Home » ERAS Preference and Program Signaling and Meaningful Experiences for Residency

ERAS Preference and Program Signaling and Meaningful Experiences for Residency

17 min



Elite Medical Prep is excited to announce the successful completion of our residency roundtable event for the upcoming 2023 match cycle! We are thrilled to share that all the sessions have been meticulously recorded, allowing you to access and view them at your convenience here. In this session, Dr. Godfrey and Dr. Eiger delved into the essential changes introduced to the application process for the upcoming match cycle. They discussed the merging of the supplemental application into the main ERAS application and how this will impact preference signaling for residency programs.


We have published the points discussed in the session in blog format below for those who would prefer to read it or review the written format in addition to the recorded session. You can watch the recorded session above, and find all of the residency roundtable recorded sessions, including our Q&A sessions here.



Selected Experiences – New ERAS Format


Starting this year, applicants will be limited to only 10 experiences in the meaningful experiences section. Whereas, previously there was no such limit. This means that you will want to consider which 10 experiences were the most meaningful for you.

Additionally, the format for inputting these meaningful experiences has changed. You will need to describe what your role was, as well as the setting and primary focus. These will be selected from a dropdown including options such as volunteering, public health advocacy, etc. You will also be asked to select from a dropdown a key characteristic that is highlighted in this experience. This dropdown includes things like teamwork and leadership skills.

As you are trying to prioritize your 10 meaningful experiences, it is a good idea to strive for mixed answers in these dropdown menus. For instance, you may want to include volunteering, teaching or mentoring experiences, research, etc, as well as highlight different key characteristics. This will allow you to show and highlight different aspects of your application. You may also consider selecting a few experiences that you are not planning on covering in your personal statement.


Free Text Section


In addition to the dropdown menus, you will also have 1020 characters of free text for each of your 10 experiences. You want to use this section to describe what your role was. If you were very active in a research project or volunteering experience, you want to highlight that. Make sure that you are explicit about what your role was and what you did to support your team. Include specific duties that you performed, such as recruiting patients, doing analysis, basic science work, etc.

You also want to shed some light on the time frame of an experience. Was this a one-time volunteering experience? Or did you volunteer once a week over the course of several months or years?

Remember that this is not your personal statement. You are highly limited in the number of characters that you have. Because of this, you want to keep your free text session very concrete and to the point. List what you did, how long you did it for, and what you got out of it. It may feel a bit uncomfortable to be so direct but remember that this is the point.



Most Meaningful Experiences


Of your 10 experiences, you can select your 3 most meaningful experiences. Designating an experience as “most meaningful” will allow you 300 more characters in your free text section. Use these extra characters to describe:

  • What it was meaningful
  • How it influenced you

Consider selecting diverse experiences for this section as well. Remember that not all of your experiences have to be traditional for medical school students. If tiy ran track throughout highschool, and that was a meaningful experience that you learned from, that can be highlighted here as well.



Impactful Experience


This is an optional section that is generally used to go into hardships or challenges. For instance:

  • Family Background
  • Educational experiences
  • Financial
  • Community setting
  • Other

This section is NOT required and allows for an additional 750 characters of free text. If you do not feel that you have anything important to add to this section, leave it blank. Know that if you do not write something, it will not hurt you. But writing something that isn’t so impactful just to fill the space can come across as odd. However, this could be a good opportunity to address any red flags you may have in your application. This is a place to address personal struggles that you have had that have impacted your trajectory in medicine. Think carefully about whether or not this applies to you, and do not try to force an experience if this section does not resonate with you.



No Supplemental Application for ERAS This Year: New Format for Program and Preferance Signaling for ERAS


While the supplemental application no longer exists, components of that application have been integrated into the application.


Geographic Preferences


ERAS has divided the US into 12 geographical regions. You can select up to 3 regions that you prefer and will be allowed a 300-character description to detail why you prefer specific regions. Programs that are located in a geographic region that you selected will be able to see your selection and 300-character description. If you choose that you have “no preference”, you will also be given 300 characters to detail why you have no preference.

