It’s that time of year — ERAS submission! If you’re anything like I was, then you’re feeling a mix of excitement, nervousness, and anticipation for what your future may hold. Though, most importantly, you should be feeling proud that you have made it this far and that you are on one of the final steps to becoming a resident physician. To ease your mind a bit, I’m here with some do’s and don’ts that I wish someone would have shared with me at this point in the process.
Don’t freak out when you haven’t heard back from a residency program immediately.
I submitted ERAS as soon as possible and, expecting interview offers to come rolling in, spent my days refreshing my inbox over and over again. By dinner each night, I would find myself in a near panic wondering why I hadn’t heard from anyone — not even some of the backup schools to which I had applied.
Remember: it takes time for programs to review the hundreds (maybe thousands) of applications they receive and, from there, to select those to whom they would like to extend interview offers. Depending on the specialty, many people do not start receiving interview offers until October or even November. Just relax!
This is a big milestone; you deserve a day off or a night out to celebrate what you have accomplished. No matter what the past three years have held, you’ve done a great job getting to this point.
Don’t begin contacting programs directly.
Against my advice, a friend of mine emailed each program that he had applied to with a brief statement asking them to be on the lookout for the application which he had submitted. While initiative is great and I am sure that there were some programs that were impressed by this, most programs will just be annoyed. After receiving so many applications, the last thing any program director is going to want to see is an inbox full of applicants informing them of their submission. Just take a deep breath and give it some time.
Don’t check the message boards.
This was my big mistake. About two weeks after I submitted my applications, I began checking message boards to see from which programs my co-applicants were receiving offers. While it was nice to know if certain programs had begun extending invites — it was equally stressful and depressing to realize that certain programs I had applied to had offered interviews to applicants other than myself. Knowing this information can’t change anything, so relax and let the offers come.
Do start preparing for your admissions interviews.
No matter what, you’re going to get some interview offers. Start making sure that you are ready for them. Have your interview outfit(s) picked out; begin preparing questions that you might ask; and speak with people who have gone through the interview process for your specialty. The more prepared you are when the offers start coming in, the better off you will be throughout the process.
Don’t overthink it.
It’s funny now, but I spent so much time analyzing the dates I should pick for my interviews. If I scheduled one too early, they might think I was just using it as a practice interview; or worse — they might forget about me. If I scheduled one too late, they might think that I didn’t care enough about their program.
I think you should avoid having your first (or second) interview with one of your top choices to allow yourself a few opportunities to work out the kinks and to make sure that you are optimally prepared. That being said: at the end of the day, I don’t think dates matter.
Do be professional.
Nothing is worse than someone who shows their unprofessional side during the interview process.
If a program reaches out to you, respond promptly. Even if you were looking at a program as a backup, you owe it to them (as well as to your fellow applicants) to quickly respond to their offer with a firm yes or a no. Keeping people waiting while you take the time to assess your other options is an easy way to make a bad name for yourself.
Likewise, I suggest being considerate of your classmates — many of whom are your fellow applicants. Nobody likes the person who goes around bragging about all of the interview offers they have received. For me, this includes the humble brag (i.e., “I don’t know where I will get the money to go on all of these interviews” or “I just don’t know how I’ll decide between all of these programs”).
It’s great to be proud of yourself and your hard work; but remember: there are other applicants and they have feelings too. Openly bragging about your offers will only make those around you feel worse, especially if they’ve yet to hear back from their first choice programs.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be writing more posts about interviews and the match process. Please send us some questions that you’d like to have answered and we will do our best to incorporate them in.