Recently I visited r/MedicalSchool, a community of medical students on reddit, to answer questions about the ERAS® application process. I strongly encourage you to read the entire Q & A session, but here are the top 5 most upvoted questions by the community along with my answers.
1. How much does Step 2 actually matter? Can a good Step 2 score make up for a below average Step 1?
HUGE! I’ll say it again…it’s HUGE! Here’s the play. If you have an ok USMLE I and a great, or significantly improved USMLE II there are so many ways to benefit from this accomplishment. You exhibit a growing fund of WORKING medical knowledge (that’s what step II tests and PDs evaluate, your medical knowledge) it exhibits your self improvement skills, being able to analyze your performance, set a plan and execute it and produce! It exhibits professionalism, working medical knowledge, self-improvement, maturity, etc. You can use it as a strength during your interview as well. PD asks, what are some of your strengths, your response, “I’m goal-oriented. I recognized the need to improve my fund of woking medical knowledge that would be translated in to better patient care activities so I did a little reflection, changed my study habits, improved my test taking skills and achieved my goal of scoring a 260 on my STEP II.” That is a hell of a lot better than the standard med stud response, “I’m hard working, good team player.” The goal oriented response will score some major points and it distinguishes you as a strong candidate with solid interpersonal and communication skills too. Wow, that’s a lot but that’s how much a difference a professional can teach you. It’s all in the details! Best of luck and do a killer prep for step II.
2. Did you find a good correlation between the success of your residents and their step scores?
This is a really good though difficult question to answer. First though, strong step scores = residents with good in-service scores. That being said, in-service scores aren’t everything. PDs evaluate residents on interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism. Practice-based learning and improvement, systems-based practice and Patient care abilities too. These remaining 5 areas can be easily evaluated through the quality of your ERAS app, supporting documents (LORs, MSPE) your interview too. Hope that answered your question. Best of luck!
3. Does the status or prestige of the person who writes your LORs matter? Thanks so much for taking time out to help us out.
Yes, immensely. Not all LORs are created equally. The boots on the ground preceptors who know what PDs are searching for should be your authors not residents, podiatrists, dentists. There’s a ton to learn on obtaining a phenomenal LOR and it’s one of the biggest mistakes candidates make in submitting the wrong number, wrong author and poor content. I wish you the best of luck, get what you deserve a phenomenal LOR when perform well during a rotation.
4. Do readers have an eye for breadth vs depth wrt activities? I know some who will list multiple single occasion volunteer experience as if they were each long-term projects.
The ERAS application requests information on the dates of the activities and PDs are a pretty savvy group of accomplished individuals who know the ins’ and outs’ of when they’re are being bs’ed! Candidates who pad their apps lose out because most PDs have been around the block a few times and spot padding a mile away. Solid activities that are socially redeeming and NOT a “Health Fair” (such as Big Brothers Big Sisters) are great organizations where you as a candidate can exhibit your substantial volunteer work. I always tell med students to add meaningful content to your application because it only gets reviewed once. Good luck!
5. How much time was spent reading each personal statement? Any point in putting in some serious effort? What made some personal statements stand out?
PDs will read your entire personal statement if your ERAS app piqued their interest. Oftentimes, PDs will ask themselves, “Does this candidate interest me enough to interview?”. It’s simply that important. Write a personal statement that distinguishes your candidacy. Let a PD want to meet you in person. Write about your interest in the specialty, give examples about why your the best candidate and express your true likable personality. Best of Luck!
There were many more questions and responses, so be sure to read the full AMA here. Thanks reddit!