The last time I wrote about applying to residency, fourth-year medical students were just about to hit the submit button on the Electronic Residency Application System. Several long weeks later, the interview season has begun.

The irony of the phrase “hurry up and wait” becomes acutely painful for students during the weeks between submitting residency applications and receiving interview invitations. Applying for residency is much like applying for a job — you put together a CV, send it out to several prospective employers and hope that they are interested enough to invite you for an interview. For the past several weeks, fourth-year medical students have been eagerly waiting for those interview invitations and, after receiving them, have been busy scheduling flights, booking hotels and preparing to explain why they are an excellent fit for each program.

However, before the craziness of scheduling interviews — which requires students to strategically accept the maximum number of interviews, while allowing for adequate time to travel between cities — there is the wait. Thanks to peers applying to the same specialty and websites such as Student Doctor Network, students know almost immediately when their dream schools start sending out invitations — and are in for an unpleasant moment if they do not receive one. Thus commences the anxious wondering: Will there be a second round of interview invitations? Why did I not get invited in the first round? Is there anything I can do or say to the program to garner one of those coveted invitations? By the time I get an invitation, are there going to be any interview spots left? Unfortunately, there are no satisfactory, cut-and-dried answers to any of these questions.

By and large, though, most students will receive or have already received invitations to interview at their dream schools, and indeed, many are now weeks into the interview process. Aside from the nervousness that accompanies each interview, there is also an underlying hum of enthusiasm and excitement. The attendings and residents at each program are potential mentors; the other interviewees, future colleagues, or perhaps even future co-residents. At each interview, there is a tantalizing glimpse into the world that everyone has worked so hard during medical school to have the privilege to enter. Additionally, each interview allows the applicant a peek at how that specific program’s rounds work, what the hospital culture is like and what the program values. Similarly, programs use the interview process to find applicants with aligned goals who they think will not only learn from their institution, but also thrive in their particular environment and form part of a cohesive team.

The past few weeks have been both exciting and trying, filled with emotional highs and lows. Charles Dickens once penned, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” While he was referring to London and Paris during the tumultuous French Revolution, somehow, it resonates well with this part of the application process to residency.

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