Pre-Interview Morning Routine

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Interview season is almost upon us! As a resident, I am very excited for the upcoming interviews to meet all the bright and capable new faces of medicine. But I also remember the nerves that plagued me on the applicant side of interviews. While I felt confident and excited, the anxiety was impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, the excessive anxiety can affect your performance. Having a solid pre-interview routine that keeps you relaxed is key to starting the interview day off right. I will go over my personal pre-interview routine and how it helped me. Yours may look quite different, but it ought to have the same calming effect to set you up for success. Fortunately, an effective morning routine is easier to achieve from the comfort of your own home rather than an unfamiliar hotel room!

Wake Up Extra Early

This is one of the harder things to do. It can be hard to get good sleep the night before an interview. Ideally, you’ll have gone to bed early to maximize your rest.  I am a morning person, so my strategy will be different from night owls. I usually set my alarm for 4am on interview days. This gave me time to hit snooze, lazily scroll Twitter in bed for a bit, and take a nice long shower. To me, giving up an extra 30-60 minutes of sleep is worth extra time in the morning to avoid feeling rushed. Over the course of an interview season some mishap will occur and you’ll be grateful for the extra time you built in.

Caffeine and Breakfast

For those of you who can function without caffeine, I envy your superhuman strength. For the rest of us, enjoy your morning caffeine. With in-person interviews, I stuck to the cheap hotel room coffee for simplicity. The benefit of virtual interviews is that you can caffeinate as you please. You can have that gourmet coffee in the cabinet or your favorite flavor of tea. Use it to your advantage and reward yourself early. My one tip is to avoid overdoing and creating the caffeine shakes. Caffeine can make anxiety worse, so try not to pass the sweet spot of caffeination and turn yourself into a jittery mess. The same goes for breakfast. Make yourself those scrambled eggs or avocado toast that make your stomach happy but not bloated.  Use the virtual interview season to your advantage and start your day off right with a nice breakfast.

Distraction / Enjoyment

If you’ve approached the interviews with solid preparation you shouldn’t have to spend the morning going over last-minute practice. On top of a nice coffee and breakfast, you can also incorporate some entertaining distraction from the nerves. I would turn on whatever binge-worthy podcast or audiobook I was currently addicted to or my favorite music station. This helped get my mind off of the pre-interview nerves.

Meditation / Prayer / Quiet Time

The last thing I did every morning before leaving my hotel (or now, logging onto the computer) was to take some quiet time to try and settle my mind. For me, this came in the form of prayer. For others, this time of quiet reflection might be meditation or listening to peaceful music. The point is to try and settle your nerves with mindfulness and intentional calm for a few minutes prior to the interview.

Other Ideas

No one is exactly like me. My routine may be of no help to you. What are some other strategies people might use? If you are a night owl and waking up early is a set up for disaster, make sure to get to bed early. Do anything you can the night prior to save yourself time in the morning. Maybe you need exercise and a short yoga or treadmill session to get your day started right. Maybe you need an episode of your favorite tv show or a few minutes with your favorite book to distract you. Maybe you need to talk to a friend or loved one. Since you’ll likely be at home, a quick walk with the dog or snuggle from the cat might be what you need.

Whatever your individual style, everyone has different needs to keep their anxiety at bay. Be honest with yourself. Try to find what helps you feel as relaxed and prepared as possible for the day ahead. If you have a bad interview day, consider the effect your morning routine had. Is there something you can change that will help you start the day off better?

I found a routine during my interview travels that worked quite well despite my relatively high anxiety level. By the end of interview season, I had come to actually enjoy my pre-interview mornings. Virtual interview season brings entirely new challenges for applicants. However, it allows for easier and more effective morning routines that will set you up for success on interview day!

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It’s Here! Mock Virtual Interviews

With residency applications submitted, interviews are right around the corner. Even though you may not have invitations yet, now is the time to start preparing for interviews. With interviews being conducted virtually, it is critical that you master your performance in the residency interviews.

