September 14, 2012
Hi Dear Applicant,
So you have finally finished the USMLEs and are ultimately ready to apply for residency, huh! Awesome, good job there :-) The steps are really a tough battle, I mean literally apart from all the tension and stress, they are just too long for an exam. 8-9 hours man, I had such a hard time staying awake the entire duration of the test, and in fact one of my very able friends actually managed to catch up on some lost sleep during his step 1 (don't worry, he shall not be named).
But anyways, congratulations of your great success, I am sure you did great and are now looking forward to the interview season. Well, I am not going to lie and I must admit that interviewing can be taxing and more stressful than even the preceding steps themselves. Especially if you are planning to apply all over the country and are going to fly cris-crossing the continent, it will be heavy on your pocket and tiring as hell, but on top of that not knowing where you will be heading coming June can sometimes give atrial flutter to even previously healthy individuals. We’ll talk about that some other day. For now, I thought I had some thoughts (and perhaps some advice) I could share with you from my own personal experience. I was standing in your shoes last year and did the very same things over the winter months that you are going to do in a few weeks, and I did finally match to a program which I now love, so here we go:
It’s very important to be nice, to everyone, always, but especially this interview season. Remember that folks around you are just as stressed as you are. They are going through the same stuff as you are. Don’t be mean to them because being mean is just not nice. And there is a ‘Law of Conservation of Nice-ty”. The more nice stuff you do to others, the more comes back to you. It’s natural that you will be good to the program faculty that you meet (duh!!) but make it a point to be friendly to all the other applicants that you come across, say hi to all the airport staff and the air hostesses that you travel with (wink wink!!), spare a dollar for the homeless on the streets and tip the server (generously) who gets you coffee on a cold January morning when you are waiting for a flight/cab/train/bus/subway.
If you do what I told you above, you will make a lot of friends anyway but this is your opportunity to forge some really good friendships. I have; and I know you will. I would not have survived those few months without the friends I made and one’s I already had (you all know who you are and I owe you all one).
Trust Your Gut Feeling
There is only one true feeling in this world and that's the gut feeling. A lot of people will tell you different things about how to apply to programs and different interview tips, ranking programs etc. Listen to all of them but in the end do what you think is right. If your gut feels a program is the one you wanted to go to, grab it, swallow it, lick it (ahhh.. or may be just rank it on the top). If Mr. Gut feels otherwise, may be its not such a good idea trying to convince yourself that this is the place you want to go to.
There are NO Bad Programs
This probably is one of the best things of applying. ACGME has made sure all programs maintain a certain level/standard and as long as they are accredited, and trust me, they will maintain a certain quality. That makes sure that none of the programs you interview at will be bad programs. Some might be better than others of course and then some you will like more than others for lots of reasons, but no bad programs for sure.
Keep an Open Mind
As a follow up to the previous one, when going to interview at a program, no matter what someone has told you about that program, keep an open mind, you never know that one program that everyone hated, you might just end up liking it because that place seems like the kind of city you grew up in or always wanted to live in.
Be Loyal to ONE Airline
Find out which airline has a hub at the airport you usually fly from and try making all the reservations on the same airline. It will earn you a ton of miles in return, which you can use towards your post match vacation. Sometimes if flights are marginally cheaper on a different airline, stick to your loyalty like a chewing gum and it will ultimately win you a free flight. I got upgraded to business class twice and have a free flight coming up, all courtesy my interview travel.
Never carry your laptops with you; you won’t have time to use them. Learn how to fold suits in suitcases without getting bad creases. Make lint rollers your best friends. Research places where you are going to well before ending up there and know some ‘in case of emergency’ phone numbers (taxi service, airline customer service, bank helpline, a local contact may be) WRITE all these numbers down at two locations (at least). Put name tags on all pieces of luggage. Be prepared for cold weather and dress in layers. Do carry an extra pair of clothes in case you drop barbecue sauce on your shirt or get stuck somewhere in a snow storm.
Karma is a Bitch
Lastly, never ever forget this. If you hurt anyone, lie to anyone or make them miss their flight, bad bad things will happen to you. And then whether you send those stupid mails to 50 people in 5 minutes or share a photo on Facebook in the hundredth of a second, karma will come and bite you in your rear.
OK, enough of preaching for now. Get back to work.
But before I end, let me share one more thing, I stopped blogging, photography, doing everything that I loved, around this time last year after everything in this world seemed to have gone topsy turvy. Sometimes it felt like everything that could have gone wrong was going wrong with me, Murphy seemed to have developed a love hate relationship with me. Trust me, it's normal and it WILL happen to all of you. I think this blog post should have come a little early and I apologize for the delay, but better late than never right? Yeah, I thought so too. But here is something I want you to remember, these are going to be one of the most exciting weeks of your lives. It will be a big change. From being a parasite, you will soon be becoming an independent self-sustaining individual. You will become a REAL doctor. Things will start making sense again. Life is going to change, and this is just the beginning. And believe me, no matter how stressful it seems right now, no matter how bad abdominal cramps you have when you are hitting the submit button sending in your applications, it will all be nothing compared to the all the excitement that awaits you and all the fun you are going to have. So go out there, have fun, be your best and hope that you find whatever you are looking for!!
an applicant from last year