Yay, I Matched! Now What Do I Do...
My dad had been looking forward to Match Day since before I started medical school. As a guy that never pursued a formal education past high school, this Match Day that he had learned about online, one that his newly accepted son would one day attend, was a dream. What a privilege it was to share that day with him. To have him watch as I, his son, opened my Match letter stating a sure match to my number one anesthesiology program was a moment I will never forget.
We had our special day. And you did too.
To those who did not match, I am truly sorry. I can't imagine the crushing feeling of learning that all your hard work had not yet paid off. I can only encourage you- you have made it so far already. What you have accomplished already sets you apart as a champion. Finish your course! There is much work yet left to do.
To those who did match, maybe like me you're wondering what you should do with yourself now that all of the intense feelings of anxiety have dissipated in the unraveling of one single piece of sneakily-folded paper. The void in your schedule you had looked forward to for the past year is now here, and being the high-achieving person you are, doing nothing isn't exactly your forte. NEVER FEAR! I have a list of things for you To-Do to keep yourself productive while working in some much needed relaxation. So read on!
1. Find Out When Your Program Starts
I did not say vacation first. I'm sorry. That was a jerk move. But you need to be sure that you have plenty of time for your perfect vacation, finishing up school requirements, attending all your classmates' weddings, and moving your families. That means beginning with the end in mind. Some programs start in the first week of June! The last thing you want to do is shoot yourself in the foot by losing track of time and putting yourself in a rush right before residency. So get your first day of orientation on the schedule and work backwards from there.
Yeah buddy! Need I say more?! You've earned it. Just try not to break the bank.
3. Graduate from Med School
You'll need the diploma for your future career, trust me. I don't think this will be a hard one to remember.
4. Find A Place To Live
If you are staying in the same city, then you've got it made. No one likes moving. If you do, you're weird. Great apps to look for housing that I use are Padmapper, Zillow, Redfin, and Apartments. My personal favorite is Padmapper, but it is worth noting that Apartments does a better job of catching those apartments that are currently full but may have openings coming up in the next few months. Zillow is good for buying and renting. Redfin has yet to grow on me though some swear by it.
If you don't know how much money to budget for housing, a general rule is to not spend more than 25% of what you make post-tax on mortgage/rent in a given month. Note: this does not include utilities. I like to keep it more on the safe side and use 20% as a budget line. I understand that in many cities that is just simply impossible on a resident's salary/stipend. I don't have any advice for you expensive city people.
If you don't have any idea what a resident's salary/stipend is, then click here for a sweet infograph from the AAMC that breaks it down.
5. Plan Your Big Move
News Flash: There's more to moving than picking out a new place to live.
Maybe you have a house to sell, or an apartment to somehow sublease, or a massive amount of stuff to move. You'll need all the help you can get, so set aside a few days for packing and cleaning. Don't forget to let your support staff (mom, dad, bro, sis) know what day they can give selflessly of their time to help you move and pack up. Also, just consider setting aside an additional day or two to purge. Getting rid of stuff, selling stuff, and giving stuff away can take a surprising amount of time. Nothing is worse than packing and moving stuff across the country that you don't want or use!
Pro Tip- It is ideal to plan your move-out date at the end of a month to optimize your payment schedule for rent and utilities. Some may pro-rate an early departure, but I wouldn't count on it.
6. Schedule Step 3
Still one more test, folks. To my knowledge, there is not a way to schedule Step 3 without your diploma as a US MD student. If anyone knows differently, please let me know. From what I have heard from interns, the earlier you can take Step 3, the better that intern year will be. Few programs, jobs, or fellowships care about it. Just gotta pass. One exception might be if you matched to a preliminary program only, then you might want to try harder. Keep an eye out for your residency program reimbursing all or part of Step 3 costs- this is money back in your (empty) pocket!
Studying for Step 3 is another post for another day, but suffice it to say that UWorld will once again be the cornerstone of your preparations.
7. Get Financially Savvy
Now that you're making money, you'll probably be eligible for some retirement savings plans and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) through your new employer. You need to learn about this stuff sooner or later, so take some time and just YouTube basic info about 401ks (or 403bs), IRAs, Roth accounts (important for residency), and HSAs. These are all ways to help you build a long-lasting sturdy financial future. If you have some time or enjoy the subject, head on over to my two favorite physician finance blogs, Passive Income MD and The White Coat Investor. They have a lot of content geared towards residents. Future Proof MD is a great one for advanced reading on resident-specific topics.
The last four years of your life have been crazy. You owe it to yourself to slow down and reflect on all that you have been through. Take the time to journal and rediscover your "Why". You went into medicine to make a difference (hopefully). Be honest with yourself. Here's a few questions to jump-start your quiet time:
Have you stuck to your mission? Did you get sidetracked?
Think of your mentors. What set them apart from their peers? What did they do that made you feel valued?
Think of your patients. Did you go the extra mile? Did you treat them how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes?
Think of your loved ones. How did they support you through medical school? When was the last time you told them how thankful you are for their love, support, and sacrifice?
Think of yourself. What habits and coping mechanisms did you lean on during the stressful times? Were they all healthy? What habits need to die? What habits need to start before residency starts?
Lastly, consider writing your future self a message. Intern year is going to get rough. You will need the encouragement. Write down your why and preach it to yourself. Use the website FutureMe.org to send yourself a future email!
Props to you if you made it this far! I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings and have found something to fill that task void. Whatever you do, remember the time is limited. So, get to it!