ERAS Supplemental Program Signals Section
Program signals are indicators that allow you to express interest in particular residency programs. They may be used as data points that help programs determine to whom they should extend interview invitations, along with other information.
A couple of key points:
- Programs that participate in the ERAS supplement will only see your preference if you have signaled them, and they will not see other programs you have signaled.
- Program signals are not ranked.
- You may also skip the signaling program section but we do not recommend this.
When you’re completing this section, reflect on factors such as your personal goals, your likelihood of matching and how competitive you are as an applicant, the competitiveness of the programs, and geographic preferences. You may only signal up to a certain number of programs (variable by specialty), so select them with care.
How to Choose Preference Signals
Data from last year showed that a majority of programs received the majority of the preference signals. What this says is that the most competitive and popular programs are preferred by everyone. In terms of strategy, it likely would make the most sense NOT to use your preference signals for overly popular top programs since the more signals a program receives, the more dilute the impact of your signal.
The only scenario in which we would recommend sending program signals to very competitive programs is if you are a top applicant who is likely to match to a top program.
For applicants who are not aiming for top tier programs, sending a signal to a “less popular” program can help you get noticed and can essentially serve as a flag to make sure your application is seen (and reviewed). A signal tells a program that you are really interested in them which can be really appealing to a program that isn’t so popular or for one that hasn’t filled historically.
Regardless of your candidacy, we do not suggest sending all of your signals to top tier programs. In choosing your preference signals, you need to be realistic about your candidacy. By the same token, if you are a very competitive applicant, you don’t want to send preference signals to “safety” programs where you are very likely to receive an interview thus potentially “wasting” a signal.
In summary, for the vast majority of applicants, we suggest sending preference signals where you have a decent chance of receiving an interview, where you aren’t a shoe-in, and, if possible, choose programs that won’t receive hoards of program signals where your signal will fail to “stand out.” Be strategic and thoughtful, approaching it the same way you would apply to college, using a blend of reach, target, and safety programs.
If you already have strong ties to the program, you probably don’t need to use up a signal on that option because your interest will already be known.
In summary, do not send program signals to:
- Your home institution
- An institution where you have done an away rotation
- A program that is far out of reach
- A program that is surely a safety
For more guidance on how to complete the optional ERAS supplemental application, review the Supplemental ERAS Application Guide.
On the one hand, another hoop to jump through is annoying when you are applying to residency! You don’t need more stress! However, if you use the ERAS Supplemental Application strategically and to your advantage, it can offer another opportunity to set yourself apart from the onerous sea of applicants to make the program director’s job easier to choose you!