Preparing for Residency

How M4s can navigate, maximize new residency-application features

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

New and refined features in the MyERAS application for the 2024 ERAS application-recruitment season aim to allow applicants to share additional personal information and help programs conduct a more holistic review of their pool of potential residents.

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In a webinar co-hosted by the Association of American Medical Colleges and AMA, experts offered key direction on how to use new and expanded features of the MyERAS residency application, including questions related to a student’s experiences, program signaling and geographic preferences.

The residency application’s experiences section has been made more robust for the upcoming application cycle. The goal of the expanded section is to allow applicants to clearly and concisely communicate their interests and accomplishments to residency programs.

The revised section allows applicants to list as many as 10 experiences that show their body of work outside of clinical evaluation and course grades. Applicants can designate three experiences as their most meaningful and add a short description about each. Applicants also have an option to complete an impactful experiences section that allows them to fill in any challenges or hardships they encountered on their road to residency.

When filling in the experiences section, applicants are given three fields that allow them to classify their experiences. The type of the experience defines  the basis for the experience—work, research, volunteer or service, etc. Primary focus areas group the experience into its most practical application such as basic science, community outreach or public health.

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The key characteristics field—including options such as communication, critical thinking and problem-solving, and empathy and compassion—allows applicants to put those experiences in the context of how they have shaped their ability as a future physician.

The AMA Road to Residency series provides medical students, international medical graduates and others with guidance on preparing for residency application, acing your residency interview, putting together your rank-order list and more.

Many applicants have a body of experiences that could extend beyond the 10 in the experiences section. Panelists said it might be prudent to combine multiple experiences in one meaningful entry to save space.

“There may be a few experiences that are very similar in nature that you can discuss as one,” said Marcy Verduin, MD, associate dean for students at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. “For example, we might have a student at our school who works in two different free clinics. Rather than enter both separately, they might enter both as one experience.”

The impactful experience field can offer applicants a chance to explain a hardship that they encountered, though it could also be explained in other aspects of the application such as the personal statement.

“This is where context is so important and everyone’s experience is so unique,” Dr. Verduin said. “Maybe your academic bump in the road happened because there was a death in the family. So that’s the impactful experience you want to talk about. Maybe you had some other impactful experience that has nothing to do with a separate academic bump in the road, you just needed to figure out what your right study strategy was [to succeed as a medical student]  and that was the reason for your bump. …

“If I had an academic bump that wasn’t necessarily related to an impactful experience, I might use the personal statement to address it or I might ask my dean’s office if there’s a way to fold that into” the Medical Student Performance Evaluation.

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Geographic preference information, which tends to be most effective when used in conjunction with a program signal, has been expanded for the upcoming cycle.

The section is being used across all specialties for the first time in the 2024 ERAS application-recruitment season, and it allows applicants to select up to three preferred regions and provide the reasoning behind each preference. Applicants may also indicate a degree of preference from urban to rural setting or indicate no preference.

No online resource contains as much information as FREIDA, the AMA’s comprehensive residency and fellowship database®, which includes more than 13,000 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited residency programs, and offers a streamlined user experience.

The platform offers any user who has signed in the ability to personalize searches and nickname them so that search filters don’t need to be reapplied every time. AMA members also have the ability to take notes on programs, conduct side-by-side program comparisons, and use FREIDA’s Residency Calculator to help plan ahead for residency-application expenses