We recommend that you decide carefully whether you want to select geographic preferences. Unless you have a good reason for your preference, sticking with “no preference” will allow you to cast the widest net possible for residency program options. Programs outside of your selected regions are less likely to invite you for an interview and rank you.

Additionally, if you decide that you have a preference for a specific region, consider how competitive that region is. Signaling a preference for a highly competitive region, such as the New York area, likely will not give you much of an advantage. These regions are flooded with interested applicants and are not likely to pay as much attention to this section. That is not to say that they will not notice if you chose a different region, rather they may not put as much weight on their region, versus no preference. However, if you have a strong preference for a less competitive region, such as the midwest, programs in those areas are more likely to prioritize applicants that have signaled their region.

You can also list up to 5 hometowns to signal your connection to places you have lived. In addition, you can also select a preference for urban vs. rural areas or no preference. All programs will see this signal, as well as the additional 300 characters you have to explain why. Once again, unless you truly have a strong preference, we recommend selecting “no preference” to cast a wide net.


ERAS Program Signaling


Program signaling is a section of the ERAS application that allows you to signal your preference for a specific program before you have interviewed there. This serves as an opportunity to indicate to a select few programs that you are HIGHLY interested in them. The number and types of signals available to you vary depending on your specialty.


Types of Program Signaling for ERAS


New in the ERAS application this year are different types of program signals. Some specialties will now allow you to create a tiered ranking for your program signaling, with gold and silver signals. This is available for some specialties, and not available for others.


How Many ERAS Program Signals Do You Get by Specialty?


  • Anesthesiology: 5 gold, 10 silver program signals
  • Child Neurology and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities: 3 program signals
  • Dermatology: 3 gold, 25 silver program signals
  • Diagnostic Radiology and Interventional Radiology: 6 gold, 6 silver
  • Emergency Medicine: 7 signals
  • Family Medicin: 5 signals
  • General Surgery: 5 signals
  • Internal Medicine: 7 signals
  • Internal Medicine/Psychiatry: 2 signals
  • Neurology (adult): 3 signals
  • Neurological Surgery: 25 signals
  • Ob/Gyn: 3 gold, 15 silver
  • Orthopedic Surgery: 30 signals
  • Otolaryngology: 25 signals
  • Anatomic and Clinical Pathology: 5 signals
  • Pediatrics: 5 signals
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: 5 signals
  • Psychiatry: 5 signals
  • Public Health and General Preventative Medicine: 3 signals
  • Thoracic Surgery: 3 signals


How to Decide Which Program to Signal in Your ERAS Application


This is highly individualized and we recommend speaking with an advisor about your specific case. In general, we recommend using your signals wisely in relation to how competitive your application is. Unless you are an all-star applicant, it’s not recommended to use your signals on the top five programs in the country. Many people will be signaling to these programs, and it may not have the weight that it would if you signal a less competitive program.

This is also a good place to show that you may be willing to go against your geographic preferences for a specific program. For example, if you have signaled your geographic preference on the East Coast, but there is a program on the West Coast that you would be willing to move cross-country for, this is a great use of your program signal.

An important step to take before you lock in your signals is to go to the program website and check if they have written anything about this topic. Some programs will say outright that they do not use program signaling in their selection process.



Residency Advising With Elite Medical Prep


Watch our recorded session to get all these answers and more! Be prepared for the 2024 residency match cycle and get ahead of the new ERAS application. For more assistance and residency advising, schedule your complimentary consultation with Elite Medical Prep today. At Elite Medical Prep, we are committed to supporting aspiring medical professionals in their journey toward securing their desired residency positions. We look forward to helping you succeed!


Find more of our residency application content here. We recommend starting off with the residency timeline to help you stay organized and on top of your to-dos for this year’s match cycle.

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