It is never too early to start thinking about the next Residency Application Cycle. The ERAS Application is quite expansive and takes a lot of forethought on the part of residency candidates to stay ahead of completing all of the tasks they need to.
New residency candidates, in particular, should do their best to learn all of the pieces of the ERAS Application such as:
- MyERAS Common Application (the CV part of the ERAS Application)
- Personal Statement(s)
- Letters of Recommendation
- USMLE and Medical School Transcripts
Repeat applicants can also benefit from some early planning. Even though ERAS now allows you to import your previous year’s Letters of Recommendation and MyERAS Application content, it is not a suggested strategy to rely on last year’s documents to help you apply this year.
Whether you are a new applicant or a repeat applicant, you may be wondering which documents to start thinking about and requesting early. There are three key supporting documents that can be started early in order to help smooth the way for timely ERAS Application completion.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of Recommendation for your ERAS Application are some of the most crucial and difficult to obtain supporting documents for any residency candidate. It’s important to remember that the strongest Letters of Recommendation are:
- Specialty-specific with a focus on ONE medical specialty
- From US-based clinical experience
- Dated within a year of application submission
With that in mind, there are several steps between the start of your Letters of Recommendation journey and having them ready to submit with the rest of your residency application. First, it may take time to choose and reach out to your intended Letter of Recommendation writers. Then, once you have made first contact with your letter writers, you are going to want to set up a meeting with them, whether it’s in person or over the phone.
How you choose to communicate with your letter writer is VERY IMPORTANT. Whether you meet with them in person or over the phone you should be sure to:
- Let them know your specialty of focus so the letter can be specialty specific
- Provide any resources to help your letter writer get to know you better like a copy of your Personal Statement or CV
- Offer to write a summary of your time working together to jog their memory
- Be prepared to offer assistance if they need help navigating the Letters of Recommendation submission process
Once you have had an initial conversation with your letter writer, you may have to follow up to ensure the letter writer does not need any assistance moving forward.
Since Letters of Recommendation are largely reliant on third parties to be written, submitted, and processed. It is key to start the process as early as April or May to avoid the complications of late Letters of Recommendation in September.
Learn more by reading a master Guide to Letters of Recommendation: http://blog.matcharesident.com/guide-medical-residency-letters-of-recommendation/
Medical School Performance Evaluation (MSPE)
Once known as the “Dean’s Letter,” the MSPE functions as an extended Letter of Recommendation from your medical school to residency programs. While there is currently no enforced standardized format, ACGME suggests each MSPE contain:
- Identifying information for the student
- Noteworthy characteristics (maximum of 3)
- Academic history
- Academic progress (Coursework, clinical rotations summary, and professional performance)
- Medical school information
The MSPE remains one of the absolutely most underrated and overlooked ERAS supporting documents. What residency candidates may not realize is that the right MSPE will have all kinds of useful and detailed information about you that will not be present anywhere else in your ERAS Application.
It is possible to improve your MSPE, if needed, to strengthen this part of your residency application. However, this will require some cooperation between you and your medical school. The first step is to ask your medical school EARLY if they will allow you to view a copy of your MSPE. If they agree, review the MSPE to see how detailed it may or may not be. The most important sections are the Noteworthy Characteristics and Academic Progress.
If you feel your MSPE has a sufficient amount of information, take note of what is being said to potentially integrate into other sections of your ERAS Application.
If you feel your MSPE is lacking, get back in touch with your medical school and ask if it is possible to make revisions. Generally, the sections that can use the most improvement are Noteworthy Characteristics and Academic Progress. You can either suggest some additions or offer to write some additions yourself.
Pay special attention to the Academic Progress section which usually lists all of your clinical rotations with comments from your preceptors. The most ideal version of this section would have longer comments than just, “Great student.” There should be longer comments or a summary of what you did in the clinical rotation.
By working together with your medical school, you could turn your MSPE into another powerful document in your ERAS Application. Learn more about the MSPE in our blog post What is the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE)?