I have three interviews left before I have only to sit down in an echo chamber and perform the mental equivalent of processing pasta dough – taking all the raw information and feelings from the last two months and distilling them down into a rank list.
It’s amusing, really, to think back on how things have changed since the September days of waiting anxiously by the computer for an interview to come in. This pregnant waiting period was only interrupted when disappointed by yet another CALL TO ACTION!, or alert about a very important lecture series where there will be FREE PIZZA if you will just RSVP, but that’s neither here nor there.
So first of all, everything I said in On The Trail holds true. Interview season is a fantastical, wonderful, glorious period of time where others have the same expectations of you that they have of their pets. That said, there are some things that change as the interview trail rolls along.
In the beginning, I started each travel day before the interview bright-eyed and excited to go to the airport. I happily told my Uber drivers that I was a Medical Student Who Is Really Pretty Much An MD Already, and was overjoyed when someone would ask me to explain the confusing economics problem that is the Match process.
Wedged into my seat like a sardine, I would try to do research on the plane on the program – who the program director was, what made the program unique or special, if any residents came from my home program or hometown.
By the time I’d landed, I had usually written up a “pre-interview impression” in the godlike Excel spreadsheet (color-coded, obviously) I maintained along with a list of questions when, invariably, I was asked if I have questions. The night before the interview, I obsessively looked up how long, exactly, it would take me to get to the interview site, and planned to arrive about thirty minutes early.
On the interview day itself, I awoke of my own volition at least a half hour before my alarm, overcome with the excitement and nervousness of the prospect of being nice for an entire uninterrupted day.
I collected business cards, took notes on the presentation, and generally was a put-together, interested medical student, which is the of course only acceptable kind.
Here is me, during one of the early-trail Powerpoint presentations:
As you can see, I’m in the back wearing the suit.* I’ve lost a little hair since medical school started. In front of me is a hilariously dressed military man who thought it would be a good idea to wear a bunch of combat ribbons to an emergency medicine interview. Next to him is the President, who I guess is considering his next career.
*not actually me
After the interview, as I wrote before, I would rush back to my hotel room to write expansive reviews of each program in the godlike Excel spreadsheet.
The change from then, around interview four, to now (interview ten) is dramatic.
I now approach packing and leaving for the airport with the same dread as someone awaiting the result of an quite unwanted pregnancy test.
I avoid the gate area until boarding begins, for fear that I will be proximate to another panic attack/medical emergency. Once on the plane and enduring the various indignities that passes for cattle class air travel these days, I usually watch a movie, read a book, or stare blankly into space like Homer Simpson daydreaming about donuts. I do not prepare.
On one recent trip, I got to the airport, cleared security, and then just straight up could not remember where I was going. I stared at the departures board, slack-jawed, long enough that a total stranger asked me if I was okay.
It was horrifying. I had to pull out my boarding pass to remember my destination.
Once I’ve arrived at my hotel, I generally check my email to answer three key questions, and three key questions only:
- Where and when am I supposed to show up in the morning?
- Is the “applicant social” tonight, or tomorrow night?
- Is it at someone’s house, or a bar?
The answers to questions 2 and 3 are critical, insofar as they determine if they make going more worthwhile than binging whatever show I’ve dredged up from the depth of Netflix most recently.
My apathy where this is concerned is astounding.
The bar vs. house thing is an interesting dilemma. Having the social at a bar is more expensive for the program and runs the risk of having crappy food. Having the social at a resident’s house shows the applicant where people live, guarantees food, and is supposed to be a little more relaxed environment.
Since the foremost question in my mind during these things is “where is the beer, and can I have another one,” I personally like the bar socials, insofar as a bar social is also more likely to have a Chipotle nearby in case I need to declare a burritomergency and make a quick exit.
Anyway. I’m most likely to go to the social when they are the night before the interview (because I have energy), at a bar (guaranteed beer), and when the word on the street is that a lot of residents usually show up. Sometimes the applicants outnumber the residents, which is bad: we end up clustered around each individual resident in threes and fours, not unlike an ant colony that has run across a few stray crumbs to drag back to the nest. It’s not a good look.
On the interview day itself, I am, in fact, excited.
…I am excited because of the possibility of a truly bomb-ass breakfast, which has happened exactly once. I remember this program exceptionally well because of this breakfast. I also remember a program that laid out half a roll of Thomas bagels and a tub of cream cheese, for the exact opposite reason. Nervousness about the interviews has completely disappeared, chiefly because I haven’t been asked a novel interview question since November and the interviewers haven’t heard a novel answer since 1997.
I am also occasionally excited to see a fellow applicant, usually because I either go to school with them or I’ve seen them at enough places along the way that I recognize their face. I wrote in On The Trail that it was a little awkward to discuss where else we’ve interviewed and our thoughts on the matter. That has all flown out the window, and during gaps in the day pretty much all we gossip about is the various wonderful and/or shitty things that have happened at other interviews. The walls are most definitely down.
Finally, I have completely ceased to take notes on programs. This has the unfortunate downside of occasionally forgetting that I interviewed somewhere, but since I was practically writing the identical thing for each program it was adding little to my gut feeling. To be fair, my gut feeling at essentially every place I have visited is:
So maybe not taking notes doesn’t really make that much of a difference.