Step 1: Apply
Submitting Your Residency Application
What is the First Step to Applying for Residency?
Applying for a residency position begins with preparing and submitting your online application.
The residency application comprises several documents discussed below, and these materials can be initiated prior to finalizing your specialty and/or which programs you wish to apply to.
When Should I Start My Application?
The residency application process for most students begins at the end of their third year/start of their fourth year of medical school. However, this may vary or start sooner depending on individual circumstances.
Do I Need to Know Which Programs I am Applying to?
No. You are not required to know which residency programs you are applying to in order to begin the application process.
You will ultimately submit your application and associated documents to your desired residency programs once the online residency application service opens (see "How Do I Complete the Application" below).
Do I Need to Declare a Specialty?
No. You can start preparing your residency application prior to finalizing your specialty choice.
However, there are elements to your application that may be in your best interest to know which specialty you are applying to (i.e. letters of recommendation).
How Do I Complete My Residency Application?
The AAMC's Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) is an online service used by most residency programs to complete your residency application, attach your associated required documents, and ultimately transmit this information to your chosen residency programs in which you are applying to.
Through the ERAS website you will be able to:
1. Complete your residency application
2. Upload your associated documents (letters of recommendation, personal statement, etc)
3. Research residency programs and their application requirements
4. Select the residency programs you wish to apply to
5. Assign the associated documents required by that residency program
6. Apply to residency programs
ERAS opens in the middle of May of your third year of medical school, and you can start to complete your application and upload any associated documents at that time.
While most residency programs use ERAS, there are other application services as well.
Make sure to research the program's application process and deadlines as a result.
What is Included in My Residency Application?
Your residency application is a compilation of documents and materials to help residency programs decide whether you are qualified and/or would be a good fit for their institution.
An application portfolio usually includes the following elements:
- Application/Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Personal Statement
- Letters of Recommendation
- Medical School Transcript
- Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE)
- Licensing Exam Transcript
It is your responsibility to complete your CV and personal statement, along with asking for and obtaining letters of recommendation.
Medical schools will usually compile your medical school transcript, MSPE, and licensing exam transcript.
As mentioned above, you can start preparing your portfolio before the residency application services open.
Once open, you can submit your application and supporting documents to your desired residency programs (see "When Can I Submit My Residency Application" below).
Do I Need a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?
As mentioned above, your application/CV is one of the elements to your residency application.
While a CV is not required for your ERAS application, much of the information on your CV will be pertinent to filling out the application.
Therefore, creating a CV early in medical school and keeping it current will make filling out your residency application that much easier.
What Should I Include in My Personal Statement?
Your personal statement is the opportunity for you to humanize yourself and become more than just a name on a piece of paper.
Describe the qualities you have that set you apart from others, explain how you would be a positive asset to the residency program, identify what the program offers that made you interested, and demonstrate your passion for the specialty.
Give yourself plenty of time to write a personal statement.
Most students spend 3-4 months intermittently working on their personal statement during the end of their third year/start of their fourth year of medical school.
Try to have your personal statement completed by August of your final year of medical school.
How Many Letters of Recommendation Do I Need?
Most residency programs require at least 3 letters of recommendation.
Typically, you are unable to send more than 4 letters to a single program.
ERAS allows you to store an unlimited amount of letters, and then you can assign which letters you want to send to each program you are applying to.
Who Should I Get Letters of Recommendation From?
Some residency programs may expect certain types of letters of recommendation. Therefore, it is important to speak to a mentor or do your own research if you can.
Students will typically obtain letters of recommendation from attending physicians they have rotated with, faculty they have completed research or worked with, program directors, department chairs, deans, etc.
There is a benefit to knowing the specialty you are applying to as you can choose faculty, department chairs, program directors, and attending physicians within that specialty.
Make sure to give your writers ample time to complete the letter.
Students usually start to ask for letters of recommendation the end of their third year/start of their fourth year of medical school.
What is the MSPE?
Your medical student performance evaluation (MSPE) summarizes your academic performance and professional attributes through your first 3 years of medical school.
Some medical schools will also include as much information as they can about the start of your fourth year of medical school as well.
The MSPE is written by your medical school, and it becomes available to residency programs on ERAS October 1.
Are My USMLE Results Included in My Application?
In most circumstances, you will need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 (CK and CS) in order to graduate medical school and subsequently attend residency training.
A licensing exam transcript is included as part of your ERAS application.
Students typically take the USMLE Step 1 at the end of their second year of medical school.
See below for more information about the USMLE Step 1, along with study tips, schedules, and resources.
The USMLE Step 2 CK and CS are usually completed during third and fourth year of medical school.
Most students try to take Step 2 prior to them interviewing with residency programs, as this will help open up their schedule.
Therefore, your residency application will include your Step 1 results (assuming you took it the end of your second year of medical school) and your Step 2 results (if you completed it and received your results by the time you applied for the residency program).
When Can I Submit My Residency Application?
Beginning September 15 of your final year of medical school, ERAS applications and supporting documents can be submitted to your chosen residency programs.
How Many Residency Programs Should I Apply to?
There are many variables as to how many residency programs you should apply to including, but not limited to, the competitiveness of your specialty, the competitiveness of you as an applicant, the competitiveness of the residency program, if you are couples matching, etc.
You want to make sure you apply to enough programs to be offered interviews.
Everyone's situations is different, but in general students apply to 30-40 residency programs.
However, this is highly variable and some students may apply to as little as 10-20 programs while others may need to apply to as much as 80-100 programs.
I've Submitted My Application, What's Next?
Once you have submitted your ERAS application and supporting documents to your chosen residency programs, you wait to get accepted for an interview.