The US Residency Application Season – Part 1

Now that you are done with your USMLE exams or are in the process of giving your last one, it’s a good time to start thinking about the final step in this journey towards attaining a residency in the United States. 

The first thing that you need to do to begin the season, is to register on ERAS. It costs 80 or so bucks, and the registration begins sometime in June with a timeline for the season already fixed. The deadline is usually September 15th when your documents are released to the programs. 

Of course, you can still apply later until end of the interview season but for an international medical graduate it’s recommended that you should be done uploading your documents beforehand.

In all sorts of ways, this part of the journey requires a lot of help from your colleagues and seniors so make sure you keep in touch with people who have gone through this process before you.

This year, that is the 2021 application cycle, will be totally different. Virtual interviews are all but confirmed, the application deadline has been extended to October 21st

Remember you don’t require your ECFMG certificate for many programs until you match, so if you don’t have CS you can still apply to many programs. But I am sure most programs will relax the requirement for IMGs. But the situation is evolving, and we’ll know better soon.

Letter of Recommendations

You can now have your letter of recommendations uploaded onto the myERAS portal by sending your letter writers links or emails from the portal and then they can subsequently upload the documents. It takes a few days after the doctor has uploaded the letter until you can assign the letter to the programs you want to apply to so make sure you make requests in time for the letter to be uploaded as soon as possible. 

You can upload as many letters as you want. If you want to upload a university letter from KEMU just visit Rashid in student section. Get him in touch with the professor whose letter you want to be uploaded and he can help you figure out a way. 

It’s recommended that you waive the right to see the letter on the website and have your letter writer upload it instead of directly uploading but I am not sure how much of a negative impact this has. You can assign a maximum of 4 letters to one program but 3 are the minimum recommended. US letters are of course preferred but one or two letters from your medical school won’t do any harm. But remember whatever is in your local letters can be included in your MSPE instead.

You should remember that letters affect your interview performance a lot. Who wrote the letter, where the writer works, and what is written in the letter are all important aspects of it. A very prominent name in the specialty you are applying to can help you get an interview slot. 

But usually letters are seen once you arrive for the interview and they can glitter up your application by a huge margin and a lack of them could also break your application. So, it’s important that you have good letters that are somewhat personalized. At least 50% of my interviewers referred to my letters during our conversations.


Next thing that you should start thinking about is the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) that all medical schools need to upload for their students directly to MyERAS. One of my interviewers praised the format of my MSPE to be amongst the best for international medical graduates. This is basically a couple of sentences from your supervisors from each of your major core rotations:  IM, Obs & Gynae, Surgery, Pediatrics and Psychiatry

You can also get other rotations signed like Dermatology, Cardiology and Neurology. Again, Rashid in KEMCAANA will give you a sample of the format that we use for the MSPE.

Now the next job is to make the document. There is a grading system within the MSPE that you’ll understand once you get the format. Write a couple of sentences on the behalf of each rotation praising yourself or ask your supervisor to write them for you. Once you are done with the whole thing, go and get them signed from someone – assistant professor or above - in the department. 

They might make edits to your statements that you might need to adjust. Make sure all the pages are stamped. Take this final document to Riaz in student section and he will then send it off to the university registrar for signatures. Once the whole process is completed, you need to get the documents scanned and send them to Rashid, he will upload it to ERAS.

Now MSPE is the least important of the documents that make up your interview portfolio but then again don’t take anything lightly that could affect whether you are happy or sad come match day. MSPE is usually released after the other documents, so you have almost one more week to get it uploaded.

Personal Statement

Hands-down, the most important document apart from your USMLE scores that make a part of your portfolio. Almost every interviewer reads this document and has made his or her first impression of you even before you meet them. Whatever you have written in the letter can become a point of conversation and will be your point of reference when selling your story. There are a lot of different opinions on how to write a good personal statement. But the basic format includes an introduction to yourself and your entry into the medical world, reasons to choose your specialty and US as a place to practice, and your future aspirations along.

Personal statement is not your CV. But it is like an explanation of some major points in it. For an average writer like me, I had to work very hard on my personal statement. I wrote my first draft in early July and then kept on at it until a day before September 14th. I made a mistake of showing it to too many people, and so I got a lot of recommendations that confused me. But still it is very important to get recommendations and keep improving on it. 

So, write an initial draft, read it multiple times and then send it to a friend of yours (medical or non-medical person) who has a good grasp on the English language. Once the grammatical mistakes are corrected, send it to a senior who matched in the past couple of years to give it a read. Apply the recommendations, re-send and keep working on it until there are more positive reviews than negative.

What I figured out when writing my personal statement was that you should have a story to tell. Something that fascinates the reader, but it should be authentic and explainable during interviews. There should be a flow through all the paragraphs, and you shouldn’t throw in things without explaining them. You don’t need to have very difficult English with fancy vocabulary as your reader is just a doctor so write something that shows what inspired you and what makes you a great candidate.

Programs List

I personally applied to two different specialties – Neurology and Internal Medicine. I decided my list of neurology based on a senior’s list last year. There is a list of interviews received and places matched in the link given below for the year 2020. But previous years links are also given once you visit this link. 

There are other websites like FRIEDA, and doximity which all are useful. It’s not necessary to apply to 150 programs to match. If you have good scores even 60-70 programs can be a good number. 

Remember that every application after the first 30 is $26. For IM, I just applied to about 20 programs where there were recently matched Kemcolians. Ask for the lists of some seniors and decide for yourself. Go to the websites of the programs. It’s useless to apply to programs that are not IMG friendly, frieda will tell you the statistics so check that out or go to the websites and see current residents list yourself.

Remember places where you know people matched, you can contact them to put in a name for you. What happens is that when a resident vouches for you, the application is now seen more closely by the program director (or whoever sends the invitations). Some seniors will help you, some won’t. I knew a person from my CS preparation who is from Syria and he just mentioned me to his chief resident, 2 days later I got an interview. 

So have a small summary of your application ready to send to a lot of seniors. But don’t go relentless in asking that senior again and again whether that person has recommended you or not. It really isn’t in the hand of the resident. But very close friends/family can actually get you the interview and also later vouch for you to get matched.

Make sure to check the following link:






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