How to Approach the New Supplemental ERAS Application

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • You’ve been working on ERAS all summer, and you’re finally ready to submit in September. But now there is this new supplemental application to do as well. Since the supplemental ERAS application is brand new this year, it is hard to know how to approach it in a way that helps your overall application.

    Amidst COVID, virtual interviews, and changing timelines, this is definitely an overwhelming application cycle. But don’t worry! Here is a general guideline to use this new requirement to make your application shine.

    5 Tips for Supplemental ERAS Application Success

    1. Read up on the AAMC website about supplemental ERAS logistics.

    The AAMC website has a lot of information about the different sections of the supplemental application. Before you start preparing, review their materials so you are familiar with the requirements for each section. The AAMC offers an extensive application guide that can help you figure out how to actually fill it out.


    2. Review the list of programs participating in the supplemental ERAS.

    This supplemental application only applies to dermatology, internal medicine, and general surgery. But also note that not all programs are participating. Once you’ve made your list of programs, check the AAMC list to see which ones will require the supplemental application.


    3. Brainstorm your five most meaningful experiences.

    Okay. Now that you know the logistics, it’s time to think about what to actually write in your supplemental application. This should be the easiest section to complete, as it is just a more fleshed out version of the experiences you listed in the main ERAS application.

    You can pick any five experiences and then describe why it was meaningful, or how it impacted your journey to apply to residency.

    You have a limit of 300 characters per experience. These can be experiences that you listed in ERAS, but here you provide more information about how they impacted you.

    Try to choose a diverse group of experiences (e.g., research, volunteering, extracurricular activities, work) that you are most proud of.

    This section also offers the option to include experiences that “don’t quite fit” into the main application (e.g., growing up homeless, serving in the military, personal loss, or illness) that can help to explain or provide context for red flags (e.g., extended leaves or lack of extracurriculars).

    Try to keep it professional and avoid repeating what you already covered in the personal statement.


    4. Strategize your geographic and setting preferences (internal medicine and dermatology only).

    In the geographic section of the application, you can:

    • choose up to three divisions of the country (out of eight) with a short explanation why you prefer that region
    • choose to designate no region preference with an explanation.
    • third and final choice is to choose that you “do not wish to communicate a preference”

    However, with this third option, programs will not be able to tell the difference between whether you chose a different region or chose not to communicate a preference (which could be a disadvantage for you).

    For the vast majority of students, I would recommend you choose to have no region preference with a good 300-character explanation about why you are excited and willing to move wherever you will get the best training.

    This way, you are not giving programs a reason to dismiss your application (i.e., “she didn’t say she wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest, so let’s not waste an interview”).

    You can choose to pick three divisions of the country if you have a very specific reason for that region (i.e., your partner has a job that limits you geographically) or you have a very strong application with a high probability of interviews across the country.

    Overall, my advice is to try not to limit yourself, as programs will be able to tell if you list a preference for a different region. This same advice goes for the rural vs. urban setting preferences.


    5. Decide on the programs to “signal” your preference.

    This is the hardest part of the new supplemental ERAS application and will be very individualized to each applicant. The application gives you an opportunity to “signal” your interest to up to three to five programs (three for dermatology, five for surgery and internal medicine).

    For very strong applicants, this is straight forward, and you should just choose your top three to five programs.

    For middle-tier applicants, you may want to hedge your bets with a mix of one to two “reach/dream” programs and two to four reasonable/safety programs.

    For IMGs or students with red flags, this will involve some strategizing to choose three to five programs with which you already have a good chance of getting an interview (or to which you have a good connection) to increase your chances of securing those interviews.

    Programs will be able to tell if you did not signal them.

    Note: you are not allowed to send signals to your home program or those with which you did sub-internships (since those programs already know you are interested).  


    If you’re struggling with how to approach the supplemental application, please reach out to us. We can help you brainstorm each of these sections with more individualized advice. I know this is an additional stressor in an already difficult process. We’re here if you need us. Good luck!

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