This post is for any third year med students watching your fourth year friends or Twitter followers freak out while ERAS crashes and runs at a snail’s pace. Here are my tips to successfully submit your ERAS application.
Finalize and upload your application before ERAS opens
There are thousands of applicants sitting in front of their computers waiting to click submit the second that ERAS opens. When it finally does open, the system is going to operate quite slowly if it doesn’t crash altogether like last year (the 2015 match). The last thing you want to be doing is uploading your personal statement, photo, or assigning documents to programs when the system is running so slowly. So do yourself a favor and finalize your application the night before.
Submit your application sooner than later
My biggest stressor about submitting my application was not knowing how late I could submit my application. Most programs don’t even download your application the first week. Admittedly, my source of information is hearsay and info from the internet and there are bound to be programs that break this guideline. But the majority fall under the bell curve of not downloading your application before the end of the week. Again however, every program is different and some will wait a few days to download your application, some will wait a week, and some might wait longer. It’s frustrating and infuriating that there is no clear-cut answer for when you should submit your ERAS application but the general consensus is the sooner the better.
Here is the dilemma I went through: I only got my step 2 CK score back on Wednesday but applications were able to be sent out on Tuesday. I sent out my application the day ERAS opened on Tuesday and resent my USMLE transcript the following day but I’m fairly certain I could have waited one more day to include my score with my application. It is a different story entirely if you were only getting your score a month or so after your application goes out. At that point the program would need to re-download your application in order to receive your updated USMLE transcript. In my mind, you can apply as soon as you want and get extra documents into ERAS the rest of the week as long as you get your extra documents in before your application is initially downloaded. When that tipping point is I couldn’t tell you. Just get it all in as soon as possible.
At least one of your letter writers will bail on you
One of my letter writers didn’t have the letter uploaded till the day before my application went out (thankfully I already had three others and didn’t even end up using it!). A friend of mine had a letter writer’s secretary forget to upload her letter entirely. It’s a frustrating and anxiety provoking experience. Do your best to gently remind your writers to submit your letter. From your perspective, this is THE most important part of your relationship with your letter writer at the moment. For them, you are likely at the bottom of their priority list. Not to say you aren’t important, but come on…you’ve worked with attendings before. They’ve got shit to do. My best advise is to secure an extra letter or two from people who are willing to write you STRONG letters. That way, if one of them falls through you will have extra ones that you can use and submit. Hopefully your worst case scenario is that you have too many letters and you don’t end up using all of them.
Personal statements are the worst part of the application
It’s hard to humble-brag about yourself while telling a compelling story that illustrates why you will make a perfect candidate for residency. Yeah, try that thesis statement on for size. Start writing your PS early. I wrote three different drafts before it evolved into its final form and those three drafts included dozens of revisions. Not to mention I only had to write a single PS for my internal medicine residency application. Some friends of mine had to write ones for surgery/emergency AND their back up. So start writing those rough drafts and keep on the look out for my follow up blog post about how to write a strong personal statement for residency. It’s a daunting subject and deserves its own post entirely.
I know this doesn’t nearly encompass all of the anxiety inducing questions that med students have on the subject so feel free to comment and ask me a question the process of applying for residency!