Elizabeth (Betsy) Haberl, MD is the Communications Liaison for the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Resident and Fellow Section Executive Committee. She is currently completing diagnostic radiology residency in Austin, Texas.
Once upon a time, a little girl from Texas decided to become a doctor. To make a long story short, after three years in surgery, I risked it all to reapply to the Match 2022 cycle. Was it scary? Yes. Awkward? Absolutely. But I did it – I matched twice, the second time into diagnostic radiology. Here are my personal tips, tricks and two cents on how to boost your 2024 ERAS season in five easy steps.
- Be accountable. Hopefully, you have already submitted your application. Make sure you checked ALL the boxes – professional photo uploaded, complete CV, letters of recommendation sent, spelling and grammar check, etc. This is it. The final countdown! Years of volunteering, H&Ps, exams, mental breakdowns, fluctuations in weight, espresso shots and evaluations all crammed into a few pages. So be responsible, dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Remember to use an appropriate email account and get in the habit of checking it constantly. I set my ERAS email up on my phone with the notifications on full volume. Once interviews start rolling out, respond and sign up immediately! When it happens, stop what you are doing—scrub out, excuse yourself, or step out of Zumba class. If you reach out to programs, don’t be a pest. Be kind to program coordinators and sign forms ASAP! Accountability takes energy, but you’ve got this.
- Be adaptable. ERAS season requires flexibility and finesse with scheduling. Attend as many open houses as you can, which may be advertised on social media. You mean I need an Insta account? In my opinion yes, or Twitter/X, to stay in the loop. If you get an interview, sign up for the happy hour the night before. Just do it! Keep track of all your scheduled events in your phone with reminder alerts. Remember that time zones may differ, but waking up at 5AM will be worth it! Last-minute offers are rare, but I strongly recommend taking them if you get the opportunity. Have a go-to interview outfit hanging in your closet, including pants!
- Know your audience. Do not be afraid to speak up on virtual calls. Let your light shine! You can show your personality without being obnoxious. Consider investing in a webcam and ring light so you look fabulous. If you are meeting with residents, relax. Have your coffee mug out, introduce your cat and enjoy the moment. With faculty, be ready to validate your application with props to showcase your accomplishments or hobbies; keep artwork, musical instruments, your succulent collection, homebrewed kombucha or whatever you have within reach that is professionally appropriate. Research your interviewers the night before and know them well enough to hold a genuine conversation.
- Be affable. This mantra will apply to your R1 year as well. “Be affable and be able.” Show up with a smile, ready to make an impression! Are you truly present if your camera is off? Keep it on so programs remember your face. Even if you are post-call or coming down with the sniffles, it’s in your best interest to act like you want to be there. Take a short walk before, do some squats or yoga to get your blood flowing. If you accept an interview for a program you are not actually interested in, please at least make it worth the interviewer’s time. Absolutely do NOT cancel less than 24 to 48 hours before the interview unless it is a true emergency. Not only is it disrespectful, but another desperate applicant could have used that spot. Program directors and coordinators go to great lengths to have each interview day set up. Make us want to talk to you until the timer runs out.
- Be authentic. It can be hard to be yourself and truly sparkle if you are suffering from anxiety. There is no shame in seeking therapy during this stressful season. Psychology Today and BetterHelp can help you find a counselor. The 17th of September is National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, a reminder that 300 to 400 physicians die by suicide every year. If you do not match into your top program or match at all, your life is always more important than one email from NRMP. There is more to your story than ten experiences, three letters, and one personal statement could ever describe. So breathe. Be honest and be truthful. Shoot for the stars, but be willing to accept the LED light bulb handed to you by the system.
IMPRESSION: ERASE all fear this ERAS season.
- Be accountable.
- Be adaptable.
- Know your audience.
- Be affable.
- Be authentic.
May the odds of matching be ever in your favor.