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To help you perform at the highest level, we are excited to offer mock virtual interviews. Our mock virtual interview sessions allow you the opportunity to practice and simulate two separate interview encounters and receive immediate feedback from one of our team members. The mock interviews are strategically designed to challenge you, but also show you the breadth and diversity of questions you may be asked while simultaneously allowing you to hone your virtual communication skills. Get honest feedback and actionable advice so that you can put your best foot forward on interview day. You will be paired with an interviewer from your specialty where available.

Before your mock interview, be sure to prepare by visiting our interview prep center. Here we have structured response guides to the most common interview questions and other general tips on interview technique and virtual formatting.

Mock Virtual Interview

This is a one-time non-refundable mock virtual interview session for residency applicants. The mock virtual interview session includes two 15 minute interviews, followed by 10 minutes of feedback with one of our team members. Upon purchase, please complete the questionnaire below so that we can pair you with the most appropriate member of our team.

59.99 $

To provide you with the best mock virtual experience, please complete this questionnaire.

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Interview Season 101

Interview season is officially upon us.  Thus far, you have stressed over writing a personal statement, ensured your letters of recommendation were uploaded on time, and reviewed your activities section countless times in search of typos which all culminated in successfully submitting and certifying your ERAS residency applications.  This culmination marks a major transition in the application cycle. 

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Your paper application is locked in and pending review by programs across the country.  No looking back.  All efforts must now be focused on preparing for interviews.  While a daunting task, we are here to walk you along each step of the way.  Here we provide an outline of what to do these upcoming weeks.  Each of these topics will be addressed in more detail as we progress but use this as your road map to interview success.


One of the more anxiety provoking periods of the application period is waiting for interview invitations.  Some specialties may begin releasing interviews the day after ERAS applications are submitted, while other specialties allow programs time to comprehensively review applications prior to releasing interview invitations.  Many students will remain idle as they wait for interview invites.  Maximize this time to prepare for interviews.


The best way to excel in interviews is through preparation.  An applicant should know her or his application backwards and forwards.  You should know what is in your personal statement and be able to discuss at length any activity, experience, or research project that is listed on your CV.  There are important questions that you will be asked frequently that you can already pre-contemplate and pre-formulate responses to.  Use our list of the most frequently asked interview questions and accompanying response aids to help think critically about how you will answer these questions. 

“Practice helps bolster your confidence and allows you to take control of an interview.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge


The final step of preparing for interviews is practice.  This is crucial for interview day success.  Real life rehearsals of your interview answers help to parse out how responses could be phrased more eloquently or otherwise tweaked.  Practice helps bolster your confidence and allows you to take control of an interview.  To assist you, we are offering virtual mock interviews with immediate direct feedback.  Stay tuned for details tomorrow on how to sign up.


Scheduling interviews can present a critical challenge, particularly as interviews are occurring in a condensed period.  It is to your benefit, however, that you do not have to account for travel considerations.  The most important item here is to stay organized.  As conflicts arise, reach out to program scheduling coordinators to rectify any potential conflicts.  Always remain courteous in these communications—they can make or break you. 

Interview Day

Given the virtual formatting, interview days will be unique this application cycle.  Virtual socials and info sessions will vary based on the program.  By this point, you will be well polished and ready to deliver.   Focus on listening and interpersonal skills during interviews.  Be patient with technological difficulties as they arise.  Show flexibility and patience as delays will inevitably occur.

There is a lot ahead of us this interview season.  Don’t worry—this is just the framework that we will be walking you through in much more detail over the upcoming weeks.  Check back regularly for updates and new content.  Have specific questions? Contact us directly or leave a comment so we can address them. 

Visit here for all interview prep resources.

Pause, Relax, Press On

Submitting your residency application to ERAS can be an extremely anxiety provoking endeavor. Was there a typo on your personal statement that you missed? Did you leave off an important research project from your CV? Did all of your letters of recommendation get uploaded on time?

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On Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, everything is finalized with your application. While submitting can cause significant anxiety, trust the process. You have spent countless hours, dedicated hard work, and demonstrated perseverance to get to this point. Reflect on your journey thus far. Consider where you have come from. Realize where you are going.

