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The Application - Applying to Programs

Decoding Program Types

Categorical (C): A Categorical position is one that offers a full residency training required for board certification in that specialty. A preliminary year is not required for these programs. 

Advanced Program (A)An Advanced position is a PGY-2 position that begins 1-2 years after the match and requires completion of one or more years of preliminary training. The following specialties offer advanced positions (some have both advanced and categorial): Anesthesiology, Dermatology, Neurology, Ophthalmology, PM&R, Radiation Oncology and Diagnostic Radiology.  

Preliminary Program: A Preliminary position is PGY-1 position that offers 1-2 years of generalized training prior to entry to Advanced specialty programs. Many Internal Medicine and General Surgery training programs offer preliminary positions in addition to categorical positions. Transition year programs are also considered preliminary programs.  

Transitional Program:  Also a PGY-1 position that is 1 year of training similar to a “rotating” internship.

Creating a Program List

Creating a list of programs is one of the most important things you will do in the residency application process. Students are encouraged to consult multiple resources when creating their list of programs to make informed decisions regarding program fit, program and location preferences, and your comparative strength as an applicant. The AMA FREIDA (Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access) may be a good place to start when researching programs. FRIEDA includes an extenstive list of programs with information about location, program type, salaries, and benefits. Some specialties have specialty-specific lists; students are encouraged to consult with their Advisors regarding specialty-specific resources. We also recommend research programs of interest directly by reviewing their website or contacting programs for additional information. The program and program website are the ultimate and most up to date source of information for a specific program. OSA and Specialty Advisors, as well Alumni Network, are additional resources to consult when creating a list.  

Students should discuss their program lists, including the number of programs to apply to, with OSA and Specialty Advisors. Your OSA Advisor can review past years MedScope data with you to gauge comparative strength as an applicant. Specialty Advisors have more intimate knowledge of programs in their field and can offer a specialty-specific perspective. The total number of programs to apply to will vary considerably based on specialty, your comparative standing as an applicant, and the make-up of your list. In general, we recommend that students aim to interview at 12-14 programs and have at least 11 programs on their rank order list.

UMSOM – Where our Student Match
AAMC Residency Explorer Tool

Geographic Preferences

Applicants can indicate a preference (or lack of preference) for geographic regions in ERAS through the Geographic Preferences section. Applicants may select up to three U.S. census divisions, or indicate a lack of preference, and can describe their preferences. Geographic signals may be used by residency programs when deciding on applicants to interview – often identifying applicants that may have otherwise been overlooked.  Only programs within the division selected will see your response. If you select ‘no preference’ all programs will see your response. We recommend that students discuss their geographic preferences and responses in this section with their advisors. Generally, being honest with your preferences (or lack of) is a tool to help you in ensuring a good fit with your future residency program and increasing the likelihood of interview offers in locations of interest.

Setting Preferences

Applicants may also select a setting preference including urban, suburban, rural and no preference. If you indicate a preference or lack of preference this information will be shared with all programs to which you applied.

2024 MyERAS Applicant User Guide - Geographic Preferences

Program Signaling

Program Signaling occurs at the time of application and provides the applicant an opportunity to express interest in programs. Program signals are used in turn by residency programs, as one of many factors they consider when deciding whether to interview an applicant. 

More than 20 specialties are participating in Program Signaling. Applicants are allotted a varying number of Program Signals based on Specialty. Applicants can send program signals for each of the specialties to which they apply; a list of specialties participating in program signaling can be found on from ERAS for the 2025 season.  An up-to-date list of individual programs participating in signaling will be available from ERAS in June.  The AAMC encourages applicants to signal home and away programs unless otherwise stated.

Program Signaling for the 2025 Match Cycle


Residency Specialty

No. of Program Signals


5 Gold; 10 Silver

Child Neurology



3 Gold; 25 Silver

Emergency Medicine

5 *

Family Medicine


Internal Medicine

3 Gold; 12 Silver

Internal Medicine & Psychiatry


Neurological Surgery




Obstetrics & Gynecology

3 Gold; 15 Silver



Orthopedic Surgery








Physical Medicine & Rehab


Plastic Surgery


Public Health/Preventive Medicine




Radiation Oncology


Radiology, Diagnostic and Interventional

6 Gold; 6 Silver

Surgery, General


Thoracic Surgery




*Emergency Medicine and Plastic Surgery – do NOT signal home or away programs.

* Only plastic surgery will use signaling in CentralApp this year. In plastic surgery, there will be 5 signals per applicant with a 100-word signaling statement.

Tips and Considerations for Signaling

  • We recommend that you use all available program signals for each specialty to which you apply.
  • Selecting which programs to signal is an important consideration – students should plan to include programs for which they are competitive and should discuss signaling strategy with the OSA and Specialty Advisors.
  • Applicants should expect a higher interview rate for programs they signaled. However, students still receive interviews from non-signaled programs but at a lower rate (particularly for small signal specialties). This is likely to influence the total number of applications, however, in many cases, students should expect to apply to more programs than they signaled.
  • Program signals must be assigned on the Saved Programs page or your MyERAS application (Programs Menu) before applying to programs. 

2024 MyERAS Applicant User Guide – Program Signals Overview for Residency Applicants
Program Signaling for the 2025 MyERAS Application Season

External Resources