Luck of the Draw: A Residency Application Timeline

Getting matched to your preferred residency program might seem like a random gamble, rolling your application around a roulette wheel of ERAS algorithms and hoping for a win. But, it’s not all luck or chance; you’ve done the study and you’ve got all the chips banked.


With so many programs available, discover which ones fit your goals and align with your strengths. Dig deep into the research, noting all the details and deadlines, and then contact those programs to support your findings with additional information. The Residency Preference Exercise (RPE) developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides an effective tool for exploring the program possibilities. Does your preferred residency require additional training or an away rotation? Check the AAMC website for clinical research programs and Visiting Student Learning Opportunity (VSLO) programs.


While identifying the facets of a residency program that seem to suit your purpose, compile a list of all the elements you bring to the table and update your CV as well, making sure to highlight the aspects of your education and training that put you in contention for your chosen programs. These exercises will help form an outline for the personal statement essay portion of the application. Each specialty to which you apply will require an individual essay, so organizing your thoughts early in the process will help develop strong material.


In the same vein, use this planning time to consider those who you should approach about letters of recommendation or electronic standard letter of evaluation (eSLOE) for emergency medicine. Which faculty members, supervisors, and mentors with whom you’ve worked during medical school could you ask to write on your behalf? Select people with whom you have built a good relationship and who can speak to your abilities; secure at least two of these letters from professionals practicing in your area of interest. Whenever possible, ask them in person and delve into a conversation about the content of these letters.


The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) opens in June for the current National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) year. To initiate registration, contact the Designated Dean’s Office of your medical school to receive your electronic ERAS token and MyERAS code to activate your account. Once you’re logged onto the system, you can access guides and worksheets to help you organize all the necessary application components.


Prep, prep, and more prep. Keep the momentum going as you practice interview strategies and learn tips for answering tough questions. Find out if your specialty requires a CASPer test and review accordingly to optimize your score. Continue working on residency applications in anticipation of the upcoming ERAS deadline.



Application submissions may be submitted in ERAS at the beginning of September. All submissions are final once the application is certified and sent. Check the date that applications are released by the ERAS system to individual programs and get yours in before that deadline to qualify for the first round of interview invitations.


As residency programs review applications, interview invitations are extended to qualified candidates through February. As you accept invitations and travel to meet for interviews, continue reviewing your priority lists and considering what each program offers as well as what you can add to their teams.

Send thank-you notes immediately upon completion of an interview; write follow-up letters to programs from which you do not receive an initial response.

At this point in the process, your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) will be released from your medical school to the residency programs. Many schools arrange to meet with students and faculty members to review this evaluation and ensure the residency application process is proceeding smoothly.



The cycle of interviews should aid in your discernment as you balance the positives and negatives of each program. Narrow down your choices into a working Rank Order List (ROL) and send a thoughtfully written residency letter of intent to your top choice.


Program research finished, applications submitted, interviews completed. Time to wrap up the whole process in a manner similar to the way you started—listing preferences. Your NRMP Rank Order List account is now active for you to create your entries. Use the information you’ve learned through this entire journey to determine a preferred order for residency matching. This list can be edited up until the given deadline.


The finish line comes in view as Match Day nears and all the cards hit the table. The main NRMP results post mid-month, but specialty programs often adopt a unique timeline of which you’ll be notified. Match Week follows this traditional pattern:

  • Monday: Applicants receive NRMP email announcing whether they matched, but do not learn where.
  • SOAP: Soon after the first email, the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) launches allowing unmatched participants to vie for unfilled residencies.
  • Thursday: SOAP closes with a final list of unfilled positions posted.
  • Friday: MATCH DAY! All matched applicants learn the residency program to which they have been accepted.

Stay focused and good luck!

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