“Which residency programs should I apply to?”
“Which residency program list is IMG Friendly?”
We get these questions all the time. But there’s another important aspect of the applications process that many applicants do not consider. Not only is it important to select the correct programs to apply to, it is important to apply correctly.
No, that’s not a typo: we mean it! It is vital that applicants apply correctly. You may be wondering how it is possible to apply incorrectly: don’t all applications funnel through ERAS?
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical IMG to learn more about how to apply correctly.
Client: Anna Aminova
Years since graduation: 5
USMLE STEP 1: 205
USMLE STEP2: Awaiting results
USMLE STEP 2 CS: PASS, 1st attempt
Applying for: Internal medicine
3 Months US Clinical Experience
3 Letters of Recommendation
NO PTAL California Letter
We all know that applying for residency is expensive and time-consuming, and so Anna wants to take care to only apply to the right programs. There will be 418 Internal Medicine programs participating in ERAS in the 2016-17 Match. Which ones should Anna apply to?
At first, Anna thought she could apply to all programs, since she has no visa concerns.
No! As an IMG, she cannot apply to any of the Military Programs. She does not have a California Letter so she can not apply to any California state residency programs
This leaves a smaller list — not much smaller –but each program removed represents a savings of time and money. Next, Anna will need call, email, or visit each remaining program’s website to learn their requirements for scores and year of graduation. If a program requires a minimum score of 220 on the first attempt, then Anna should not apply. The program is clearly stating its minimum requirements; she’ll need to listen to them! Likewise, Anna cannot apply to programs for which she does not meet the required year of graduation, or to programs that require a minimum of 12 months USCE. This whittling process can be time consuming –it may take weeks –but it must be done.
Since Anna does not have her ECFMG Certificate, there is one other vital consideration she must take into account.
Most programs clearly delineate if an applicant needs the ECFMG Certificate to obtain an interview. Anna must understand that without her ECFMG Certificate in hand she will not receive an interview. So if she applies to any programs, she must immediately contact the program and explain that while she understands that her application is not complete, she did not want to apply late and risk her application being placed on hold. Anna should add that she will contact the program the day she receives her ECFMG Certificate. While she’ll be uploading her application to ERAS, waiting for it to reach the program will waste additional time, and so she should fax the program a copy of her certification immediately. Anna would be wise to follow up with a call and say, “Thank you for holding onto to my application. I just received my ECFMG Certificate and have faxed it to your office. Please do note that I have sent it to ERAS but there will be a time lapse as they are busy and it may take up to an additional two weeks to see it online.”
If Anna does not complete the aforementioned foot work, she will receive a rejection from the program.
Many applicants do not understand that not all rejections are the same. While some applicants are rejected for not being competitive enough for the program, others are due to the applicant not following explicit instructions.
Do not be afraid to contact residency programs and ask questions. Please do note that this does not mean constantly calling the program; they will note this and reject your application. No one wants to spend the next 3-5 years working with a needy, annoying person! However, a professional call is absolutely fine. Before calling, make sure to check the program’s website, as many programs will list special requirements on their websites. There are some residency programs, for example, that specify a specific unique question that must be answered on the personal statement. If you do not follow this request, and send a generic personal statement, your application will be rejected.
This information is not intended to intimidate a prospective applicant, but to communicate the importance of making the right decisions in your residency application process. We’ve heard far too many residency programs tell us, “Yes, he was a very attractive applicant, but unfortunately he did not follow the directions.” You have worked exceptionally hard to make it to this point: put the same efforts into your ERAS application!