Thank you for allowing our team at Med Student Edge to play a role in your journey thus far. We will continue to support you as you progress through the remainder of the application cycle with interviews, generating rank lists, and match day. We commend you on your hard work. Still, now is not the time to stop. There are many new challenges on the road ahead. Interviews are more critical this year than ever before. They present considerable unique challenges given their virtual format.

The students that do best in interviews aren’t those that speak the most eloquently or have the most gregarious personalities. The students that are the most prepared are the students that stand out to programs the most year after year. Start now. Visit our full guide of interview resources which includes a listing of the most frequently asked interview questions, each with a structured response aid. We also are excited to be offering mock interviews. Click the link for more details.

For tips on getting started, see Interview Season 101.

As questions come up, reach out. We are here to help you and help maximize your chances of matching at your dream program. Comment or contact us directly.

The Most Important Factor for Board Exam Success

Time. It is the most important variable for Step 1 preparation. It is the great equalizer. Everyone has the exact same amount, but how one spends it will determine his or her board score.

For the most part, people who get into medical school possess the raw intelligence and test taking ability to do well on the USMLE Step exams. I do not want you to read “time” as whoever spends the most cumulative hours in the library scores the highest. Sure, time spent is an important variable but efficiency is equally important. You have to spend the countless hours, but you also have to spend them well.  Although feeling inadequate or not smart enough to score in the top five percent is a common feeling, I am here to tell you that you can. Below are some tips on how to spend the precious resource of time.

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Make a Study Plan

Make a study plan. After you are a few weeks into your study plan, adjust it as needed. No one make’s an initial flawless study plan because you cannot accurately factor in all of the natural variables. With time, your study schedule will become more refined.  Once you have a battle tested schedule, try to stick to it. Start early and with a light load.  Gradually increase the intensity and efficiency. I started light studying about 4 months prior to my exam date. I focused on one topic as opposed to broadly skimming the entirety of the material. I found this beneficial for multiple reasons. First of all, I relearned some biochemistry that I had for the most part forgotten. Secondly, and more importantly, I learned about what resources I valued and developed a system that helped me learn and retain information.

Establishing good study habits and practices four months away from test date was ideal for me.  Over the next month, I was constantly fine tuning my strategy so that at three months out from test date I had all of the kinks out. I could let the exam be the priority and keep pushing harder and harder until test day.

Some people devote an entire semester for Step 1 prep ignoring normal coursework. Although it may work for some, this is generally not a successful strategy. I know Step is far more important than classroom grades at most schools. While this was also true for my school, keep in mind that all of the material presented in the pre-clinical years is also tested on the Step 1 exam. It would be a shame to learn all previous material flawlessly only to have your score falter after not learning the newest material. I reviewed practice tests with a few students who employed this strategy and their scores were lacking in the areas that they neglected to establish a baseline level of knowledge. My solution to this was to study class work as a priority and then have a dedicated amount of time for Step 1 time at the conclusion of most days or on the weekends. If you learn this new classroom material well, it will not require much or any review prior to the exam.


Once you enter the “dedicated” period of study where Step 1 is the only focus and classroom work has largely concluded, Step 1 is the only thing on your mind. There is not really much to expand on here. Everyone is studying at this point for long hours and working towards the finish line. Finish strong and cover your weak points at the end of dedicated. For me this included a final biochemistry review as well as the statistical sections of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 just before the test.

Resource Management

Do not get resource overload. Most resources say the same thing in a different format or learning style. Pick three or four resources and utilize these from start to finish, making sure to cover them in their entirety. My choice resources were Sketchy Micro and Pharm (pathology was a budding idea so that was not an option for me), First Aid, Pathoma, and Boards and Beyond. On top of these four resources, I used Anki. Although, I only used Anki to cover material from the four previously listed resources in flash card format. Anki was not for new material.

Well Being

Do not forget about your personal mental and physical health. This is an important part of your time allocation. No one can excel educationally nor perform on an exam if they are mentally and physically spent. I am not saying this road should be leisurely, but remember you do have to be alive and awake to take the exam. Do not think you are immune to burnout. Let’s be honest, no one plans on burning out. It sneaks up on people. It could happen to you. Know yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t study for 100 days in a row, then don’t.

