• Rajani Katta MD and Samir Desai MD

How to Stand Out and Improve Your Residency Application by Strengthening Your Message in ERAS

Updated: 7 days ago


What is the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)?


The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) was founded in 1995 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Through ERAS, applicants complete a single application which is transmitted electronically to designated programs. Presently, all specialties participate in the ERAS program, with the exception of ophthalmology, which participates in the San Francisco Matching Program Central Application Service (CAS).


Residency programs use ERAS as an important tool in filtering potential applicants.


“Many RPDs use ERAS software tools to set parameters that confine the number of applications downloaded by setting filters that screen for minimum USMLE scores, clerkship grades, citizenship, and geographic location,” writes Kenneth Grundfast, Chief of Otolaryngology at Boston University School of Medicine. “Applicants whose credentials do not meet the spectrum of criteria set for automatic download from ERAS may never have their applications seen by faculty on a selection committee.”


  • In this post, we're going to discuss how you can strengthen your ERAS application

  • If you'd like to learn more about a simple, but very serious, mistake that students sometimes make in their ERAS, please see this post.



Do all specialties utilize ERAS?


All specialties (with the exception of ophthalmology) use ERAS.


While the urology match is administered by the American Urological Association, urology programs also use ERAS. Ophthalmology, however, participates in the Central Application Service (CAS).


A few programs within ERAS-participating specialties do not use ERAS. If so, you'll need to obtain the application directly from the program.



What Goes Into the ERAS Application?


ERAS allows for the transmission of all application components, including:

  • Common application

  • Personal statement

  • MSPE

  • Letters of recommendation

  • Transcripts


For applicants participating in the NRMP Match in 2021, September 29th is the earliest date on which programs will review ERAS applications.




Do you need a CV to complete your ERAS application?


Technically, you don’t need a CV to complete your ERAS application. However, we recommend you prepare one, as we discuss further below.




How do you fill out ERAS?


From a practical standpoint, how should you prepare your responses for each of the sections on ERAS?

  • We recommend that you use your word processing software to generate your responses to the different sections.

  • We have more tips and pointers on what to include in your responses below.

  • You can use your CV as a starting point for crafting your section responses.

  • Once you’ve completed, then proofread and edited those responses, you can cut and paste them into ERAS.

  • Once you’re done, the ERAS system will then automatically generate a basic CV.


Image of a filled out ERAS CV template
Example of an ERAS CV filled out



I already have a CV. Can I upload my CV into ERAS? Where do I upload my CV into ERAS?


You won’t be able to just attach or upload your CV to your ERAS application. Instead, you’ll have to use the information in your CV as a starting point for the different sections.




If I can’t upload my CV into ERAS, do I still need to create one?


Yes, you still need to create a professional-looking paper version of your CV. First, this definitely helps as you prepare your ERAS application, as well as other components of your application. A paper CV may also be helpful or required in certain situations.

  • Some residency programs do not participate in ERAS. For these programs, you may have to submit a paper CV.

  • The CV will help you fill out your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) Data Form. Medical schools use this form to help them create your MSPE (formerly known as the Dean’s letter), an important component of your residency application

  • The CV will help you complete different sections of the residency application.

  • The CV can be of considerable help as you begin to draft your personal statement.

  • Mentors and faculty in your specialty of interest will review your CV to provide you with informed advice about how to strengthen your credentials.

  • Your letter writers will rely on your CV to help them write strong LORs.

  • When students apply for an elective rotation at another institution, they may be required to submit a CV. Such “away” or “audition electives'' are often helpful for students applying to competitive residencies.

  • Reviewing your CV prior to the interview will remind you of your strengths and accomplishments, helping to boost confidence.

  • Interviewers may request a copy of your CV at the start of an interview in order to help structure the interview. This provides an ideal opportunity to emphasize your strengths and highlight the skills you would bring as a resident.


Your CV will continue to be an important document even after you enter a residency program. It’s not a static document, but rather one that needs to be updated regularly as you progress through your career.






