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Guidance on the residency application process

After traipsing about the country for residency interviews, I’m happily back in the Bay Area, with time to reflect on what a whirlwind process applying for residency can be. In this entry, I include statements that I heard from upperclassmen/peers before I applied and how the experience actually shook out for me. I’m applying in peds and some things might be different for other specialties -- but hopefully this is helpful for those of you who will soon go through the process.

Except for your personal statement, ERAS can be done in a weekend.

True. Unlike med school applications, ERAS (the Electronic Residency Application Service) is relatively straightforward, with four main sections: your CV, your personal statement, your letters of recommendation, and the list of programs you’re applying to. You can easily start working on ERAS in August – like I did – instead of starting it right when it opens, in early June. The one caveat to that is that you should try to ask for letters as early as possible (I asked in June) to give faculty plenty of time to write and submit.

Residency interview invites will start pouring in as soon as you hit submit.

False. You should absolutely submit ERAS when it opens for submission and make sure to tell your letter writers to upload their letters by then too. I know that some specialties (family medicine, for instance) send out interviews soon after, but -- at least for peds -- don’t expect an influx of invitations until a couple weeks later, when your dean’s letter goes in. I heard from the majority of the programs I applied to in the first two weeks of October, and a couple in late October/early November.

When you get a residency invite, you have to respond immediately!

TRUE. I received my very first interview invite at 5:54 AM one morning from an East Coast program. I was on radiology at the time and comfortably sleeping in each day. By the time I saw the invite, there were only two dates open, at the end of January. So, make sure to respond in a timely manner! Many of my classmates and I added the following emails (interviews@interviewbroker.com, no-reply@thalamusgme.com, noReply@aamc.org) to our “VIP” list on our iPhone mail apps, so that we’d hear a custom notification sound when those emails came in.

I would say the majority of invites came through interview broker, with one or two from thalamus. Occasionally, programs would send applicants a message via ERAS (i.e. the aamc.org address) and ask applicants to respond with their top three dates of preference.

It’s better to schedule your interviews earlier in the season.

False. Schedule them based on what works best for you! I didn’t start interviews until early December because I wanted to finish up clinical rotations first. It meant that I had a slightly more hectic schedule, with multiple interviews each week, but it worked out so that I was able to cluster most of my interviews geographically, without making multiple cross-country trips.

 Schedule a few “practice” interviews before interviewing at your top programs.

True…ish. It’s certainly helpful to have a couple interviews under your belt before you interview at the programs you plan to rank highest, so if you can make that happen, great! Because of scheduling reasons, I actually interviewed at one of my top programs first, and it still went fine – so don’t panic if your first-choice program happens to be your first interview. As a side note, if your school offers mock residency interviews, definitely take advantage of that – super helpful.

Those are the big things I can think of right now. If anyone has any other questions, send ‘em my way – hamsika@stanford.edu.

Stanford Medicine Unplugged is a forum for students to chronicle their experiences in medical school. The student-penned entries appear on Scope once a week during the academic year; the entire blog series can be found in the Stanford Medicine Unplugged category.

Hamsika Chandrasekar is a fourth-year student at Stanford’s medical school. She has an interest in medical education and pediatrics.

Photo by Pexels

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