Time is all you need to do well on these exams. Thousands of efficiently spent, intensively focused hours will get you the end result. And lucky for you, everyone has the exact same amount of time, spend it wisely and you will succeed.

Do you have thoughts or questions about the study strategies from above? Leave us a comment!

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Innovation and Change in Anatomy Education During COVID-19

Laboratory dissection of human body donors has long been the centerpiece of medical student anatomy education. Is there a better way to learn the intricately organized complexity of human anatomy than to trace out the three-dimensional layout with your own hands?


There are certainly available and emerging alternative options to classic cadaveric dissection. With a shortage of trained anatomists being an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic, some programs have already moved away from traditional anatomy cadaver labs. Couple this with the necessity for social distancing during the time of COVID-19, the new and non-traditional methods of teaching anatomy will take on a larger role.

Textbooks, flashcards, and lectures have always been a part of anatomy teaching. Medical schools and anatomists have been creative in their teaching innovations during the pandemic, fast-tracking newer methods that have yet to be fully incorporated or mastered.  Livestreamed dissections and interactive anatomy software, already popular, have become imperative for the majority of programs. I suspect magnetic resonance (MR) and other radiologic images will become more prevalent in teaching anatomy. Melting through high-resolution stacks of MR images is an excellent way to gain appreciation for the three-dimensional relationships of various structures. Newer educational innovations such as augmented and virtual reality, social media, and 3D printing are also becoming more important.

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Prior to COVID-19, there was already an ongoing educational debate over the necessity for traditional cadaver labs in medical education. Those in favor of doing away with cadaver labs praise the quality of pre-recorded dissections, the massive upside of technology in virtually recreation of anatomy (AR, VR, 3D display software, etc.), and the diminishing pool of trained anatomists to teach a growing pool of medical students. Those in favor of continuing with traditional cadaver labs praise the hands-on skills learned during dissection, emotionally and ethically important relationship between the student and human body donor, and the delicate variations of structure between each body that hasn’t been recreated with technology alternatives.

Both sides have valid arguments. Both sides are also hindered by muddy, conflicting, and often subjective or biased data to support their case. I think the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, with human body donors and technological educational tools playing supplementary roles in an evolving nature of anatomy education.

What does this mean for medical students? You will likely have to rely more heavily on extra resources outside of the anatomy lab. Thankfully, there are endless options available to meet your unique learning style.

It will be fun to see the creative tools and techniques that arise from these unique obstacles and pave the way forward in anatomy education.

Below is a (surely incomplete) list of articles addressing the topic of anatomy education in medical schools during COVID-19.

What changes do you foresee in anatomy education in medical school? Comment to share your thoughts below.

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Application Insights from an OB/GYN Program Director

We have learned a lot over the past couple of weeks listening to program directors across the country give their take on the unique challenges both students and programs face this application cycle in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Be sure to take a look at each of these interviews to get a sense of the overall pulse of how program directors generally feel.  Each PD has brought up unique points that help paint the picture of what we can expect with the application review process and interview season.

Today, we have another great addition to these perspectives.  We had the opportunity to speak with the University of Washington Obstetrics and Gynecology Program Director, Dr. Mallory Kremer.  We are thankful for her time and her thoughts.  Read below to find out why each and every interaction you have with a program (whether via email, social media, or a virtual interview) matter more this year than ever before.  Be sure to exude professional behavior in these encounters.  Let’s hear from Dr. Kremer. 

What is the biggest challenge in the application cycle this year from the perspective of a program director?

All of the unknowns associated with planning zoom pre-interview dinners, zoom interviews, and trying to recruit a diverse group of applicants who may have not had the opportunity to even step foot in Seattle before! 

“Every interaction with a program is an opportunity for us to gather information on how a person treats others.” 

Dr. Mallory Kremer, Program Director, UW Obstetrics and Gynecology
With applicants not being able to interview in person, they lack the ability to show off their interpersonal skills, manners, and overall demeanor in person. Is there a way that they can still manage to do this during this application cycle?

