University of Iowa Health Care

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

The Application Process (continued)

Supporting (Mail Submission) Materials

Being the 21st century, you would think the SF Match would have a fully electronic submission.  However, they still require you to physically mail your supporting materials (transcripts, letters of recommendation, USMLE scores, etc.) so they can scan and distribute them to programs.  Each of these components is covered below.

Letters of recommendation

Hopefully by this point, you have found suitable writers for your letters of recommendation and already asked them if they would be willing to write for you.  At Iowa, the letters will be sent to the OSAC office where they will be scanned and sealed in envelopes with signatures over the envelope flap.  You will eventually pick up the sealed envelopes to mail them to the SF Match with the rest of your application package.


The SF Match requires applicants to obtain and submit transcripts for all undergraduate, graduate, and medical schools they have attended.  ERAS, however, does not require an undergrad transcript, so you will only need to request one copy from your undergrad institution.  When you receive your transcripts, leave them sealed in the envelopes in which you received them.  If you took any classes at another college, include these as well if they are related to your science or pre-medical degree.  If not, they are not required (for example, I did not request a transcript for my outside SCUBA certification course for which I received college credit).

At Iowa, your medical school transcript can typically be ordered through ISIS after August 1, but sometimes a bit earlier.  Ask Annette Griffin if you are unsure.  If you also did your undergrad at Iowa, your undergrad coursework will appear on the medical school transcript so you do not have to order a separate copy. 

Transcript requests can sometimes take a few weeks to process and receive through the mail, so do not put this off until the last second. 

USMLE Board Scores

You must also include a copy of all USMLE scores you have received thus far.  They tell you to order an official score report which costs a whopping $70.  Not so fast!  Put your wallet back in your pocket and print out the free student print-out, including the score breakdown, by logging in to the USMLE website.  This is the same PDF report you checked to discover your score(s) for the first time.  I previously verified this with SF Match and this score report is sufficient for your application.

Additionally, USMLE Board scores are released to the SF Match program electronically when you give them permission on their website.  They give you the option of automatically updating your application whenever a new score becomes available, but it is in your best interest to decline.  If you do receive your Step 2 score during the application process, you then have the option of releasing it to programs if you scored well, while retaining it if you didn't.

AOA Induction Letter

Finally, include your AOA induction letter if you have received one.

Additional Materials

Some schools will require you to send additional materials with your application for it to be considered.  These include things such as CV's, an additional statement specifically stating why you are interested in their program, or a clinic note from a recent eye exam.  This information is usually on the SF Match website, but occasionally it is not.  I would spend a few minutes perusing the website for each program to which you are applying to make sure you are not closing any doors just because you forgot to send a supporting document.


Many of these components will be sealed in their own envelope to prevent tampering.  You may wish to label the bottom corner of each envelope with its contents to keep everything straight.  Put all of these in a single, larger envelope along with a sheet of paper stating your name and application number to make things easier on the person opening your envelope in San Francisco.  FedEx and UPS offer real-time package tracking, but are expensive (at the time of my application, FedEx was charging $27 for 2-day delivery).  USPS Priority Mail is a more budget-friendly option (it was about $6 for 2-3 day delivery).  Each year a "target date" in late August or early September is provided on a timetable posted on the SF match website.  This is the date by which you want them to have distributed your complete application package to programs to avoid missing deadlines at most programs (not the date by which you should have mailed your supporting materials).  Keep in mind, it takes up to 3 weeks for your application package to reach them by snail mail and for them to scan and process your documents before they are ready for distribution.  Programs individually set deadlines, and some are as early as September 1, so make sure to find the dates for the programs to which you are applying.  Additionally, applications are eventually sent out in waves and it is in your advantage to be in the first wave, so the earlier the better.  Shoot for early to mid August, at least 3 weeks prior to the posted target date.

Dean’s Letter

The Dean's Letter is a generic summary of your academic achievements and extracurricular involvement.  It includes the comments you have received on your evaluation forms during your second and third year as well as your performance in each class as compared to your peers.  The letter is compiled and automatically sent to SF Match and ERAS after it is released on October 1.  In my experience, this letter was probably the most overlooked piece of information by ophthalmology admissions committees and was admittedly of very low importance.


last updated: 08/13/2015
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  • Vislisel J. The Iowa Guide to the Ophthalmology Match. August 13, 2015; Available from:
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