All starts at the medical schools, which must issue an ERAS token for each one of their applicants. AMG's must contact the Dean of Student Affairs at their respective medical schools, and IMG's must contact the ECFMG which represents them as their designated dean (obtain your ERAS token logging in OASIS at the ECFMG website). The token is a fourteen digit number, required to sign in at ERAS. ERAS is a program developed to receive all the applicant documentation, create an electronic file for each candidate, and distribute that file to all the residency programs that the candidates applied. It will take approximately one day for your ERAS token to be generated.

Once you have the token, access ERAS website (www.aamc.org/eras) and register in MyERAS by entering your token, your USMLE/ECFMG number, and your personal information. MyERAS is a part or ERAS website through which you can access to your application, check your documents, apply to the different residency programs, and track your applications once sent. After that, you will receive your AAMC identification number that will be needed later to log into MyERAS.

Now you can start sending your documents and complete your application. Some documents are sent by the designated dean, and other must be completed by the applicants at MyERAS. The important thing to consider is that you should try to have your application ready by the day that ERAS PostOffice opens, since it is the part of ERAS that transfers the applications to the residency programs, and is very important to send the applications as soon as possible. Also consider that it takes approximately 10 business days for your documents to be uploaded in the system once ERAS receives them, so try to plan in advance.

By the time you complete your application, and ERAS PostOffice opens, you should already have the list of programs and specialties that you are going to apply. Log in at MyERAS to start the application process and to pay the respective fee (the applications won't be sent unless you complete the payment). Once the applications are sent, you can track them by using the ADTS; it shows the list of programs that you applied, the documents that you sent to each program, and if the documents were downloaded by the program. In some cases, applicants can have all but a few documents to complete their applications; if that happens to you, you don't need to delay your application process, start sending applications and send the missing document to ERAS as soon as you have it, the system will update automatically and the programs will receive it soon after.

The residency program staff analyzes the hundreds of applications received and makes the selection of candidates to interview. Selected applicants receive an invitation to visit the hospital, during which the residency program and the applicants can get to know each other better. At the end of the interview season, both programs and applicants must submit to the NRMP a list containing their final selection in order of preference, also known as the Rank Order List.

At one point during the interview season, you must register to the NRMP. Go to the NRMP website ( www.nrmp.org ), access the registration section and enter your AAMC identification number and your personal information. You also must pay the NRMP registration fee (different from the ERAS registration fee). Once you complete the registration, you can later log in to check your status during the match and to create your ROL.

The final step is made by the NRMP. It takes the ROL's from the applicants and matches them with the ROL's of the residency programs starting with the first choice in each list. This computerized process determines if there is mutual interest between the two parts, and assures a match if so. If there is no reciprocal interest from your first choice, then the next in the list is checked and so on until a match is found. The results are notified the same day to both the applicants and the programs. After the match, all matched applicants will be contacted by their respective program to make all arrangements prior starting their new job.

Once you concluded the match process, you can apply to the Return of Documents Service, to recover the documents that you sent to ERAS to be uploaded, except those that you waived the right to see.  The service has a cost of $15, and you can request it after you log in at OASIS.

Have in mind that even when there is one whole matching process, several organizations are part of it and you must register and pay a fee at each one. Also consider that for each step a deadline is established, and all deadlines are published early in the year of that matching season.

NEXT: Dates and Deadlines