Medical Student Perspective: The Dawn of Interview Season: My Mission to Maximize the Experience
Editor's Note: View ACP's residency resources for more information on finding information residency programs, preparing for interviews, and commonly asked interview questions.
Walking briskly—quite analogous to a slow run—from my research laboratory to the imminent radiology lecture, I was acknowledged by a chipper first-year medical student leaving the first day of orientation. With one mere glance at her, I knew all too well that she had accumulated eight hours of blissful sleep; had ample time to assemble herself into a clean, matching ensemble; and had a gym bag thrown over her shoulder packed with the necessary calisthenics essentials.
Frankly, I was embarrassed by my baseline fast operating speed during this time of the year and lack of similar nonchalant disposition. It's like I should have a sign on my forehead that reads "Applying for the Electronic Residency Application Services: Do Not Disturb." Regardless of my hasty demeanor, she politely asked me how fourth year was going. Furthermore, she told me how delighted I must feel to have almost completed 4 years of such strict mental diligence and numerous clinical clerkships.
Somewhere in the middle of the "conversation," I realized that I had been going over a list in my head of my day's tasks: Check on the writer of my final letter of recommendation, put the finishing touches on my personal statement, examine the Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database for the 536th time to make sure that I wasn't missing a significant statistic, and the endless list forges ahead. Halting the brakes on this anxiety-provoking wheel, I engaged her once again and focused. Luckily, she changed subjects and I was back in the game. I couldn't believe how preoccupied I had become over the past few weeks.
Wrapping up our conversation, I glided into my seat within the radiology classroom and took advantage of the dim lighting before the professor arrived. I calmly reflected on what I had caught in our passing conversation. Although I initially had the expectation of making small talk on my hurried way to class, I couldn't help but remember what this first-year medical student had told me. She was undeniably correct about her candid acknowledgment that the completion of medical school is a remarkable feat.
Ruminating over this approaching accomplishment, I admitted to myself that I had surmounted a multitude of medical school examinations and clinical simulation tests to reach my current position in the medical arena. I vowed to myself that, to reach my next status in the medical field, I was going to revel in the process. It was long overdue to turn off my inherent panic alarms and appreciate the diversity of people, places, and experiences that will soon be incorporated into my residency pathway. How am I going to accomplish a successful and fulfilling interview season? Well, like most medical students faced with a novel undertaking, I delighted in the formation of a list that I will hopefully put mental checkmarks next to as I march through the forthcoming interview trail.
1. Research the city before arrival. What will be my goal? I want to find one city landmark to visit before the interview. This is the fun part. If you need to wear a fanny pack, a whimsical hat, sunscreen, and camera thrown over your shoulder like the classical tourist, then do it. Enjoy yourself. Whether it is an eclectic restaurant featuring food that you couldn't imagine eating or simply an area known for its beautiful landscape and walking trails, find these havens for yourself. Your interviewers may also be delighted to talk about their city with you, and it never hurts to be able to add to this conversation.
2. Research the current faculty members and residents. This may seem like a no-brainer. Having already executed one rotating elective away from my home school where I knew not one of the faculty members, I personally believe that this advice is highly beneficial. I found it crucial to be knowledgeable about the people whom I was engaging with to further discuss their personal areas of interest. Having the skill to open up a conversation about a topic of their distinctive interest gives you the chance to not only expand your current knowledge base but also see what inspired this particular faculty member or resident to choose his or her unique pathway. Most program Web sites readily offer this information, and I plan on using it to my benefit!
3. Stay healthy while traveling. I have heard from many current interns how convenient it is to thoroughly indulge oneself during the interview trail because of the vast number of dinners and plethora of food at each interview station. How to avoid such gluttonous habits? No need for heroic measures. I plan to ensure that I pack tennis shoes and a gym outfit for each interview, because most hotels feature a fitness center. In addition, if the trek is within driving distance, I will plan on packing a few fresh foods to accompany my journey to avoid nutritional pitfalls that are advertised, and appropriately enticing, every few miles on the highway. Staying healthy does not require an additional list and measures to stress out about. Simplicity is, truly, the best means of accomplishing adherence.
How refreshing to have such a short and simple list on my agenda ahead! I have only three tasks to accomplish this fall so that I can reduce my anxiety and relish in my travels and networking opportunities. What will be your three goals this fall?