If you’ve read my last two posts, you know that as a fourth year student, most of my attention has been directed to my residency application in one way or another. But between sharing my experiences during specialty-tailored rotations and USMLE Step 2, I feel like I’ve neglected to share the details of the single most important factor in my journey toward residency – the application process itself.
The residency application itself is submitted electronically through an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website called MyERAS (ERAS stands for electronic residency application system). The application itself includes an electronic Curriculum Vitae and a system for uploading letters of recommendation, USMLE transcripts, Medical School transcripts, a photograph, and a personal statement. Unlike the medical school application, there are no secondary applications or follow-up essays. All the information residency programs receive is standardized and compiled on this single website. This year, the first day for submission of the ERAS application was September 15th with deadlines varying based upon the individual program.
Following submission, residency programs are able to view the ERAS application, at which point they may decide to extend invitations to interview. Interviews are generally conducted during the months of November to December. Now, depending upon one’s specialty choice and competitiveness, applicants may apply to different numbers of programs, and thus, attend different numbers of interviews at programs all over the country. I am currently preparing for my first interviews, and look forward to sharing more about them in the future.
After visiting, interviewing with, and learning more about each prospective program, applicants must rank the programs in order of preference. This is known as the rank list. Similarly, each residency program ranks applicants in order of preference. This process involves a separate system, the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP), in which an applicant must register. Different programs may require earlier or later submission of the rank list, and there is even an option within the system to “Couples Match,” where couples and spouses can coordinate their rank lists in an attempt to match in the same geographic regions. This year, applicants in the Main Residency Match, must submit rank lists by February 22nd.
Finally, the residency application process comes to a close during Match Week. At the beginning of the week, applicants learn whether or not they have matched with a residency program. If not, they can opt to enter into the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance (SOAP) program, which pairs unmatched applicants to programs with unfilled residency slots. The week culminates on Friday at noon on Match Day, when applicants all over the country find out exactly where they will be starting their internship in July. The end result of Match Day is that applicants get paired with one, and only one, residency program. They do not have multiple acceptances to choose from, like in the college or medical school application process.
While there are specialty-specific intricacies to the process, these are the general terms and timelines that you may hear fourth-year medical students chattering, venting, or gushing about this year. I too have a lot to learn about the process, and I look forward to sharing what I learn and experience as Match Day approaches.