If the Step examinations weren’t stressful enough, once you’re finally over that hump, you come upon our next challenge – the ECFMG Pathway application, the ERAS application and Match process. Having had to navigate all these mini challenges and big milestones on my own, I wanted to leave you all some tips that helped me keep organized and get started right away!
This process involves a lot of moving parts. Time management and organization is key to making this entire process as smooth and as stress-free as possible! To distract yourself from stressing about scores and outcomes, here are a few things you can get started on:
#1 Determine which pathway you qualify for via the ECFMG website
Self-explanatory, but double check which pathway you qualify for, because they seem to change slightly with each year!
#2 Make a list of the requirements that you need to fulfill this pathway
Each pathway has a different set of approval requirements, which means that you need to make sure you’re applying to the right one and fulfilling the right set of requirements in order to qualify for pathway approval!
#3 Get pathway approved as quickly as possible before ERAS officially opens!
The sooner you get pathway approved, the sooner you’re ECFMG certified and that means that you’ll be ECFMG certified once you hit submit, which is a requirement for many programs!
#4 Don’t forget to register for Match!
Don’t make the same rookie mistake that I did – your Pathways Application, ERAS registration and NRMP (Match) registration are ALL different – make sure you register and pay for each one so that you’re good to go when Match Day comes around!
While making sure your ECFMG requirements are squared away, make things easier for future-you by starting on ERAS! Purchase the token through your ECFMG OASIS portal and then head on over to ERAS and register!
#5 Look at the requirements and make a timeline for yourself!
The tricky thing about ERAS is that it’s a lot of moving parts! Everything for us IMGs gets uploaded either through ECFMG or through ERAS and that means we have to keep an eye on things! I had a war board that was covered in post-it notes and calendar dates for each category which included getting headshots done and uploaded, making sure my MSPE and medical school transcript were uploaded, requesting letters of recommendation and ensuring they were uploaded on time, and finally, writing my personal statement, the rest of my curriculum vitae (CV) entries and leaving enough time to proofread my application!
Prioritize the things that take the longest and that are dependent on other people – like your letters of recommendation and school documentation (MSPE). Make sure your requests to your authors are sent out early, as each LOR takes about a week or more to get through the entire approval and release process before it is released to ERAS. Talk to your administrative offices (or in my case, have people talk to them for you) and make sure that you are able to get scans of your documents right away so that you can finagle with their document size (I used an online PDF compressor to ensure correct file sizes).
#6 Fill out your biographic data and your other curriculum vitae entries
I did this on and off throughout the month after taking Step. I didn’t want to jinx myself, but I also didn’t want to shoot myself in the foot by leaving too much for the last minute! Any time I had a free moment, I’d fill up a few items on ERAS and leave the rest for another time.
In terms of the CV, I added all my experiences and left the descriptions for the end. I summarized each experience in paragraph form in about 2-4 sentences depending on how impactful or how much I wanted to share about that particular experience. It went quickly!
#7 Take a look through the programs for your chosen specialty and save the ones you plan on applying to!
This is key, because once you have all the programs saved and your paperwork has been uploaded, all you have to do is hit the “Select All” checkbox and then “Apply” when you’re ready! The way I did this was, I added almost all the programs for my chosen specialty to my “Saved Programs” and then deleted them as I changed my mind or did more research. I also had a residency application tracker in Google Sheets that was helpful in keeping track of the documents they required and how many letters of recommendation they wanted so I could be sure to assign the appropriate documents!
#8 Check, check, and double check!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I asked two close friends who are grammar enthusiasts to read through my CV descriptions to check for any gross errors and typos. I also checked them three times on my own before submitting – once right after I wrote them, once after my friends made changes, and once more before pasting them into the ERAS and submitting. It may seem like overkill, but attention to detail is something that all physicians should have—and ERAS is no different! If you’re an IMG, it may be helpful also to hire someone to help you edit your personal statement or go through your ERAS CV with you.
#9 Certify, submit, and stay hopeful
Once all is said and done, and you’ve triple checked everything, the only thing left to do is certify and submit. Before hitting the button and signing with your password, make sure you’re happy with your application. You can only do this once and cannot make any changes after you hit submit! Then, CELEBRATE because YOU DEFIED THE ODDS – submitted your application, and have done everything you can do to make this application your absolute best!
Stay hopeful, because we’re all sitting next to you waiting, too! This is our year, doctors!