Should I Include College Activities on ERAS Application?

ERAS Application College Activities

The ERAS application Electronic Residency Application Service is an application you fill out during medical school in preparation for the MATCH process in order to obtain a residency. There are several common questions that come up in filling out the ERAS application. While it is similar to the AMCAS application in some regards, residency program director’s look at applicants experiences quite differently than a medical school admissions committee would. This leads to differences in the way the applications should be filled out and if college activities should be included on the ERAS application. Here are a few general rules of thumb:

  1. If it was published research, include it

Research is tremendously important to residency programs in most instances. Even if the research was NOT in the field you are applying into (and chances are that it wasn’t), you should still include any published or substantial research on your ERAS application. This includes poster presentations or oral presentations where you were the presenting author.

  1. If it relates to your speciality of chose, include it

This means that if you are applying into OB/Gyn and in college you spent hours volunteering at a women’s health center, this experience should absolutely be included because it adds to your narrative for residency programs.

  1. If it was substantial experience in some way, include it

If you were in Teach for America, the PeaceCorps or even did work during gap years before medical school, these are all substantial experiences that residency programs would love to hear about. They shaped who you are as a person, so they should be included on the ERAS application when you submit it.

  1. If it was for less than 40 hours, do not include it

The 40 hour mark is somewhat arbitrary, but basically if you had an experience in college that you did not invest a substantial amount of time into, then a residency program is not going to care about it. Do not include it as it will take away from more important experiences.

  1. If it was college volunteering on a small scale, do not include it

For ERAS, volunteer activities are far less important than they were for AMCAS. While we all love students who volunteer, college level volunteering will only bog down your residency application. You should have a few experiences from medical school that you can put on there instead.

Here is another tip for your ERAS activities section: KISS (keep it short and simple). As a residency program director, you have a few hundred applicants to wade through. When that PD looks at an application, they want to get out the crux of it right away. What’s important to their speciality and research is most important. You do not want your ERAS activities bogged down with dozens of college level activities that will only take focus away from the important things you’ve done in medical school!

What Should You Do When Shadowing a Doctor in a Competitive Speciality?

We sat down with Dr. Korgavkar, a dermatologist in New York and MedSchoolCoach advisor. We wanted to find out what a medical student interested in a competitive subspecialty, such as dermatology, should be doing when they shadow physicians!

Dr Korgavkar, what do you think are the key aspects students should have in mind, while shadowing a doctor? Is there anything in particular that they should observe and learn?

Yes, I think a large part of shadowing a physician is not necessarily to see the technical duties they perform throughout the day but also to witness the nuances of medicine. They should pay attention to the patient-physician relationships, how physicians develop rapport with patients, how the doctors show they are listening to the patients, through their body language or other ways. These could also be things that might affect the patient’s care that might not be directly medical; thinking about the patient’s home situation, insurance, helping them to find a way to get the best health care within their own circumstances. So I think it is important to watch how physicians are able to do that. Also, think about whether that is important to you. There are a lot of people who enjoy that individual connection on a daily basis and almost need it to have a good day at work; while for some people it isn’t their primary goal. So you should question yourselves, ask yourself if you want to feel that individual connection, and rapport every single day with your patients.

So then what advice would you give to students interested in your specialty?

Dermatology is a very competitive specialty; it is very important for you to get involved early on to explore your interest. A lot of times medical students don’t have an interest in Dermatology or other competitive specialties like ENT. People who do know earlier on get involved in activities that will make their applications more competitive. These could be activities such as research, presentations and the like. So if you have a budding interest in something, get out there and get to know people, because connections are important; in specialties such as these, people usually know each other. You want to find physicians to shadow; try to get involved in research and exposure in the field in you want to follow. The other important thing to do for competitive specialties is to ask yourself prior to deciding to apply to it whether that is what you really want to do. It is very tempting to apply for a less competitive specialty, something on the ‘easier’ side. All residencies are very difficult; no matter what people ultimately think of that specialty. Dermatology residency is just as busy as internal medicine residency, which is what I did for my first year. But the most important question is what you really want to do for the rest of your life, because if you choose something based on competitiveness, or lifestyle you won’t be happy, you want to keep the bigger picture in mind.

“Before you decide to apply for a competitive specialty, ask yourself whether this is what you really want to do. All residencies are very difficult; dermatology residency is just as busy as an internal medicine residency. “

Great. Do you have anything else, any other advice for students looking to do a competitive subspecialty?

The main thing is to get involved early on. It is always important to find someone who is a mentor to you whether that’s a faculty member or even a resident or someone who has recently gone through the process. There are many nuances within competitive specialties that you wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s important to have somebody who could walk you through the major things.