As an applicant, (and especially as an IMG), one of the things you need to do to strengthen your application is to optimize your ERAS application. Most applicants don’t think too much about how to do that, and we’re here to tell you why it’s so important, especially starting this year.
Did you know that the ERAS application has been the same for 20 years?
This year, the AAMC has done a “refresh” to their ERAS application. The goals of this update were to:
- Make the content more relevant to current context
- Provide structured ways to help applicants share more of their story
- Help programs to do structured, holistic review of applicants
ERAS included a “supplemental” application that was used only recently, and the AAMC saw some interesting results from program director responses to surveys, where they answered questions about how they used the information in the supplemental application.
Surveys were done by program directors (PDs) at the end of 2022, and it is clear that the questions asked in the supplemental application had a significant effect on the application process. The experiences section was designed to help applicants show their individuality in a structured way in order to help programs to assess mission fit.
Here’s the data from the survey regarding the experiences section:
- 94% of PDs used the experiences as part of their holistic application review
- 79% used it as a tiebreaker in deciding who to interview
- 87% used it in preparing for the interview
- 70% thought that it gave them a better picture of the applicant
The geographic preference section is designed to help programs to assess who may be a better fit for their location, as well as enabling them to look at applicants they would have otherwise not considered.
- Data shows that geography is important for applicants in weighing their decision
- Applicants didn’t have any way to convey their geographic preferences prior to the supplemental application
- 94% of PDs used the geographic preference as part of their holistic application review to decide who to interview
- 88% used it as a tiebreaker to decide who to interview
- 70% used it to prepare for interview
- 82% stated that it helped them identify applicants that they would have otherwise overlooked!
Applicants can indicate UP TO 3 census divisions, “no preference”, or skip the question. If they select a division or select “no preference”, they can explain their answer.
What programs can see – If an applicant selects a geographic division, programs within that division will see the preference and the applicant’s explanation. Programs outside that division will not see any information displayed. If an applicant selects “no preference”, that information including the explanation will be visible to any programs that they apply to. If an applicant skips the question, no information is displayed.
Program signals are designed to give applicants the opportunity to express their true interest in a program. Here’s the survey feedback regarding program signals:
- 88% of PDs reported using signals as a screening tool before more thorough review.
- 86% used it as a tiebreaker on deciding who to interview.
- 64% used it to learn why an applicant signalled their program during the interview.
- 75% stated it helped them identify applicants that they would have otherwise overlooked.
Programs will only know if an applicant signalled their program. Programs will see if they were signalled, and which tier. If an applicant does not signal a program, signals a different program, or skips the question, the program will receive no information.
New Settings Preferences
Applicants can now indicate their degree of preference for urban/rural settings. They can select a setting type or select “no preference”, and can explain their selection in either case. Applicants can also skip this question. Programs will see the setting and explanation.
Here are the conclusions that AAMC made based on the survey results:
- In most specialties, geographic preference alignment and no preference resulted in a higher probability of interview invitation. When considering geographic preference alone, the highest likelihood of interview invitation occurred when an applicant’s geographic preference aligned with the program’s location.
- Program signals work as they were designed to. In all specialties, sending a program signal increased the likelihood of an interview invitation. When considering geographic preferences and program signals together, the highest likelihood of interview invitation occurred when an applicant signalled the program, AND their geographic preference aligned with the program’s location.
In conclusion, you can see from the survey results that these new elements of the ERAS application are VERY important. Programs look at them in deciding who to interview, and your chances of receiving an interview invite increase if you use these responses in the correct way to appeal to programs. So, be smart and make sure to use these sections thoughtfully!
If you need help with the ERAS application, you can receive editing and feedback services at Residency Experts.
*Match A Resident has also added filters to help you search programs based on geographic region and setting type in order to help you be consistent in your application. Don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions on how to use your customized list to your advantage!