Applying for residency programs: Fourth-year med students' essential checklist

Staff Writer
AMA Wire
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After three years of arduous studying, exams and clinical rotations, you’re finally in the home-stretch to completing your undergraduate medical training and transitioning to the next phase of your career in residency. As you apply to programs this year, keep these tasks top of mind to reduce stress and ensure you have an effective residency application process.

May-June: Obtain your token for the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) 

ERAS—a service that transmits students’ residency program applications and key information from their Designated Dean's Office to program directors—will become a very familiar part of your life as a fourth-year student. Take time early in your application process to ensure that you can register at MyERAS, the service’s application system for students. At this stage in your process:

  • Be sure to request a token early in the process to avoid any delays in starting your application. Each medical school’s Designated Dean’s Office establishes their own procedures for distributing ERAS tokens, so be sure to contact your designated dean’s office for information on tokens. Your token will be a one-time access code used to register on MyERAS.
  • Once you request a token, register for early any early match programs that interest you. 

June-July: If you’re an osteopathic applicant, register for the AOA Intern/Resident Registration Program

This program places students into osteopathic graduate medical education positions in the United States. Once you register, you can select and apply to American Osteopathic Association- (AOA) accredited residency programs through ERAS. Review these key resources before registering:

July-August: Use these months to prepare supplemental application materials

Take this time to finalize letters of recommendation and provide each letter of recommendation author their letter request form. If you’re interested in military residency positions, you can also apply for them at this time. To learn more about letter of recommendations:

  • Review this presentation from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which provides a helpful overview of the letter of recommendation process on ERAS, how to properly request a letter, and the unique roles medical schools and students play in this process. 

For advice on how to successfully complete your MyERAS profile and application:

  • Review these five key writing tips to write an effective personal statement for your program application.
  • Read advice from residents on coordinating away rotations and how to use them to effectively boost your application for residency.
  • Review the AAMC’s tools for residency applicants, which features guides and worksheets to help students successfully complete their MyERAS applications. 

September: Select and apply to programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)

Also register for the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) Match, which is the main matching service program directors use to rank and select residency program applicants. Students interested in the couples match and San Francisco Matching Program can apply for programs at this time. Flag these key resources to learn more about the Match and selecting programs for residency:

  • It’s hard to select a good residency program if you don’t know how to find it. Conduct an effective search for residency programs by accessing FREIDA Online®—the Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database—which features listings for nearly 9,800 medical residency and fellowship programs. Students using FREIDA can find information about training programs, key application deadlines and specialty training statistics, which provide a helpful overview of residency programs based on trends across all programs in a specialty. Review these four search hacks, FREIDA’s FAQs and registration page to make the most of searching for and selecting programs for residency.
  • Learn what it’s like to navigate the Match as a couple and key tips from students who’ve experienced the process.
  • Check out AMA Wire’s® Match resources, featuring insights on the Match process and what to do even after you match to your program.
  • Review the NRMP’s information page for important details about how to register for the Match.  

October-January: Schedule and travel to interviews

Following interviews, also be sure to send thank you letters. Now that you’ve selected and applied to programs, this will be an important time to carefully assess which residency programs best fit your preferences for training and lifestyle. If you participated in early match programs—such as those for the San Francisco Match, urology or ophthalmology—you will likely receive Match results in January. Students in the military Match will receive results in December.

For students still ranking their residency programs, be sure to:

  • Reference websites for deadlines to submit rank order lists and review these resources from the AAMC for tips on how to strategically rank your residency programs.
  • Keep these top questions to ask handy as you begin your residency program interviews. Asking the right questions can help you determine if a program is the right fit and whether how you’d like to rank them in the Match.
  • Send thank-you notes following your interviews.

February: AOA Intern/Resident Registration Program match results will be available

If you’re participating in the match for osteopathic applicants, you should receive your long-awaited results.

March: NRMP main residency Match results are announced

The much-anticipated Match Week will soon arrive—and you’ll likely learn your results during a special celebration at your medical school.

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