Hannah Bisoglio, OMS IV

A Medical Student Series: On the Road to Graduation

By pursuing medicine, you have made an investment in yourself so that you may serve others. I hope my monthly series of articles provides you with valuable information and tips which I have learned along my way. 

Hey there! I am Hannah, a fourth-year medical student who grew up in central Missouri. I attend A.T. Still University – Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and will begin residency in Emergency Medicine next month.

Navigating the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)

Undoubtedly, one of the largest highlights of your fourth year in medical school will be applying to residency. This step will highlight all your hard work throughout medical school in one pristine document. The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) is a centralized system overseen by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), where the majority of medical students apply to land interviews at residency programs in their preferred specialty.** You will have months to complete your application. It may seem overwhelming at first, especially amid your other clinical rotations. My advice is to start early and knock out one section at a time. Waiting until the last minute is stressful and increases the likelihood that you will not be putting out your best work. (https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-residencies-eras/applying-residencies-eras-system)

**The Match and application process is different for those applying with the military or applying to certain specialties such as Urology or OBGYN (https://apgo.org/page/rrrapplicationplatform).

The 2025 ERAS season begins on June 5, 2024. Fourth-year medical students will gain access to the MyERAS application system after this time. Once you gain access, you may begin uploading documents and entering information. For the 2025 application season, residency applicants may begin submitting their MyERAS applications to programs on September 4, 2024.However, programs will not begin reviewing applications until September 25, 2024. Technically, there is not a “deadline” for residency applications, but turning in your application after this date is generally regarded as a bad look for students who have had months to work on it. If you turn in your application late, there is a chance the residency programs have already reviewed their applicant pool and chosen folks to interview. So, make sure that you know which date in late September residency programs may start reviewing MyERAS applications! For those applying for the 2025 cycle, your date is September 25, 2024! If you turn in your application on September 4 or shortly after, great! You are on top of things and can enjoy the month. I personally turned in my application the day before it was due…it worked out fine! (https://students-residents.aamc.org/eras-tools-and-worksheets-residency-applicants/2025-eras-residency-timeline)

The MyERAS application is divided into various sections of information. The first is general information, which can be answered easily. A newer portion of this section asks about “Geographic Settings and Preferences.” You will be able to indicate what region of the country you prefer to do residency geographically and state why. You may not have a preference, which is fine, just make sure to explain why. Remember that many programs are also trying to find their best matches and are attentive to applicants who are interested in their programs. Other sections include free text spaces asking about medical school awards, memberships in professional/honorary societies, and other accomplishments. These are open to interpretation but know that each of these free text boxes has a character maximum, so you can only write so much information. I suggest making it relevant and concise. Many students ask, “Is it appropriate to fill out the application with bullet points, or should I write everything out in paragraphs?” My advice to you is please do not stress over this question. Most of my application was in bullet points, and I know friends who did paragraphs. Just make the information in your application brief and clear to read. A significant section of MyERAS now allows students to enter ten impactful experiences maximum. I thought this section would be easy, and I could just copy/paste my CV. I was wrong. Do this section early and proof it multiple times. You are also allowed to choose 3 “most meaningful experiences” and write a short summary on why they were the most meaningful. Students choose to include experiences like research, clubs, volunteering, former employment, medical missions, and hobbies in this section. This YouTube video is a step-by-step guide.

Other documents uploaded to ERAS include Letters of Recommendation, Personal Statement, COMLEX/USMLE scores, your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE), your Medical School Transcript, and a professional photo.

The letters of recommendation should be written by someone who knows you well and can highlight your admirable qualities. This can be from nearly anyone, just make sure that they are recommending you for the medical specialty you are applying to. It is good if some letters come from physicians in your desired specialty. Some specialties (ex., Emergency Medicine) require standard letters of evaluation from audition rotations that should accompany your application. Three or four letters of recommendation are standard, but search the program’s applicant website and find out what they want specifically. Make sure you give your letter writer plenty of notice and send them deadlines and reminders to upload it. If asking a physician for a recommendation, they may find this resource from MAOPS helpful for writing a strong letter!

The biggest recommendation I can make about your personal statement is to have multiple people proofread it! This helped me so very much. Again, start creating this document early so you will not be stressed to get it done at the last minute. Write a draft, edit, proofread, redo, have someone else proofread, redo, repeat. And while they are willing to review your personal statement, have them review your whole application! I have placed some “Do’s and Don’ts” of writing personal statements below. This was a paraphrased document I created from a podcast on personal statement tips. [credit to the EM Clerkship podcast]

There is an “additional documents” tab in MyERAS. Here, you give permission to have your COMLEX/USMLE transcripts sent (for a fee). Your school should be uploading your medical school transcripts and your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) for you. Contact your medical school with questions about these documents. Finally, you do need to upload a picture. It is your choice to have professional photos taken or not. I got my new headshots done because I was not fond of my school photo in my white coat. This is meant to be a professional photo, so dress appropriately. Many that I have seen do not wear their white coat.

So, what is it going to cost you to apply to residency? That depends on how many programs and specialties you apply to. The fees are set by AAMC and are currently listed on their website from the 2024 application season. (https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-residencies-eras/publication-chapters/fees-eras-2024-season) While filling out this application may seem daunting, just remember, you are almost there! Finishing medical school and beginning residency is the start of a whole new chapter on your journey in medicine. Tackle ERAS a little at a time, and make sure to get input from those you trust so you put out the best possible application.

-Hannah Bisoglio, OMS-IV

Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts

  1. DO – Start early.
  2. DO – Have good organizational structure: start with a hook or story to draw people in, have 2/3 body paragraphs that describe the qualities you bring to the table based on your past experiences, and have one final paragraph that summarizes why you are a good candidate and what you hope for in a future program and future career.
  3. DO – Address the big questions: Who are you? Who do you want to become? What experiences have you had so far? What experiences are you looking for? Why emergency medicine? Why would you be a good fit? Why is your application sitting on their desk?
  4. DO – Check for grammar: “Grammarly” or Word spell check.
  5. DO – Explain any red flags.
  6. DON’T – Only talk about what you like about the specialty – program leadership already knows why it’s great. Try to avoid cliches.
  7. DON’T – Talk only about patients and not yourself (if telling about a patient experience, talk about what you learned, what skills you gained, and how that experience shaped what you want to pursue in the future).
  8. DON’T – Fail to connect hobbies or experiences back to your specialty and how they make you a stronger candidate for residency (talk about what you learned or gained from an experience rather than just describing the experience. It’s okay to talk about other experiences not on your CV, such as growing up on a farm, a waitressing job, a love of cooking, etc., and how these things give you skills or insights that you will apply to your future training).
  9. DON’T – Speak in generalities (“I like helping people” or “I want to go into academics”). What do you specifically want to do in academics?
  10. DON’T – Be the hero: Medicine is a team sport. Don’t talk about something you caught that a resident or nurse may have missed. Don’t sound like you know it all and that there is no room for improvement.

What makes me unique?

What are some specific experiences I have had in my life that made me want to do my specialty or given me the skills that will prepare me well for training?

If a family member or friend were to describe me, what would they talk about first?

HINT: ASK family and friends what makes you unique and special! What makes them proud of you?

HOW TO MAKE A STATEMENT:  most important is to communicate a message

  1. What do I bring to the table?
  2. What am I looking for in a training program?
  3. Where do I see myself in 5-10 years?


Someone who KNOWS YOU WELL / Someone who knows about applying to residency (ex. school advisor, DSME) / Someone who knows your specialty (ex. mentor, someone you’ve worked with on a Sub-I)

*** Take all advice with a grain of salt.