After 30 applications, 35,000 miles in the air, 1,000 miles on the road, 14 security lines, six hotels rooms, eight homes of family and friends, 16 dinners on my best behavior and 22 days of fitting into (what used to be) my slim-cut suit, I can finally say that residency application and interview season is complete. Rank lists are in and as they say, the hay is in the barn. An exciting, introspective, anxiety-provoking and eye-opening process, match season is the culmination of all of the work we’ve done in medical school, even dating back to our previous jobs and undergraduate studies. After countless late nights, more exams than we’d like to admit, clinical clerkships in every wing of the hospital and extracurricular activities of our choosing, we put everything we’ve accomplished on paper in the form of an application. We talk about it with faculty members, chairs of departments and program directors of residency programs around the country, and then we make our rank lists based on 6 hours of face time with a department in a city we’ve often never visited before.
An average interview experience goes like this: There is generally a dinner the night before. These range from expensive meals with white tablecloths and bottles of wine to burgers and beers. It is often said that this is one of, if not the most important part of the interview “day,” as only residents (and no faculty) attend, none of what you say (supposedly) affects your ranking (unless you embarrass yourself terribly) and it gives you a glimpse into what the residents are like outside of the hospital. It is a “red flag” if no residents have time to attend a dinner, and it’s encouraging when people bring significant others and seem like they’re all friends, provided that’s what you’re looking for in a program. The next morning, official interview days generally start around 7 a.m. with coffee and breakfast. There is a presentation by either the program director, chair, or both, highlighting the program’s offerings. Then there is a combination of a tour of campus, a lunch with residents and interviews, the number of which can range from two to ten depending on the specialty and the program. Most days end sometime in the mid-afternoon.
During the interview season, you smile a lot, you schmooze a lot, you make a lot of small talk. By the end, I think I said “where are you from?” hundreds of times. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the trail, because after long hours and days on the road, it can be tough to keep up the energy to make conversation. Luckily, the world of medicine is small, and each specialty is even smaller. As a result, I started running into more and more applicants that I knew as the season went on. By the end, I recognized nearly half of the applicants at my interview days. If all goes according to plan, some of these people will be my colleagues in a matter of months.