Back Pocket: Last Minute ERAS Tips

This is a BRIEF document with last minute reminders, tips and tricks for ERAS.  It is NOT intended to be comprehensive, and is directed mainly to 4th years that are submitting/certifying their applications this month.

If you really feel you need to make any major changes to your ERAS as a result of reading this guide, I would recommend grabbing a mentor/advisor and running it by them. Making significant changes to your application at the last minute can result in mistakes.

By this time, I hope you understand ERAS very well, the deadlines etc. Here are a few last minute tips and tricks to think about based on questions I have been asked:

1. What are common mistakes people make on their ERAS applications?

  • Not presenting a clear picture of themselves. Who do you want the reader to think of you as? For example, I was the “spoken-word poet interested in skin of color dermatology”. I tried to make sure my personal statement and experiences helped to paint this picture of me. I did NOT include activities that didn’t have anything to do with building on the central identity I wanted to portray.
  • Including every single experience and activity they have ever participated in. If you include too many experiences or activities it will dilute your application. The people who read your ERAS are also reading dozens of others. If you put everything you have ever done, they will likely start to skim, and potentially miss the important things that you did (see question 2).
  • Being long winded and wordy on the experience descriptions. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • Grammatical and spelling errors. Let’s be better than this, mmmkay? Mmkay. Proofread it multiple times, or Grammarly etc
  • Applying late.

2. How do I know which extracurricular activities and experiences to include? Should I include things from high school and undergrad?

  • Think of the following 4 words when deciding if an experience is relevant for residency applications: LEADERSHIP, IMPACT, TIME, RELEVANCE
  • Leadership: Did this experience help you to develop tools that make you a better leader? Were you on the executive board? Did you found the organization? Did you  provide longitudinal mentorship? 
  • Impact: Did this experience have a large impact on you (professionally or even emotionally) or on another community (helped a large underserved population, got featured in a regional/national publication, etc)? Which experiences are you most proud of? Which experiences are you passionate about?
  • Time: Did you spend a significant amount of time doing this activity? Was it a recurrent event? Did you stay involved in this organization for years?
  • Relevance: Was this activity relevant to the picture I am trying to present of myself? So maybe you founded a twerking competition in your home state that is still going strong, but do you want that to be an experience that represents you? 
  • Typically you will want to leave off things from high school unless it was SUPER high impact (ie you invented something, did ground-breaking research, or… i dunno… competed with Gabby Douglas in the olympics)
  • Leave off organizations or extracurriculars that you signed up for, but didn’t really participate in. Just because you are a paid member in an organization doesn’t mean you should list it. It would really suck if on an interview, someone asked you about one of your organization’s community service projects and you didn’t know because you had only been to one general body meeting.

3. How can I make my personal statement stand out? Things to avoid in personal statement?

  • First of all, please don’t make too many changes to your personal statement this late in the game
  • Your personal statement should be about YOU, who you are, your interests, your unique experiences, your personality. It should NOT be a love-letter to your specialty of choice, ie a long list of things that are great about the specialty. Of course you should include a few lines about what you like in the setting of explaining why you chose the specialty, but don’t go overboard. Remember: The reader knows these things already, that is why they chose the specialty in the first place. They want to get to know YOU and why YOU would be a good fit for the specialty.
  • Do NOT make it controversial (political etc). You don’t know who your reader is, don’t take yourself out of the game just because you want to shade a politician (cough). Better to be boring than offensive, I always say. Well, not always. But definitely in this case.
  • Be careful with humor. I know your mom laughs at your jokes, but they might not be that funny. Also humor and wit can come off weird on paper without your facial expressions and body language to put things together. So just be careful.
  • MAJOR KEY: You can personalize your personal statement for your top 3-5 programs. I did this for my top 3, and simply wrote into the last paragraph reasons why that program would be great for me specifically, based on my career and personal development goals. This makes it clear to the program that you are very interested. Just TRIPLE CHECK to make sure you don’t submit the wrong personal statement to the wrong program.

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