Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Residency Interview Prep, Part I: How to Get There

This post is all about getting ready for interviews. I essentially just began interviewing, so much of the information in my next two posts will be based on advice from countless friends, blogs, and attendings, in addition to my personal experience. I’ll follow these up with a post at the end of interview season to add anything I wish I had known beforehand.

The very first step in preparing for interviews is setting up your 4th year schedule. This is based completely on personal preference and the requirements of your specialty. I took Step 2 in late June because about 30% of General Surgery programs require a Step 2 score for an interview. I chose an easy rotation in October, so that I could check my email constantly, and I am taking November and December off for interviews. Like I said, this is personal preference. Air travel stresses me out, so trying to arrange flights around an active rotation would drive me insane. I'd rather just have a rotation in April while the rest of my friends are on a beach somewhere. But the beach might be really important to you, so you'll figure out how to make it work.

As for the items below, you should start this process in September, before you actually get invited to any interviews (or even earlier if you have busy rotations in September and October). 

1. Pick an airline 

I chose Southwest Airlines because 1) their flights are cheap and they allow 2 free checked bags, should I fail to carry on efficiently; 2) they allow you to cancel your flight up to 10 minutes before takeoff for an account credit; and 3) Hobby Airport (where Southwest flies) is closer to my apartment than Bush Intercontinental. You can see that I thought this out.

2. Get an airline rewards credit card

And put all your plane tickets, hotel stays, and car rentals on that card. You may be smart enough to already have one, but if not, apply now! There’s no way around the fact that you’re going to spend a ton of money

3.  Plan strategically 

There are numerous other blogs on this topic, and it’s also intuitive. If you’re flying to Boston, try to do all your Boston interviews on the same trip. If you’re only applying to regional programs, try to book them so that you can drive from one to the other. 

Since I'm taking two months off, I don't have to be as strategic about selecting my interview dates. I don't need to do all my Texas interviews within one week, because I have the time to go on four different road trips. (Also, gas is really cheap right now.) 

4. Avoid fleabags 
And definitely avoid this!
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Cheap motels are not worth it. Just pay the extra $50 to stay somewhere clean and safe You’re already in debt. Another $50 is not going to make that big of a difference. However, sleeping well, interviewing well, and actually matching will make a difference.

Save money by staying with friends and family whenever you can. Their places are hopefully nicer than a horrible motel.

5. Go shopping

My next post will be about the travel gear, clothing, and accessories that I chose for interviews.

Please comment below if you have any other tips to share!

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