How to Improve Your ERAS Application: Use Evidence to Deliver a Strong Message


The following are examples of how applicants presented information in ERAS as well as the message conveyed by this information.


To substantiate their message, applicants can


  • Change the emphasis of their description

  • Add crucial details

  • Expand upon the information


In the following examples, note how the addition of evidence imbues these messages with greater impact.



Before and After ERAS: How a Full Description of Work Experiences Can Provide a Greater Impact


BEFORE:


Information entered in ERAS:

  • Work experience September 2019-December 2019

  • Served as an anatomy teaching assistant.


Message: This student has teaching experience.



AFTER:

Evidence entered in ERAS:

  • September 2019-December 2019

  • Anatomy teaching assistant; position awarded to two students per year by invitation of anatomy faculty.

  • Instructed first-year medical students in anatomy lab, created 10 dissection lesson plans, and led an additional 10 discussion sessions.


Message: This student has successfully emphasized that he values teaching, and was recognized for his abilities to teach. The preparation of ten lesson plans is a significant commitment of time, energy, and effort, and his transcript confirms that he was able to maintain excellent grades during this time period.




Before and After ERAS: How Specific Numerical Data Can Convey a More Powerful Description


BEFORE:


Information entered in ERAS:

  • Work experience 2018-2019

  • Physician Director, Karachi Ob/Gyn Associates, Karachi, Pakistan.

  • Supervised a team of healthcare professionals.


Message: This physician has clinical experience as an Ob/Gyn.



AFTER:


Evidence entered in ERAS:

  • Work experience 2018-2019 Physician Director, Karachi Ob/Gyn Associates, Karachi, Pakistan

  • Supervised team of 20 healthcare professionals in clinic responsible for the care of 3000 obstetrics and gynecology patients.


Message: The concrete numbers and action verbs used in this CV provide evidence of the responsibility she was entrusted with as a physician director, and documents her significant clinical experience and the type of heavy workload to which she is accustomed.




Before and After ERAS: The Importance of Describing Awards and Honors To More Fully Demonstrate the Meaning of These Accolades



BEFORE:


Entered in ERAS: The Erin Kelley Award 2019


Message: This student won an award.



AFTER:


Evidence: The Erin Kelley Award 2019 – awarded to one student per year who embodies compassion in patient care; voted on by peers.


Message: This student is known for her compassion, to the point that she was the single individual recognized by her peers for her compassion in patient care.




Before and After ERAS: How A Detailed Description of Work or Community Service Activities Can Emphasize Your Commitment and Growth


BEFORE:


Entered in ERAS: Participant in the Susan A. Albert junior-senior mentor program 9/2014-5/2015.


Message: This applicant served as a mentor.



AFTER:


Evidence: Invited by the faculty panel to serve in the Susan A. Albert junior-senior high mentor program. Mentored two adolescent middle-schoolers with learning disabilities. Met weekly with mentee, discussed any personal or academic school issues, and tutored in the subjects of English and science.


Message: The applicant was invited to serve, and thus this is recognition of his abilities. He gained tutoring experience. Serving as a mentor to a child for a one-year time period, and meeting weekly, is a significant effort and demonstrates commitment.



The Bottom Line: Highlighting the evidence in your application can strengthen your ERAS. These are just a few examples of how to strengthen your messaging in ERAS. For more information on how to stand out in your residency application, please see our blog and our best-selling book The Successful Match: Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match.



Dr. Rajani Katta is the creator of The Residency Interview 101, the online course that helps applicants quickly and confidently prepare for their residency interviews. She is also the co-author of The Successful Match: Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match and served as Professor of Dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 17 years.



Dr. Samir Desai is the author of 20 books, including The Successful Match and The Clinician's Guide to Laboratory Medicine. He has been a faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 20 years and has won numerous teaching awards.



If you'd like to receive a free 100+ page excerpt of The Successful Match, please sign up here.



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