14 August 2017

4 Tips for Your DrH Sports Medicine (FM) Fellowship Application

I am crossing my fingers that we never have to go through another match process after this fellowship match! This match game creates anxiety for both me and DrH. Luckily for you, you can learn from our mistakes and hopefully have a smoother experience applying for Sports Medicine Fellowships.

Here are four tips you need to know before starting your fellowship application. Keep in mind that the process may change from year to year, and that my DrH applied to the primary care fellowship which may have different requirements from other specialties. 

Tip #1: Know The Timeline
Assuming your DrH will be participating in the ERAS Fellowship Application and NRMP match, you'll want to understand the timeline for applications. This year, the application opened up in June. This means that in June, DrH can start sending Letter of Recommendation requests and inputting CV information, but the application cannot be submitted until July.

Another note from this year, is that while an applicant could technically press the submit button on July 6, 2017, applications aren't actually sent to programs until July 15. In other words, all applications submitted between July 6-15 arrive in the hands of fellowship coordinators and directors at the same time. Programs interview only 10-12 applicants out of the 100 or so applications they receive. So while the deadline for application submission is in the fall (Sept/Oct), It seems like it's in your DrH best interest to plan to submit the application in early July.

UPDATE 9/14/17: From our experience so far, most programs review applications in September/October and interview in October/November, though DrH did get a few early interview offers that were scheduled in August/September/October. This year the rank order list deadline is December 13, so interviews must be over by that point. 

Tip#2: Request More than 3 Letters of Recommendation (LoR)
Many programs ask that you submit at least three LoRs, and some programs want those LoRs to be from specific individuals (like program director, two physicians who have supervised DrH in clinic, or an orthopedic surgeon). You'll want to look at individual program application requirements which can either be found on the program's website or in the program information when you search for programs (some programs don't list requirements at all). Note that after LoR are uploaded by the author, the system takes some time to process those letters (up to 5 business days). While letters can not be included in the initial application submission unless they are uploaded and processed, you can "apply" them to previously submitted applications once the LoR is finally complete. 

Because our LoR authors experienced some technical difficulty in uploading their letters, DrH had to choose between submitting incomplete applications on-time or submitting a full application to programs late. He chose to submit on-time and email programs about the forthcoming documents. 
That being said, I would recommend asking for more letters than needed in the event that something like this technical delay occurs. Talk to those LoR authors in the end of May/beginning of June to confirm that they have enough experience with you to feel comfortable writing a positive recommendation. Then, send out the LoR requests as soon as the application opens in June, and send reminders if the LOR isn't uploaded by the end of June/first days of July.

Tip #3: Include Conferences, Event Coverage, and Elective Rotations as "Experience"
Instead of uploading your DrH's curriculum vitae (CV) as an attachment to your application, ERAS has you create a CV type document that will become the application. This includes filling out sections on personal information, education, experience, among other fields. While the ERAS instructions don't explicitly say to do this, based on AMSSM recommendations, sports medicine fellow applicants should include conference attendance, event coverage information, and related elective rotations in the experience section on the application. More up to date recommendations about what to include in sections of the ERAS application are listed on the AMSSM Fellow website

Tip #4: Provide Signed Code of Ethics Form
Many programs may consider the application incomplete until they have received a signed AMSSM Fellowship Code of Ethics form, which is odd really, because there's no place that we found to include it in the ERAS application. We recommend being proactive and sending that signed form by email to program coordinators after the application is submitted in early July. That way there's nothing holding them back from reviewing your application and offering your DrH an interview.

Not a tip, but so you're aware here is a list of fees we had to pay for the application alone:
- The application "token", which allows your DrH to start inputting information into the ERAS/EFDO application tools, will cost around $115. 
- Requested transcript and MPSE from DrH's medical school, which cost DrH $12
- When you finally submit to programs, the fee total will be based on how many programs applied to and there will also be one time fees for transcripts. You can see the breakdown of fees here. If you happen to submit to a second set of applications after already applying once, you do not have to pay the transcript fees again, AND the system will take into account the number of applications previously submitted.
Total, we spent close to $350.

We're planning on this being an expensive year with visiting rotations and interviews: airfare, transportation, and lodging all over the country. Another reason why I'm not eager to do this match process again anytime soon.