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Medical Education
Medical Student Education

Application and Match Procedures

Letters of Recommendation

Letter writers may begin uploading letters of recommendation (LoRs) after ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) opens in May of the year in which an applicant plans to apply for residency. Before this time, students may ask a faculty member to draft a letter of recommendation, but the letter writer should update the letter and upload it after the applicant has registered for ERAS and provides the letter writer with the ERAS Letter Request Form.

In general, we suggest that LoRs be written by faculty members with whom you have worked in clinical or research settings. A letter from a faculty member in the specialty you are applying to is often the most significant. The best way to ensure that your letter writers compose great letters for you is in the way you ask. By asking faculty, “Do you feel you know me well enough to write me a good letter of recommendation for a residency position in ____” you have given them a graceful way out if they cannot write you a strong letter.

Most programs require a minimum of three LoRs, and a maximum of four can be transmitted through ERAS to each program. Applicants should check programs' application requirements for specifications on number and types of letters, as well as with a career advisor on specifics of LoRs in that specialty. Many programs require that one of the LoRs be a "Chair" or "Department" letter from the corresponding department on our campus. The UCSF departments that write these letters do it in various ways – in some departments, the chair signs all of the letters, while others have your core clerkship site director write and sign the letter on behalf of the chair. Applicants in specialties that require a chair or department letter must contact the department to request this letter and it will be one of the four letters that can be transmitted through ERAS.

Applying to Programs


Applications for most specialties are transmitted using the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).

SF Match

Ophthalmology applicants apply and match through SF Match. However, applicants will also need to apply to preliminary programs through ERAS and match to those programs through the NRMP.


National Resident Matching Program (NRMP)

Most specialties participate in the NRMP's Main Residency Match, which matches applicants' preferences for residency positions with program directors' preferences for applicants.

Ophthalmology and Urology Matches

Ophthalmology and urology do not participate in the NRMP and have “early match” dates. However, applicants to a preliminary and transitional programs will likely match into these programs through the NRMP. Matching for ophthalmology programs is handled by SF Match. Matching for urology programs is handled by the American Urological Association.

Couples Matching

Applicants who want to match with a spouse, significant other, or friend, can enter the NRMP as a couple. Couples who intend to couples match are advised to meet with Dr. Papadakis in the summer as they are getting ready to apply for residency. The Ophthalmology and Urology matches do not offer couples matching.