Application submission date reflects applicant quality

George M Fuhrman, Stephen Dada, Carole Ehleben
Journal of Surgical Education 2008, 65 (6): 397-400

PURPOSE: Applications for general surgery residency are submitted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) beginning in early September. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the date of application submission could be used in the screening of an applicant for general surgery residency.

METHODS: The 2007 ERAS data for an independent program that accepts 2 categorical residents per year was evaluated. International medical graduates were excluded because no international applicants were considered for interviews. Applicants for preliminary positions were also excluded. The remaining graduates from medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) who applied for categorical positions were evaluated based on United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores and on medical school performance, as well as on the quality of their personal statements and letters of recommendation. Medical school performance was determined from dean's letters and transcript information, and each applicant was classified as outstanding, average, or poor. The date of application submission was compared with USMLE scores and medical school performance. The lag time to submit an application was also evaluated and compared with whether a student was offered an interview and the assessment of the quality of that interview. Results were evaluated using analysis of variance and the Pearson correlation test to evaluate for significance.

RESULTS: A total of 155 applications from LCME-accredited schools for categorical positions were received. The mean lag time to application for students with an outstanding medical school performance was 15.2 +/- 15.5 days compared with 37.4 +/- 26.2 days for poorly performing students (p < 0.01). A negative correlation between USMLE score and the lag time to application was noted (p < 0.01 USMLE I and USMLE II). Applicants offered an interview demonstrated a lag time to submit their application of 19.2 days +/- 21.7 versus 34.0 days +/- 25.8 for applicants not selected to interview (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: The results of our study suggest that the date of application submission can provide important screening information about an applicant for general surgery residency. If nearly all high-quality applications are received in September, programs could begin the interview process in early November, which gives students an opportunity to visit more programs and increase their exposure to a broader variety of training options.

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