gray area, so I only included my research articles in scientific journals. There’s also an option to list “submitted” manuscripts, but there’s no “in-preparation” option. That means you can’t list a manuscript you only have a draft for. If you’re nearing submission on a project/paper, you should include that under research experiences.
Many interviewers will look up articles you’ve written, so make sure it’s actually on Pubmed or is searchable. Everything listed on your publications list is fair game, and I’ve definitely been asked about the current status and outcomes (rejected or accepted) of my “submitted” papers on the interview trail.
As for presentations, poster presentations are pretty self-explanatory. Any poster you’ve presented at conferences or at your school is fair game. Oral presentations include presentations given at conferences or other noteworthy meetings like Grand Rounds. I don’t think presentations you did during morning rounds or morning report would necessarily be appropriate to include here, but you could always ask your adviser about this.
10. Submit AS SOON AS ERAS OPENS!
Congrats! You’ve made it this far. Make sure to double-check, triple-check your application, and then submit RIGHT when ERAS opens. I know people start getting interviews literally the next day, so you want to make sure your application is seen early. GOOD LUCK 4th YEARS!