Manners show in emails –we notice how applicants interact with our program administrators and scheduling staff! Every interaction with a program is an opportunity for us to gather information on how a person treats others. 

Will standardized tests scores become more important this year? Less important? The same?

Probably the same. I think that many programs are trying to conduct holistic reviews of applicants to de-emphasize the weight of USMLE scores — pass-fail status for USMLE is coming soon, and programs are adjusting accordingly.

Dr. Mallory Kremer, University of Washington Obstetrics and Gynecology, Program Director
Do you believe programs will be more inclined to rank applicants that they already know fairly well (home students) to avoid any surprises?

Not necessarily – our program seeks to recruit a diverse group of applicants from across the country, to bring in different perspectives and experiences, which means we cannot give preference to all of our home-grown students.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give an applicant when it comes to how to succeed during the application cycle of 2020?

Be honest and ethical as you move through the process. Your passion and accomplishments can still shine on a zoom interview. Be curious & open minded, and ask lots of questions!

Thanks again to Dr. Kremer for providing this excellent insight into her program and their strategy for recruiting students.  Special thanks to Dr. Anisha Khanijow for setting up this interview.

Be sure to check out the remainder of our interviews with program directors across the country.  Explore all of our other resources for applying to residency and check out our complete guide for structuring and answering the most common interview questions.

How to Study Anatomy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Anatomy is one of the more difficult subjects during the pre-clinical years of medical school. It involves endless rote memorization and tongue-tying Latin words. Anatomy is often the first-time medical students realize that there is often a big difference between the classic, textbook description and what is seen in reality. During normal times, anatomy is tough to master prior to a lab practical. During the COVID-19 pandemic it will be even more difficult. Medical schools are limiting the number of students in the lab at one time. Social distancing protocols make it difficult for anatomists to get in close and teach students real time with a cadaver at hand. So how do you maximize your learning and proficiency to ace your anatomy practical with limited time in the lab? Here I will discuss my favorite anatomy study resources.

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Anatomy Lab

My number one suggestion for success in anatomy is to maximize your hands-on time in the anatomy lab. Obviously, this will be tough with COVID-19 changes, but do your best to find extra time, even if after hours, to find time for hands-on dissection. Practical tests will most likely involve identifying structures on an actual cadaver. Naturally, the best way to practice is to dissect, self-quiz, and identify structures on a real cadaver. Illustrations of anatomy just aren’t the same. It’s hard to learn how to distinguish the subtle differences in fascial layers, adjacent muscle bellies, or artery versus vein by looking at a drawing. The sensory stimulus of touch adds in another neural pathway for your brain to register newly learned material. Most importantly, the anatomists and TA’s are available for one-on-one teaching and relaying anatomy wisdom. When you can’t be physically present in the lab, tune in for any live-streamed dissections, practical sessions, office hours, and whatever innovative new resources your school is implementing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rohen’s Atlas

Rohen’s Anatomy: A Photographic Atlas was my favorite anatomy resource outside of the actual anatomy lab. It is a textbook slam packed with incredibly detailed dissection photographs of real cadavers. There are full-page pictures of every possible angle of every possible dissection of every part of the body. Not only are the pictures phenomenal, but the book is set up to allow you to quiz yourself. Each structure is neatly labeled with a number. The corresponding structure names are listed in the margin, making it easy to cover with a slip of paper for self-quizzing. The numerous angles on real cadavers, rather than idealized illustrations, make it as close to a hands-on viewing as you’ll get.

Essential Anatomy 5 App

Essential Anatomy 5 is a 3D interactive anatomy app. It is best utilized on a tablet, but is supported by iPhone 4S (and newer) and iOS 8 (and newer). This app was a huge help for me in grasping three-dimensional orientation of structures when studying outside of the anatomy lab. With a 4.8/5 rating from >10,000 reviews, it isn’t just me that’s been helped. The interface is highly intuitive, with easy zooming and rotation along any axis to view any structure in any orientation. It is best for studying anatomy of the musculoskeletal system, vasculature, and nerves. The app allows you to add and subtract individual structures or entire layers of muscles for easier visualization. The basic functions of the app cost $15. You can also add on (for an additional $10) additional study features that include identification of bone substructures (i.e. tibial tuberosity, ASIS, articular surfaces, etc.) and isolation of a muscle with its origin, insertion, innervation, and supplying vasculature.

Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy

Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy is an outstanding collection of short (1-10 minutes), high-yield anatomy videos. They are broken down into easily digestible videos covering every part of human anatomy. The videos show actual cadavers and real dissections, which helps make for more realistic studying. While a personal subscription is expensive ($100 for one year), most medical schools should have a subscription through the health sciences library. If not, you can sign up for a 48-hour free trial and run through it all in a two-day marathon session.

Anatomy is difficult, but learnable. Like all of the difficult subjects in medical school, you just have to find the right resources and study habits that work best for you. While most readers will not have the exact same learning style as me, these materials are a great place to start when looking for your go-to anatomy resources.

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Application and Interview Advice from UAB Emergency Medicine Program Director Dr. Charles Khoury

In the next installment in our series of interviews with program directors across the country, we had the chance to speak with Dr. Charles Khoury, the program director of the emergency medicine residency program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Read below to hear his thoughts on the challenges of this application cycle and on what you need to do to succeed with your residency application!

What is the biggest challenge in the application cycle this year from the perspective of a program director?

The biggest challenge in the application cycle this year is having to find a new way to do almost everything. In a sense, it’s like reinventing the wheel. Program directors have a level of comfort with the ‘old’ way we did things. This year we will all be adapting to a new way of screening and interviewing residency applications. In the past, we’ve taken for granted the impact of sitting face to face with an applicant and having an organic, free-flowing conversation. Zoom will make this more challenging this year. An additional challenge is that the new system does not allow applicants to really see and experience Birmingham and all the wonderful things it has to offer. It doesn’t allow for the opportunity of visiting our medical center and visualizing yourself as a resident in our program.  

Dr. Charles Khoury, Program Director, UAB Emergency Medicine
With applicants not being able to interview in person, they lack the ability to show off their interpersonal skills, manners, and overall demeanor in person. Is there a way that they can still manage to do this during this application cycle?

There’s absolutely still a way to do this. My advice is to ‘stick the landing’ when it comes to Zoom. Treat it like it’s an in-person interview. Dress the part, set the tone with a really nice, well-lit physical background (a well-lit wall or a painting you like). Invest in the lighting, use a wired ethernet connection rather than WIFI if this is an option for you. Turn all distractions off (fans in the background, colorful aquariums, etc.). Change out all smoke alarm batteries ahead of time. But the most important piece of advice with regards to Zoom is proper lighting. Do whatever it takes.

UAB Emergency Medicine
Will standardized tests scores become more important this year? Less important? The same?

Standardized testing scores will likely become more important this year. Traditionally, letters from visiting rotations were counted quite highly in the application process. Now that students aren’t doing visiting rotations, something will likely fill the scoring void resulting from the lack of visiting rotation letters. I suspect that scores may come more into play because of this. On the bright side, personal statements, CVs, and letters from other specialties will mean more this year than they may have in previous years. At the end of the day, we’re going to look closely at the entire application. Specifically, we will be looking for themes. Does this person demonstrate consistent leadership skills? Does this student seem to be an incredibly hard worker based on her CV and her extra-curriculars? Does this applicant have a track record of teamwork and sportsmanship given his history of high-level competitive sports? We’ll be looking for patterns in all the applications we review this year.

“The goal is to make the interviewer visualize you as one of their residents.”

Dr. Charles Khoury, Program Director, UAB Emergency Medicine
Do you believe programs will be more inclined to rank applicants that they already know fairly well (home students) to avoid any surprises?

