Update: The Calm Before The Storm
For my faithful readers, thank you for your time. I apologize that my writing has been infrequent as of late. Between boards exams, completing the ERAS application (residency application), going on away rotations away from my family, and house remodeling projects, it has been quite busy.
2 days from today, thousands of applications are shipped out to residency program directors (PD) around the country. Hopeful 4th year medical students have worked quite hard to compile their applications, often double, triple, and quadruple checking grammar and spelling for errors. Many, like myself, are away from home completing away rotations to go the extra mile(s) to impress PDs.
What happens in 2 days? The beginning of the end, my friends.
Submitting your residency application is a major moment in the journey of becoming a doctor. This is my eighth year of school (I think I am ready to be done). My mother spontaneously bought me a few dress shirts from Costco a few days ago, stating that this was the LAST TIME she was going to take me school clothes shopping. If you could've seen the cheesy smile on her face, you'd know she was joking as she hasn't taken me "school clothes shopping" since freshman year of college. So after the years of studying, its time to apply for a job, in a way.
Aside: Imagine applying for a job that you know you have no choice but to accept and you know that you will be overworked and underpaid. There is, of course, the tremendous financial upside awaiting you on the other side if you can make it through. I honestly wonder how many people complete residency because they see the tremendous sunken cost that they have- switching careers now would be catastrophic... Or would it? I'm 25 years old. Only about 50% of my high school friends are in true "careers" by this point. Regardless, certainly from a solely financial standpoint, switching out of medicine at this point into something else would be a bad move, especially if you have student loans.
This Friday, 30+ residency program directors will have access to my application. They will review my Curriculum Vitae (CV), medical school transcripts, USMLE transcripts (Step 1, Step 2 CK), Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation (I have 4; 3 is sufficient for most programs), and my Dean's Letter* (*not released until Oct. 1st). They will decide if they think I am a smart, capable, honest, hard-working, and normal person. Keyword there is normal. If something in my CV, like my research experience, volunteer experience, or work experience catches their eye, they might keep reading. If my personal statement doesn't make them fall asleep, they might move on to my board scores. If my scores are above their cutoff, they might consider inviting me to interview.
Who knows how many interview invites I will get on the first day. I don't imagine very many. Perhaps on Monday, after the weekend when the younger staff tasked with these mundane application reviewing tasks have had the chance to pour over them, a few invites might trickle in. This will launch me and my fellow students into the most expensive season of medical school- interview season. Our financial aid office told my class that the average student spends $4,000-5,000 traveling for residency interviews.
If you happen to be in an airport across America from October to January, you might spot a lonely twenty-something sitting at the terminal in their suit. They might be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they head out to interview at their "dream program." They just as easily might be quite crabby and tired as they head off to their 20th interview in 2 months... which means their 20th airport trip, 20th time through security, 20th time hauling around a bag, 20th time paying way too much for a cab or Uber, 20th time paying for a hotel in a town they have only a marginal interest in living in (some programs will cover lodging costs), and the 20th night away from their boo.
Do me a favor.
If you see this person, go to the coffee shop at the airport, buy a medium americano with an extra shot and half a shot of white chocolate. Walk right up to them and hand them the drink. Then say something obscure like, "Keep fighting the good fight." Turn, and walk away. Congratulations, hero. You just made a poor medical student's day.
The interview season will make for a long winter, but spring always comes soon after. With the coming of spring, I and my fellow peers will submit our rank lists for the programs that we interviewed at. Sometime around Saint Patty's Day, on a wonderful day called Match Day, 4th year medical students around the country will all open an envelope and read a piece of paper that spells out their fate for the next 3-7 years. Students then have 1-2 months to finish rotations, find a new place to live, move, and prepare for the next chapter- Residency.