Both American medical school graduates and international medical graduates (IMGs) spend countless hours on their essay or personal statement for residency. This is understandable. The personal statement is your way to express who you are in your own words, but what about the ERAS application?
One big mistake we see a lot every year is that candidates do not spend nearly enough time on their ERAS application. The ERAS application is REALLY important. The sections about your research experiences, work experiences and awards are read closely by faculty. So many people forget that everything you fill out in the ERAS application is FAIR GAME for interviewers. More importantly, SO MANY APPLICANTS do not know how to fill out ERAS application the RIGHT WAY. There’s a balance here. You SHOULD NOT load up your ERAS application with a large amount of unnecessary or irrelevant details. You SHOULD present all of your accomplishments in a way that puts you in the BEST light. It’s also important to remember that if your Letters of Recommendation (Chapter 4) support your claims, you look EVEN better. They help provide context to your accomplishments.
We are going to include our tips to SUPERCHARGE your ERAS application. We’re going to use our own ERAS applications to show you what we mean.In this post, we talk about 10 easy tips to strengthen your ERAS application. Before you submit it, please take a look!
1. Fill out your ERAS Application in a Word document first.
You want to make sure you do not miss any spelling mistakes. You will be editing this ERAS application over and over again. Trust us, you want to have an easily searchable word document you can copy and paste back into ERAS at the end.
2. In your EDUCATION section, definitely put in whether you graduated with Honors or not. So if you graduated from a university, do not just put your degree.
Here’s what MOST people do:
Undergraduate – John Adams University, Andersonville, FL
07/2004 – 05/2008
Bachelors of Arts, 05/2008
Here’s what you SHOULD do:
Undergraduate – John Adams University, Andersonville, FL
Psychology (with highest honors)
07/2004 – 05/2008
Bachelors of Arts, 05/2008
3. Membership and Honorary/Professional Societies
Make sure you JOIN a professional society. We recommend a student membership to the American Medical Association.
The reason? Well, it just looks better to have SOMETHING in a field than NOTHING. As an IMG, it will also show that you are assimilating to the American medical culture. The cost is less than $100 bucks for a year and you get JAMA as a part of it. It makes you look smart to have JAMA lying around too….
4. Medical School Honors/Awards
You have to organize this properly. First off, number each award. Second, provide a the exact title of the award. Third, you have to provide the year. This helps organize your awards but also adds credibility to your award. Lastly, give a short 4 to 5 word description of the award. Here’s how David and I do it.
1) John Welsh Award (2014): awarded to the top 3 research projects completed by medical students at Winthrop School of Medicine. 2) Allen Herbert Award (2013): awarded to the medical student with the highest clinical GPA at the Winthrop School of Medicine.
5. Work Experience
I think people run into a lot of problems here. The main issue is including things that are NOT NECESSARY. You should not include high school jobs. Any work related to medical research should NOT go into this section. Some jobs that would be the BEST to include are those jobs related to healthcare but are not research related. Work experience is different from volunteering in that work experience is generally paid. However, unpaid internships at prestigious companies should still be in work experience.
Here are some examples:
- Any of your U.S. based clinical experiences
- Healthcare consulting jobs
- Hospital based administration jobs
- Work in a healthcare related field such as physical therapy, repiratory therapy, nursing or pharmacy.
- Prestigious jobs such as those related to investment banking
- Any non-profit related jobs for social justice
- Investment banking
- Non-governmental organization (NGO) work
- Non-profit work
- Government based work
This is also a GREAT place to put in any hobbies you’ve done that are particularly interesting. It does not have to be paid. We have used this to very good effect in interviews.
- Art work – especially if the artwork is displayed at a gallery or show
- Music – make special note of shows or places you have performed at
- Travel guide
Many people make the mistake of putting significant artistic skills in the ‘Hobby’ section. This does not give yourself enough credit if you have done legitimately IMPRESSIVE artistic accomplishments. You have to realize that faculty members are glazed over by all the research projects from candidates.
Think about this, wouldn’t you rather talk to someone about their artwork than their summer research project on colon cancer screening? Me too. I’d rather hear about something unique and new. So if you have done some significant artistic, musical or talent PUT it in the WORK SECTION. The faculty member is much more likely to bring it up. HINT: bring some pictures to show off during the interview. It adds significant credibility.
Here’s how you should fill out the box for work experience. Remember, you need to keep the text short and meaningful. You want to put yourself in the best possible light.
1) First sentence: explain, briefly, the main responsibilities you had. If you worked on a team, be specific about what you did.
Example 1: “Co-designed electronics module for a cutting edge diagnostic diagnostic device for point of care blood testing.”
Example 2: “Directly observed, participated and managed hospitalized patients in a general medicine and pediatric floor.”
2) Second sentence: talk about your mentor and the environment you worked in. This is important because if your work experience is not at a U.S. based company or institution.
Example 1: “Worked directly with the Chief Technology Officer, John Prescott MD PhD, at Health-X Labs LLC, a NIH funded start-up company in Boston, Massachusetts.”
Example 2: “Observed and supervised directly by Program Director, John Panday MD, of Winthrop Hospital (234 bed hospital) in Baltimore, MD”
3) Emphasize the results and impact of your work. Too often, people forget to mention what their work LED to OR what YOU got out of it. This is important because too often people do work and not follow-up on results. You should show your interviewer that the work you do leads to important outcomes.
