Rank lists have officially been submitted. Match Day is just a few short weeks away. I wanted to make a quick post about my thoughts on the interview season. First and foremost, the interview process is a game, But I will touch on this a bit later.
Going into the application cycle, I was honest with myself and knew I would not have my choice as to where I wanted to go. Ideally, I wanted to end up back on the East Coast closer to my family, but my overarching goal like most was to MATCH. I also knew that a community (Independent Academic Center) program was more my fit. You must be honest with yourself and be realistic. I applied to a lot of programs. Applications were submitted in September and from there it was a waiting game. The first few interviews I got were exciting. It put the wheels in motion that this is really happening. The process of determining where I will end up for the next few years was starting. It was surreal at first. After my first few scheduled interviews, I hit a lull. It was almost the end of October now and I had only a handful of interviews. Now the pessimist in me was taking over. Is this it? Am I going to match? What’s the worst-case scenario? I met with some faculty who reassured me that there was still time in the interview season. Nonetheless I was nervous. I started reaching out to schools. Looking back, I wish I had done this earlier, but I made a lot of phone calls and emails. Reaching out to schools definitely works. Maybe not right away, but they keep you in mind. I ended up with 10-14 interviews. I feel like I was approached by multiple people, both classmates and other applicants, each trying to determine how many interviews I had. I was guilty of it too. I feel like it's more of a way to determine if you’re on the “right track” as far as the number of interviews. But, looking back, I don’t care how many interviews people ended up with.
Overall, the interview season was a lot of fun. Aside from the fact that it was super expensive, and I was somewhat tired of traveling by the end. I couldn’t imagine how it must have been for those doing more than 15 interviews. Just the traveling and cost becomes very repetitive. But it was nice to meet new people on the trail. Each had their own story that brought them to this point. I like hearing those stories. I find it very interesting. Then comes the interview day. The program is trying their best to sell you, and I was trying to determine If I could see myself there for the next five years. Some places I vibed with a lot. At others, I quickly realized that it was not the place for me. I also realized that programs started to blur together as the season went on. So, keep detailed notes on each program. I realized that a lot of programs has the same lecture. Great training, early operating, etc. This was all true, after all they are all ACGME accredited. The biggest thing that moved placed up and down my list was how well I got along with the faculty and residents.
I mentioned earlier the process is a game and here is my explanation. Every program tried to sell you. Sometimes fabricating information or even giving you false information. One place I went to was giving me statistics from 2014 because they were better than 2015 and 2016. Your ranked alongside everyone else and most places it’s around 30-60. So your 15 interactions with four to six faculty members will shape where you fall. It comes down to did you say something they liked? It is all super subjective. Also sometimes it hard to judge how interviews go, especially when they ask silly standardized questions. The worst one I got was, “If I asked your best friends to name three qualities about you that you DO NOT agree with, what would they be.” → I was like seriously? Anyhow moving on. Like I said, it is all a game. When it came time to make my rank list, I felt that I knew my top three and bottom three very easily. Everything in between was a bit more difficult. But I was able to talk with friends and family to finally formulate a list that I am happy with. Here’s to Match Day.
I think I may have been rambling, but I wanted to finish this post with some key points I learned as the interview trail moved along. I hope someone may find these useful.
1. Be honest with yourself. What is realistic for you based on your scores and grades?
2. I was told to apply to 1/3 of schools you overqualified for, 1/3 that you would be competitive for, and 1/3 of programs were reach programs. I think this is a good idea, but my situation as above was different. That is why I applied to more programs. I applied very broad.
3. Trust the process and don’t compare yourself to everyone else. My brother always tells me to "do you" and not worry about others! That’s what interviews are for.
4. If you’re not getting interviews by end of middle/end of October, consider reaching out to schools you're very interested in. There were some schools that I reached out to and got an interview opportunity the next day. It works. But do it earlier rather than later. By the time I sent emails and calls to schools in early November, many had already filled their spots.
5. Open a credit card with an airline. Get all the bonus miles.
6. Enjoy the interview dinner. Ask questions, get to know people. It’s a free meal, so order dessert. The dinners can sometimes prove to be more important than the interview itself. Also, look at how residents interact. Do they seem like they are friends, or does it look like they don’t see each other often? Do they hang out often? Pick their brains.
7. Interview day. Just be yourself. Prepare questions to ask. Don’t be Boring. ← Boring is the worst.
8. Spend 15-20 minutes the night before your interview or dinner to do some recon on the school.
9. Guys. Always bring an extra shirt and tie.
10. Keep a running list of each program. What you liked and didn’t like. Also, after your interview, as soon as you get out of the doors take a deep breath and reflect how that program made you feel. Good? Bad? Happy? Concerned? I found this helped me a lot personally.
11. When making your list, run any questions or concerns through multiple people. For me my friends/family helped to clear the fog when trying to decide between where to rank programs.
12. Reach out to your top programs letting them know you will be ranking them highly. Don’t do it for all of them as program directors talk. As far as surgery goes, programs I reached out do did not all respond, however I’ve heard on the grape vine, that programs do move people based on this. Take it with a grain of salt.
13. Just as these programs are ranking you, you are ranking them. So, choose places where you can really fit in. Places that will support you. People who will genuinely help you. Someplace you can really see yourself thriving.
14. If programs reach out to you, always respond. I have heard horror stories.
15. Figure out what matters most to you. Is it location? Academic vs. community? Post-residency opportunities? For example, for me having an interest in trauma helped me make some decisions.
16. When talking about interviews and programs realize your classmates may not be in the same situation you are. Just be mindful.
17. Take lots of naps. Watch a lot of Netflix. Enjoy the time off. Make plans to travel somewhere! Looking forward to what the Match will bring. Best of luck to all my classmates, friends, and those around the nation who are applying. I hope we all end up where we want to be.