The application process for most graduates of foreign medical schools involves three main entities: the ECFMG, ERAS, and the NRMP.
You should already be well acquainted with the ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) by the third year of medical school. It’s through them that one applies for the USMLE step 1, 2 and CS exams and they are the ones who will certify your degree (for use in the US) toward the end of your studies. If you have not done so, you must register with the ECFMG prior to beginning the application process. This can be done through their website (www.ecfmg.org) and with the assistance of your medical school office which is probably already familiar with them. For the purposes of applying to residency, the ECFMG serves as the FMG/IMG “ deans office”, which means that it has two main purposes:
1.It gives you a code that will allow you to register for ERAS, the “Electronic Residency Application System” (the residency application program itself).
2.It receives your recommendation letters from both local and US rotations (usually through your schools office) and formally transfers them to the ERAS system.
Filling out the application
Once you have the special code you can register with ERAS and start to prepare your online application profile (the entire application process is web based so you must have internet access). Aside from asking you to fill in your name and contact information, the application includes areas for you to explain and detail your professional as well as personal accomplishments. You will be asked regarding your board scores, publications, experiences, awards, and even your hobbies. Most importantly, however, you will be asked to include a personal statement detailing the reasons you would like to pursue a specific specialty. This is unquestionably the most difficult (and annoying) portion of the application. Therefore, I sincerely suggest you start working on your personal statement at least two months before you plan to submit your application. This time frame is a minimum; do not make the mistake of thinking you can weave this task in between the busy schedule you will have during your electives.
We will provide you with some tips on how to write your personal statement in a different section. For now, please remember that this is your chance to present yourself to the program director and other decision makers. Therefore, your personal statement has to be unique, clear, and quite simply perfect in every respect. An additional important point relates to attaining your letters of recommendation. If you are planning on doing electives in the US, you want to try to get letters of recommendation from your first two electives. That way you can complete your application as soon as possible and increase the chances of someone starting to review it. With that in mind, its no big deal if the letters of recommendation come in a bit after you sent in your application; you can't always control the letter writer's schedule. For more regarding the importance of letters of recommendation, please see the "Letters of Recommendation" section under "The Application Process" above.
Certifying the application
After you have finished filling in your ERAS application you will be asked to certify it. Once the application is certified you cannot change it so make sure its perfect before you click that button. With regards to timing, you need to aim to certify your application prior to the first application submission day, as ideally you want to get your application to the programs first (Usually, the first application submission date is September 1st). This is important since every program has an application submission deadline, with some deadlines being only a few days after September 1st. If you don’t make the deadline the programs simply will not consider your application. Moreover, not all programs seriously consider the applications that come in late (although still before the deadline). This is because by the first day of submission they already have hundreds of applications, which is more then enough from their perspective. Finally, there is also a pride issue (which few admit, but there is). You don’t want to raise questions about the seriousness of your candidacy due to a late application submission.
Have a look at the ERAS schedule so you can stay on top of the deadlines:
Applying to programs
After certification comes a whole new chapter in the application process: selecting the residency programs you will apply to. Don’t sweat it, nobody is familiar with all the programs so aside from the few programs that will be recommended by your friends you can use the following link to locate more:
Unless you are a stellar applicant, you should apply to many programs. The more competitive the field the more programs you should apply to. Just to give you an idea, people that went for the competitive specialties in our year applied to over fifty programs. Some applied to almost one hundred programs. No one can give you an exact number, but certainly this is not the time to be cheap on application fees. If you did your homework well and followed our "Application secrets" advice above, you will start to receive interview offers. You can check out specific advice for that part in our "interview" section.
The NRMP (National Resident Matching Program) is in charge of integrating the rank lists of all applicants and programs that participate in the match. You will have to register for a spot in the match through the NRMP website before you even begin to interview, but it is only after you finish the interview process that the NRMP will come into play.The NRMP website is where you input your personal rank list, which is, in essence, the residency programs you would like to attend in order from the most to the least desired. Like the ERAS application, this list must be certified before the system can integrate it into its calculation algorithm. However, this list can be changed up to the last moments of the rank list submission deadline (although they may change this so be on your toes). Have a look at NRMP schedule so you have an idea what to expect:
Well, this is the end of the application process, if you’ve made it this far you simply need to sit back and sweat until match night, when you'll get your final position.
One last thing, you should be aware of the SOAP (Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program) system, which will be crucial in case you don't match. You can see the explanation video for applicants here.
The Residency Application Process
Application & Interviews