Example 1: “The electronics module is incorporated in the device currently undergoing FDA approval”
Example 2: “Obtained direct clinical experience working within an advanced, U.S. hospital under expert supervision”
6. Volunteer Experience
Volunteer experience is actually quite similar to Work Experience. The difference is that volunteer experiences are generally unpaid and involve giving back to the less fortunate. The formula is the same in regards to creating your answer.
Sentence 1: Talk about your role
Sentence 2: Talk about your supervisor and the organization you worked for
Sentence 3: Talk about the outcome of your volunteerism.
Sentence 1: Led 3 separate bone marrow transplant drives during medical school.
Sentence 2: Worked directly with the Director of the Division of Hematology Oncology of Winthrop Hospital.
Sentence 3: Successfully screened 300 individuals, subsequently leading to 1 bone marrow transplantation.
7. Research Experience
The research experience is the very important section of your ERAS application. A well-written, well-thought out section can HELP overcome lack of actual publications. When letters of recommendation can back it up, this makes your application MUCH stronger.
There are some important things to remember when you are filling out this section. It should be longer than Work Experience and Research because your faculty will be able to interpret this more critically.
Section 1: Talk about the overall purpose of your research. This sentence should convince the reader that the work you did was both interesting and important.
Section 2: Talk about YOUR role and YOUR contributions.
Section 3: Talk about your supervisor and the organization you worked for.
Section 4: Talk about the outcome of your research.
Example 1: The purpose of this research was to demonstrate the relationship between cancer screening and survival outcomes.
Example 2: The purpose of this research was to characterize the K-RAS signaling pathway in the pathogenesis of melanoma.
Example 3: The purpose of this research was to assess whether clinical ethics consults reduced ICU lengths of stay.
Example 1: My responsibilities included hypothesis development and experimental protocol for IRB approval. Furthermore, I conducted a significant portion of the data collection.
Example 1: Worked directly under the supervision of the Chair of Oncology, Dr. John Smith, at Winthrop Hospital.
Example 1: This example is used for completely unpublished work.
“Currently, the work is under preparation as a full-length manuscript where I will be listed as an author. In addition, the abstract will be submitted to the 7th Annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.”
Example 2: This example is used for work accepted as a poster or abstract at a conference BUT NOT a full length paper.
“The work was presented at the 7th annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Currently, the work is undergoing preparation as a full-length manuscript where I will be listed as an author.”
Example 3: This example is used for published work in a full length journal.
The work was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, considered one of the top oncology journals in the United States. The paper has been cited 4 times since its publication. The abstract version of this was also presented at the 7th annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Example 4: This is for published work that has also garnered press attention or follow-up editorials.
The work was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, considered one of the top oncology journals in the United States. The paper has been cited 4 times since its publication. The abstract version of this was also presented at the 7th annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition, Wired magazine featured the results of this research in their 2014 article titled “new gene discovery in cancer means a breakthrough.”
We understanding 100% if you do not have much research experience. In fact, you may have not any. IMGs are at a disadvantage when it comes to this. Chapter 10 gives you specific instructions on what to do if you do not have much research experience–there is still some great ways to be able to tell a story that illustrates an interest and future in research.
This is pretty much self-explanatory. We suggest using a standard citation format for journal articles. Here’s a question we get now and then. So what goes into the ‘OTHER ARTICLES’?
Our suggestions are as follows.
- Any kind of articles that are not medicine or healthcare related. If you published an article on art, music or a hobby of yours then include it in this section
- If you are listed as a co-inventor in a patent, definitely include it in this section.
9. Hobbies and Interests
This is a very short section. Instead of putting a long list of hobbies, pick 1 or 2 and give a few details. The main goal of this section is to see if there’s something you do that connects with an interviewer.
Here’s the way we do it.
Sentence 1: Write out your hobby!
Sentence 2: Give a short description of any accomplishments or interesting facts about your hobby.
Example 1: Classical piano, preference for the impressionist composers.
Example 2: Custom audio speaker construction, specifically the design and development of custom electronics for high-fidelity audio.
Now remember, if your hobby is very serious and you have done serious work PUT IT IN THE WORK SECTION. This gives you an opportunity to shine and be unique.
We DO NOT recommend you over-inflate your hobbies. There is a chance someone will call you out on this. Remember, faculty are EXPERT at noticing lies and discomfort when answering questions. If you are not confident talking about classical piano…then just drop it. It’s simply not worth it.
10. Other Awards/Accomplishments
This is exactly the same format as Medical School Awards/Accomplishments except that awards outside of medical school go here. So, if you have prestigious undergraduate scholarships put them here.
First off, number each award. Second, provide a the exact title of the award. Third, you have to provide the year. This helps organize your awards but also adds credibility to your award. Lastly, give a short 4 to 5 word description of the award. Here’s how David and I do it.
1) John Allen Award (2011): awarded to the top 3 undergraduate projects completed by engineering students at Winthrop University.
2) Allen Herbert Award (2010): awarded to the undergraduate student that most exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism at Winthrop University in the Department of Biology.