Program Signals Overview for Residency Applicants

Program Signals Overview for Residency Applicants

In this Section:

What are program signals?

Program signals offer you the opportunity to express interest in individual residency programs at the time of application. Program signals are intended to be used by residency programs as one of many data points in deciding whom to invite to interview.  

You can send program signals for each specialty to which you intend to apply. The number of available signals varies by specialty. Specialties determine the number of signals based on their goals for signaling, their number of programs, and the average number of applications submitted per program in their specialty. 

Important Program Signaling Details

  • Applicants should signal all programs to which they are the most interested in using the allotted number of program signals, including home and away rotation programs.
  • For the ERAS 2024 season, program signals will not be available to fellowship applicants.
  • Program participation within each specialty is optional. Some programs within each specialty may decide not to participate. A list of participating specialties and the number of program signals offered by specialty will be available on this AAMC webpage. In early July 2023, individual program participation will also be updated. In the interest of protecting applicants from sending signals to programs that have no interest in considering program signals as a part of their application review, applicants will not be able to send a program signal to a program that is not participating.

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How do I send a signal to a specific track (e.g., preliminary, categorical)?

Program signals cannot be sent to specific tracks. Instead, the signals are received at the institution level, meaning that all program tracks at an institution for a given specialty will see the same signal information. 

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What is tiered program signaling?

Certain specialties decided to use a tiered program signaling approach to better understand applicants’ level of interest. Tiered signaling offers applicants two levels of signals: gold and silver.  

  • Gold signals are designed to identify an your “most preferred” programs.  
  • Silver signals are designed to identify your “preferred” programs.  

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How are signals shared with programs?

Only programs you signal and to which you apply will see your signals.  

  • Standard Program Signaling: If you signal a program, the program will see the word “Yes”. Standard signals will all be displayed as “Yes”.  
  • Tiered Signaling: If you signal a program, the program will see either the word “Gold” or “Silver” rather than seeing the word “Yes”.  

If you do not signal a program, signal a different program, or skip this question, the program will receive no information.​ 

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How will programs use program signals?

Programs are instructed to use program signals as one piece of information to consider during the interview selection process only, because applicants may change their preferences after interview season. To assist with the admission process, programs can filter applicants based on program signals. Although programs have been advised that signals are not to be used in isolation as a screening tool, some programs may use them during screening. 

The following data on program signals are based on survey responses aimed at understanding programs’ use of the program signals data collected during the ERAS 2023 season: 

  • Seventy-five percent of program directors agreed that program signals helped them identify applicants whom they would have otherwise overlooked. 
  • Program directors reported using applicants’ signals during various stages of the application process:  
    • As a screening tool before a more thorough application review (88% of respondents)  
    • To send interview invitations to every applicant who signaled their program (61% of respondents). 
    • To include in a composite filter to conduct holistic review (78% of respondents). 
    • As part of a holistic application review to decide whom to interview (91% of respondents). 
    • As a tiebreaker to help decide whom to interview (86% of respondents).  
    • During the interview to learn more about why an applicant signaled their program (64% of respondents).  

For more detailed information on how programs and individual specialties used program signals in the ERAS 2023 season, refer to the report that includes the final results of the Program Director Survey.  

If you have questions about how a program you are applying to is using these data in the ERAS 2024 season, please contact the program directly. 

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Tips for Sending Program Signals

  • Use the maximum allotted program signals per specialty to which you apply. You should use all the signals available to you. 
  • Decide which programs you want to signal based on your unique situation. Consider the strength of your application, your ultimate career goals, and personal circumstances, along with a program's relative competitiveness, mission, and goals. You are encouraged to work with faculty and resident mentors as you consider where to send your signals. 
  • The following resources may also be helpful as you consider where to signal: 
  • Understand that sending a program signal resulted in a higher probability of interview invitation for all participating specialties. However, programs varied widely in how they used signals, and sending a signal did not guarantee an interview invitation.  

Data listed on this page are from one or more of the six reports available to applicants and advisors on the Supplemental ERAS Application Data and Reports page. 

Consider these data from the ERAS 2023 season:

Applicants considered the following factors when selecting programs to signal:

  • Alignment of program strengths with career interests (67%).
  • Location of program/geographic preference (66%).
  • Strength of the program's clinical training (51%).
  • Program reputation/prestige (45%).
  • Program culture/resident camaraderie (42%).
  • Strength of program's research training (25%).
  • Advice from faculty or resident mentors (21%).

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View All Program Signals

At the top of the Programs pages next to the (?) Help icon, there is a link to View All Signals. This link will bring up a modal window with a summary of the counts for all program signals for all specialties. The summary is divided into three categories with the number of specialties saved or applied to for each category in parentheses:  

  1. Single Tier: These specialties have opted to use only one type of program signal. 
  2. Two-Tier: These specialties have opted to use a two-tiered system for signaling: Gold (most preferred) and Silver (preferred). 
  3. Not Participating: These specialties are not accepting program signals, and no signals can be assigned to programs in these specialties. 

Each participating specialty allocates a fixed number of signals to assign to programs. The Signal Count column shows three numbers for each specialty: 

  • Available: Shows how many signals remain after subtracting the total signals assigned to Saved Programs and the number of signals sent to programs you have already applied to.  

  • Assigned: Shows how many signals have been assigned to saved programs. You can edit or reassign these signals as much as you like. Signals assigned to saved programs are not final until they are sent to a program with the application. 

  • Applied: Shows the number of signals that have been assigned to programs you have applied to. Once an application has been submitted to a program, no updates can be made to the program signal assignment for that program. If your withdraw you application from a program you signaled, that signal cannot be reassigned to another program. 

As the number of Assigned and Applied signals increases, the number of signals Available will decrease. 

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