We are almost halfway through the fourth year experience. I know it is, and has been a long journey, but there is still road ahead. By this point, it will be at least early October, right after MSPEs are released. If you want more on this, leave me a comment below. I remember the feeling of uncertainty of constantly checking your email hoping to get a that “noReply” from ERAS. In this part of the series I will take you through the whole residency interview process. We will talk about the the different types of emails you can receive, scheduling and planning your interviews, and even packing for them. It will be an extensive part post, but hopefully by the end you will feel ready to begin your trail.
In addition to being helpful, hopefully your experience will be lots better than mine. AKA, you won’t be living in a post apocalyptic world without water, power, or cell service due to a disastrous natural phenomenon. Getting my first interview invitation in the middle of that was an extremely emotional moment. I was a Wednesday at 12 am in the darkness when my phone had 3 bars of service. So, granted my experience was definitely unique. But what comes after that email was essentially the same as any other 4th year.
There are several thing I recommend you do before submitting ERAS or doing anything related to your residency interviews. The first is get TSA Pre-Check if you will be applying to programs far from where you currently are. It is $85 and completely worth it for the hassle free experience at the airport, and not having to make the huge lines at some airports, meaning you can get to the airport closer to your boarding time.
Second suggestion I first brought it up in my financial decisions post. It is getting a credit card. It doesn’t matter wether it is a rewards card, or a miles card. This will be a decision you will have to make based on your personal choices. I chose to get the Discover It card for students which gives you cash back for every purchase and they even match all of the cash back you make in your first year. If this is a card that might interest you, you can sign up here (this is a referral link so I get a reward if you sign up through it).
You will get one of 3 possible emails depending on how the program schedules their interviews. The first and most common way is an email with several dates and you will reply to the program coordinator with your preferred date. The second is an email stating you have been invited for an interview and will be receiving another email with instructions. This will be to a third party site which you can schedule your interview and set reminders for other possible dates, a waitlist style. The third possible email will be one in which you will be given a date and referred back to ERAS to use their scheduling system.
Each of these have pros and cons. I will start with the direct scheduling with the program coordinator. This is one of the easiest ways to schedule your interview and send any communication to the program. It only has one con, which is having to bother the PC for any changes you might need to make. In my experience they are very diligent, friendly and eager to help you out. The second easiest one is the ERAS scheduling, except on mobile. This is the biggest con of this method. It is hard to make changes because you either need to contact the PC or see if the software will let you see other dates. As for trying to save the scheduling on mobile, it needs improvement because it is incredibly complicated.
Finally the third and least friendly method of scheduling is through a third party. As for third party scheduling, I only dealt with one software. Be that as it may, I know there are several. The one I used was difficult to understand. In addition to that it was very annoying to work on mobile. Plus, any and all changes you want to make, will need manual confirmation on the site. The only pro of this is that the system allows you to view all possible interviews dates and get notification for spaces that open up on other dates, essentially placing you on a waitlist for other dates.
Now, deciding when to schedule each interview will depend on many factors. Some of these include: location, expenses, distance, and rotations. This will vary person to person but know this, most electives and rotations will be understanding and allow you to go on your interviews. As for the actual scheduling, if you the chance to choose from several dates. First figure out if you can drive to your interview or if you need to fly. If the answer is fly, check on hopper for the best dates to fly for the least money. I love this app, and have used it numerous times to track flights.
Once you find the best date to travel there, schedule your interview. Also try to schedule your interview ASAP as sometimes the spots fill up, although this is most common in the interviews that use the third party. Remember to ask for hotels with a discount for the interviewees. These can sometimes fill up quickly and have really good deals.
This is another variable that will depend on where you are, where you’re going, and how long you are staying. Packing for your residency interview can be tricky for many. The important thing will be to try to limit yourself to a carry on and personal item to keep expenses down. Also important is making sure you have a well fitting suit, blouse, and shoes, as well as an appropriate outfit for the dinner the night before. For example, I used my medical school interview suit, which miraculously still fit me. I bought some new dress shirts, since I prefer a button down than a blouse for suits.
The best dress shirts in my opinion are from JcPenny. The brand in Worthington and they have them available most of the time. They now come with petite, regular, and tall styles and many colors to choose from. They are inexpensive, they look nice, and they go on BOGO all the time. As for shoes, I wanted comfort and professional above all. I got 2 pairs that I took with me all the time. One is the Tory Burch Chelsey flats, and the other was the Michelle Pump from Naturalizer. Both incredibly comfortable, versatile, and professional.
For outerwear I got a trench coat from Hautelook by Lands End and a cushioned coat from Target. As for accessories I kept it simple and universal. I had a Tous set of earrings and necklace that I used in all of the interviews. For handbag I used my black Isadore bag from Michael Kors, and one of my only 2 watches. I will link as much as possible in the widget below. I created a free printable packing list for when you are getting ready for a residency interview.
Get my FREE Residency Interview Packing list HERE.
The time has come to finally go to your residency interview! Aside from the nerves, anxiety, and exhaustion from traveling, you must gather yourself and your thoughts in order to ROCK your interview days. The dinners are usually very laid back and casual. They allow you to get to know the residents and ask more informal questions about the program. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for the area, lifestyle, and stress of the residents. Their body language and subconscious actions can give you very valuable information about the program you are interviewing at.
On the other hand, the actual interview day is much more professional and serious. There are many different types of interviews you can have. These go from panels, to individual to a combination of both. They will ask you many questions, and expect you to ask THEM questions about the program. They want to get to know YOU and what you can bring to their program, in other words, why would you be a good fit there. One way I prepared for my interviews was using question resources and taking notes of which questions were important for me to ask. I will link below two great resources for finding and getting prepared below.
I promise we are almost done. Now an important thing to do after is recap your thoughts about the dinner, residents, program, and location. One great resource to have is the NRMP App Prism. I found out about this a little late. Luckily I had read that it was a good idea to write down your thoughts and feelings after the dinner and interview days. So when I found the app, I looked through my notes and plastered down the info on the app. The great thing about the app is the fact that they give you a rating section where you can rate certain aspects of each program. You can also add new criteria to your rating to make it more personalized. I found this incredibly helpful when dealing with the Rank Order List (next week’s topic). If the app is not your thing, just having a notebook, or note on your phone with your thoughts and feelings is a great idea.
This was a lot longer than I expected. If you made it this far, congrats! Thank you for sticking by, we survived. We are almost at the end of this series and I am overcome with joy to hear how many of these have been helpful to you all.
Let me know in the comments below what you want to know more of. If you want packing tips, or more in depth of certain processes, etc. I love hearing your ideas! Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter HERE and get access to my FREEBIES which include a packing list, and a Step 1 study schedule!
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