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Residency Application Process

Neurosurgery is one of the most exciting fields in medicine. Because of this, it is also very competitive. Be mindful of this as you enter the match process, and be as prepared and informed as possible. The information on this site is designed to help you identify whether neurosurgery is the field for you, and if so, to assist you in becoming a more competitive candidate.

U.S. Match Statistics 2016 2017 2018
Number of Categorical/Advanced Positions Available for U.S. Seniors 216 218 225
Percent of U.S. Seniors Matched 80.3% 89.6% 90%
Number of Unfilled Categorical/Advanced Positions 2 0 0
Number of Unmatched U.S. Seniors 46 20 22

Source: National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) match results for U.S. seniors applying in a single specialty.

The neurosurgery residency matching program is part of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) and uses the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) system Applications open Sept. 15 each year, and the match takes place the subsequent March for positions that will start July of the same year. The ERAS application consists of personal demographics, a photograph, a standardized CV, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores, publications, a personal statement, letters of recommendation and a letter from your home institution’s Dean. It is recommended to complete USMLE Steps 1 and 2 in time to include this on the application submitted in September. Applicants must identify at least three individuals from whom they can obtain letters of recommendation, advisably neurosurgeons from known institutions who have seen you work in a clinical and research capacity. Such letters must be requested in the summer before the match to assure that they are available in time for interviews. Dean’s letters should also be requested but will not usually be available until Nov. 1 of the year prior to the match.

Completion of the application process is the responsibility of the applicant and not the ERAS nor the individuals asked to write letters of recommendation. Complete your application early and have it in by the release date of Sept. 15 when many programs start screening applications. Many programs offer interviews on a rolling basis, and it may be somewhat easier to garner an interview early rather than late to allow for more flexibility with scheduling.

The number of programs you apply to is not an exact science. Generally speaking, 10 is likely too few and 70 is too many. NRMP statistics show that the average applicant applies to around 30-35 programs. In general, applying to 20-30 programs that are within your competitive range should be sufficient. Though there are people that do not match each year, it is questionable whether applying to a myriad of programs is truly helpful. No matter how strong your application is, however, make sure you apply to programs not considered to be top-tier. You need to have “safety” programs because you never know what is going to happen, and it is certainly an incredibly competitive process.

View Match Probability by Number of Ranks

Interviews are by invitation only. The majority of interviews take place during November, December and January. Several residency programs may have their interviews on the same day, and therefore, applicants must decide which interview takes precedence. However, consider this when accepting interviews: Do not cancel interviews within several weeks of the interview date, as this creates difficulties for the program and is looked upon poorly.

The final match rank list must be submitted by the applicant and residency programs by late February. Results of the match ranking are generally available mid-March.

Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)
The ERAS is a service that transmits applications, letters of recommendation, Medical Student Performance Evaluations (MSPE aka Dean’s letter), medical school transcripts, USMLE transcripts, Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) transcripts and other supporting credentials from you and your designated Dean’s office to program directors electronically. The ERAS consists of MyERAS (the website where you create your application), the Dean’s Office Workstation (DWS), the Program Director’s Workstation (PDWS) and the ERAS PostOffice.

MyERAS Website
Complete your application and personal statement, select programs to apply to and assign documents to be received by each program.

Dean’s Office Workstation (DWS)
This is ERAS software used by staff at your designated Dean’s office. From this software, they create an electronic token that you use to access MyERAS. They also use this system to scan and attach supporting documents to your application, such as a photograph, medical school transcripts, MSPE and letters of recommendation.

Program Director’s Workstation (PDWS)
This ERAS software is used by residency program directors and residency coordinators to receive, sort, review, evaluate and rank applications.

ERAS PostOffice
This is a central bank of computers that transfer application materials from applicants and the designated Dean’s office to residency programs. You can monitor the activity of your files on the ERAS PostOffice via the Applicant Data Tracking System (ADTS).

The ERAS provides you with a straightforward way of summarizing your educational and research background as well as sufficient space to describe your personal interests and any awards or accomplishments you may have received. Take time with your application. Ensure that you have supplied a photograph of yourself with professional dress and demeanor. Incomplete or poorly organized applications reflect poorly on the applicant. Make certain your application has been proofread repeatedly for grammatical and typographical errors. This application will go to every program to which you apply.


Second- or Early Third-year Medical School
Take USMLE Step 1.

Third-year Medical School
Design a fourth-year medical school curriculum to include at least one neurosurgery rotation.

Late Spring-Early Summer
Look at individual program websites.
Take USMLE Step 2 (recommended).

Request letters of recommendation from at least three faculty neurosurgeons. Initiate the ERAS application.

Beginning of Fourth Year
Perform away rotations and sub-internships in neurosurgery.

Sept. 15
ERAS applications become available.

Programs will contact applicants regarding interview dates.
Verify Dean’s letters are received by various programs.

Interview with various residency programs.

Submission of rank order by applicants and neurosurgical departments is received.

Results of your match become available.