To put it simply, program directors are more likely to rank applicants highly if they are able to visualize them as excellent residents in their programs. Home students are sometimes easier to visualize being successful at their home programs, and unconscious bias may affect this. But ‘away’ applicants can quickly make up ground by doing a few things. First, it always helps if the applicant explains why they are looking at a particular program, or asks questions about where residents live and hang out. The goal is to make the interviewer visualize you as one of their residents. Familiarity with a program is nice, but so is knowing a lot about the program, the hospital, the city, and the food scene. Program directors can usually spot the most interested applicants, and this year, interest is key.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give an applicant when it comes to how to succeed during the application cycle of 2021?

Be as genuine, honest, and transparent as you can be. Prepare well for each interview. Read each program’s website, watch their videos, and even play around on Zillow in their area. Email the residents. Call friends who have friends who are residents there. Figure out what you really, really want in a program. But at the end of the day, trust your gut. It’s what got you here!

Thank you so much to Dr. Khoury for taking the time to share his thoughts about his expectations for this upcoming interview cycle! Stay tuned for our next interview, where we speak with a program director at one of the top OB/GYN residencies in the country. If you missed any of the previous interviews and want to know how you can maximize your potential during this upcoming interview cycle, click on the links below!

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Should you #ApplySmart?

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association of Pediatric Program Directors (APPD), the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs (AMSPDC), and the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics (COMSEP) put out a joint statement addressing how the 2020-2021 application cycle would be different. In addition, they outlined cursory guidelines for how applicants to pediatric residencies this year should proceed.

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While generally helpful, one statement in the announcement has generated much discussion amongst applicants: “Finally, a strong plea: Please do not apply to more than 15 programs unless you have had some academic difficulty, are couples-matching, or are advised to by your pediatric medical school leadership. We want to ensure that applicants get a holistic review, but this will be difficult to do if programs are flooded by applications.” This statement is based on data from the APPD, though the AAMC’s data on this topic contradicts it. The APPD cites a student with a Step 1 score from 216-234 a 99% chance of matching if they rank 10 programs. The AAMC’s data on the other hand only gives an applicant an 85% chance of matching if they apply to 15 programs.

Stemming from this, FuturePedsRes has initiated a campaign, #ApplySmart, to disseminate these national pediatric recommendations and encourage applicants to follow them. Many applicants to pediatric residencies have taken to Twitter to announce their pledge to apply to 15 programs. These efforts are noble and represent a good initial attempt at addressing some of the broader issues that exist for applying to residency. Still, the pediatrics applicant this year needs to be well-informed of the potential implications of such recommendations.

The #ApplySmart initiative sets up a Prisoner’s dilemma. For the hundreds of pediatric residency applicants as a whole, it is collectively beneficial to the group that each person only apply to 15 programs. However, to any one individual, it is to their benefit to apply to as many programs as they would like to. Guidelines as set forth by the pediatrics national governing bodies favor the individual over the entire pool of applicants, particularly when an individual is defecting from the ‘rules of the game’.

“Discuss it with advisors, mentors, family, and friends, but ultimately do what is best for you.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

There will likely many people who follow through with only applying to 15 programs. There also will likely be many people who do not follow the recommendations. This introduces the troublesome philosophical/psychological aspect of the application process in a situation where the guidelines are not enforceable. Are you comfortable with your chances of matching if you apply to just 15 programs? What if other applicants don’t follow the guidelines and apply to more places? Will this reduce your chances of getting interviews and matching?

I personally would not be comfortable only applying to 15 programs knowing my chances of matching were only 85%. This is why your decision on how many programs to apply to should be based on more factors than just a national recommendation. Important factors to consider include:

  • the competitiveness of your application
  • the competitiveness of the program
  • geographical considerations
  • size of the residency class
  • couples or military match

An applicant this year to pediatrics (or any specialty) should be aware of the scarcity of time and interviews when deciding on how many programs to apply to. Still, the number of programs that you decide to apply to is a personal choice, and you have to make the best decision for yourself given a multitude of factors. When deciding, take a comprehensive approach. Discuss it with advisors, mentors, family, and friends, but ultimately do what is best for you.

How many programs are you planning on applying to? Do you agree with or disagree with the suggestions put forth by the pediatric societies?

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