Med School Residency

ERAS 2020: Timeline, Tips, & Tricks for Residency Applicants

6 min read
ERAS is the standardized online application that all US medical residency applicants must fill out. It stands for the Electronic Residency Application Service. Familiarize yourself with the ERAS timeline, deadlines, and strategies to best prepare for this year’s match cycle! Be sure to check out my Ultimate Medical School Survival Guide for more information about applying to residency.

ERAS Timeline

June 2019 (date TBD)

Application opens! You can register on myERAS and begin filling out the application online.

September 5, 2019

Early bird submission! You can submit to programs early to avoid technical glitches or for peace of mind. ERAS created this window period to avoid website crashes. Do NOT feel pressured to submit early because you will NOT BE ABLE TO CHANGE OR EDIT your application after submission.

September 15, 2019

Programs begin ACCEPTING applications. There is no deadline but applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Everything submitted ON OR BEFORE MIDNIGHT (12AM EST) on SEPTEMBER 15 will be timestamped SEPTEMBER 15. (Starting 12:01AM EST on September 16, applications will be timestamped as they are submitted.)

Pro tip: The highest website traffic is likely September 15, 11pm-12am EST. Try to submit before that window to avoid technical glitches.

October 1, 2019

MSPEs (Dean’s letter) released to programs. Some programs (i.e., dermatology) won’t look at applications until the MSPEs are released, so don’t worry if you submit your application after September 15.

ERAS Tips & Tricks

1. Register for the NRMP Match.

The ERAS application is separate from the NRMP (National Resident Match Program). In order for ACGME-accredited (MD) programs to rank you (and for you to rank them), you need to register for an NRMP ID. Registration opens September 15 here. The deadline for normal registration is November 30, after which you need to pay a late fee.

2. Upload a *good* photo.

Photos are not mandatory but HIGHLY recommended. Check out ERAS Photo Requirements for details on why the photo matters and how you can take a good one.

3. Update your CV throughout the year.

The ERAS format is standard each year (see below), so you can start preparing your application before ERAS even opens (June). The hardest part to complete is the ‘Experience’ section. If you model your CV after the ERAS format, you can simply copy/paste your activities into the designated boxes.

4. Keep descriptions short and concise.

Admissions faculty are spending a few minutes TOPS skimming your application. If you just have pages upon pages of word vomit, they’ll end up skipping everything. 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.
This is called word vomit. It’s very long and hard to read. See below for tips on creative formatting.

5. Get CREATIVE with formatting.

ERAS has limited formatting options. Everything is written in a preset font, font size, and style (it’s all in italics). That means no colorful words, no large titles, and no bolding or underlining.

The one thing you CAN do is CAPITALIZE and use PARAGRAPH BREAKS to your advantage.

This is much easier to read. Capitalize the information you want readers to notice immediately (i.e., impressive fellowships, research topics, cool job titles, etc).

6. Choose your experiences carefully.

Some people think they have to include everything they’ve ever done. This is false!! Imagine you have only 5 minutes to discuss the experiences you’re most proud of. Are you going to mention that you were a perfunctory member of the Global Health Interest Group, Bioethics, AMA, AMWA, and AMSA? Or would you rather focus on the fact that you spearheaded and were President of the Community Outreach for the Homeless?

If you include too many experiences (i.e., listing every extracurricular you signed up for) in your application, it’ll dilute the overall quality of your application and readers might miss what you’re truly proud of (i.e., creating a club).

7. Take advantage of the ERAS layout.

ERAS lists your activities in a predetermined fashion. There are THREE categories and they are listed in the following order:

  • Work experiences
  • Research experiences
  • Volunteer experiences

All of the experiences in each category are listed in chronological order from when you first STARTED, from most recent to least recent. Then we move onto the next category of experiences. Therefore, you want your MOST IMPRESSIVE experiences to have the MOST RECENT start date (end date doesn’t affect list order). This ensures that they are listed at the top of each category.

8. Group experiences appropriately.

Work experiences include any paid opportunities you’ve had. This is a good opportunity to showcase your unique background if you had interesting work experiences prior to med 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!
Research experiences should be listed by project (including those that have not yet been published). CAPITALIZE PROJECT TITLES to make them stand out (see #3). Be sure to describe your role in the project, significant findings/impact, and the papers/presentations/posters that have resulted from your work.
Volunteer experiences include anything that does not belong in the aforementioned categories (i.e., student clubs, journals). This section tends to drag. I’d limit this section to med school experiences, unless it’s particularly noteworthy and something you’d love to discuss during interviews. It’s also a great place to include hobbies you have achieved certain recognition in or demonstrated advanced skill in (i.e., athletes, musicians, competitive chess players, etc).

9. A note on publications…

I capitalized my LAST NAME on titles to draw attention to authorship.
SMITH, J. & Johnson, A. Research on Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit. Journal of Nostrud Exercitation. 1946, Sep; 19(3): 333-344. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 45454545. Pub Status: Published.
Peer-reviewed vs non peer-reviewed
Include everything you’ve published in peer-reviewed journals. You can also list “non peer-reviewed” publications —  research articles you’ve written for your school or a well-established organization. I included a science article I wrote for The Conversation, but avoided the gray area of blog posts.
Submitted vs in-preparation
You may list “submitted” manuscripts but not manuscripts “in-preparation.” 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 it under research experiences. 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.
Poster/oral presentations
Poster presentations are pretty self-explanatory. Any poster presented at conferences or at your school is okay to include. Oral presentations include presentations given at conferences or other noteworthy meetings like Grand Rounds. “Medical student presentations” or morning report may not be appropriate, but that’s a judgement call for you to make!

10. Don’t forget the importance of hobbies!

Readers will ALWAYS go to your hobbies section so they can get to know you on a personal level. Include interesting ones you want to discuss in interviews. I’ve always been asked about my hobbies during interviews!

11. Set up a unique email for ERAS correspondence.

Having a unique ERAS email is really helpful when you start scheduling interviews, so notifications don’t get lost in your inbox. I forwarded my ERAS inbox to my phone and set up text message alerts 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 phone forwarding. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on interview tips!

12. Be sure to proofread.

Typos are easy to correct and give such a terrible first impression to readers. I printed my ERAS out multiple times and went over grammar/typos with a highlighter/pen.

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