Monday, September 18, 2017

Don't Let Other People Freak You Out

I started Insider Medical Admissions over a decade ago, so I've been in admissions consulting for a while. I'm pretty good at spotting trends. Every year about now I start getting emails from clients saying they're worried about their lack of (or minimal number of) interview invitations. Yes, even as early as mid-September folks are concerned. They say they have a classmate who says he's gotten an interview invitation or they read online that others are being contacted with invites.

Sure, it's possible some people are getting very, very early interview invitations. But, it's rare and should not affect your confidence. After all, according to Amy Cuddy, whom I've referenced before, confidence is the name of the game when it comes to interviews. 

So, simply stop checking online and minimize conversations about interviews with others. If you are in the thick of the season and you still haven't gotten any interviews, then you'll need to reassess and act. But for now, put in ear plugs. This process is so very stressful; you certainly don't need to seek out more anxiety-provoking information (and who even knows if it's accurate anyway!). 

Monday, September 11, 2017

ERAS 2018 Timeline: Don't Lose the Forest for the Trees

As many of you well know, September 6 was the date that candidates could start applying to ACGME-accredited residency programs (and September 15 will be the date that ACGME-accredited residency programs start receiving applications). I am a big fan of getting your ERAS in on the early side: It demonstrates commitment, and when I was reviewing applications as an Assistant Residency Director, I found my workload was lighter earlier, allowing me more time to spend on those initial applications.

Having said that, do not over focus on an early application such that your written materials are suboptimal. Every year I encounter panicked candidates who want to submit their poorly written documents simply to get them in, shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. 

Find a balance. Yes, submitting early is wise, but not at the expense of your candidacy's success.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Medical School Interview Questions: How to Handle the Illegal Ones

In the United States, a professional interview is subject to basic legal rules. Specifically, admissions officers should refrain from asking medical school interview questions that are not relevant to the position the interviewee is seeking. Questions about race, religion, sexual orientation, and marital or family status fall into this category.

If you are asked these types of questions, you can simply answer - if it's not distasteful to you - or respond by addressing the intent of the question without revealing personal information. ("I think you're asking if my home life will affect my ability to carry out my medical school studies or my clinical duties. I can assure you it won't, and I’ll complete my full tenure here at your school.")

If you have the opportunity to give feedback to the institution about your medical school interview questions or experience, you can consider doing so after the interview. When I was interviewing for residency, I was asked by a faculty member if I had a boyfriend. After the interview day, I talked to a faculty mentor at my school who reported the situation to the other institution. The faculty member who asked me the illegal question was no longer permitted to interview.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Difficult Interview Questions: Learning to Hit a Curveball Out of the Park

You put your heart and soul into your compelling, charismatic personal statement; you showcased your accomplishments and drive to succeed in your activities section; and you demonstrated the endorsement of respected faculty allies in your letters of recommendation. Now your hard work has paid off and helped you get a foot in the door: You’ve been invited to interview at your dream medical school or residency program.

Like the ghost stories we told around a campfire as children, interview horror stories have a certain inexplicable staying power. I can still recall a friend’s recounting of an acquaintance’s experience in an Ivy League faculty member’s office: The acquaintance was asked to open the window, only to find (after sweating bullets for several minutes) that it was nailed shut. This trick was allegedly this professor’s cruel attempt to assess how the interviewee coped with adversity. Some weeks later, I recounted the tale to a mentor, who told me that the same story had made the rounds 20 years earlier. The power of this terrible tale faded once I recognized it for the myth it was. This ability to demystify the medical school or residency interview is crucial to framing it as an opportunity for showcasing your strengths. Read more...

Monday, August 21, 2017

Women, Make Sure you Practice Before Heading off to your Medical School and Residency Interviews

I found this article about the need for women to be seen as warm in order to be seen as confident troubling, but it's worth noting the facts so that you can strategize accordingly. Previously, these authors published data that women tended to rate their abilities accurately, while men tended to be overconfident about theirs. All of this is to say, that women (and men!) need to practice interview skills prior to the big day. Growth mindset and power posing are also important concepts to review before you interview. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Medical School and Residency Interviews - Power Posing

As medical school and residency interviews approach, I want to remind everyone about Amy Cuddy, the Harvard faculty member who speaks about the psychology of power, influence, and nonverbal communication. Her research shows that a "fake it until you make it" philosophy and "power posing" practices improve your performance in interviews. Cuddy's TED talk has been viewed over 42 million times.

Monday, August 7, 2017

NRMP® Data Suggests Residency Applicants Should Apply Broadly

In their publication Impact of Length of Rank Order List on Main Residency Match Outcome:2002-2016, the NRMP reports that matched applicants consistently have longer rank order lists than unmatched applicants.

What that means to those approaching the residency application process is that candidates should throw a wide net in choosing programs at which to apply. Of course, there is a cost to this strategy, and that expense needs to be balanced. However, if you can afford it, starting out with more options usually will provide more opportunities to interview and thus, the ability to create a longer rank order list.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Are you a Residency Candidate Applying in More than One Specialty? Read this.

If you're planning to apply in more than one field, you have a challenging road ahead of you, and you should strategize accordingly. Remember that, although your ERAS activities cannot be individualized to different residency programs, your personal statement and letters of recommendation can. Demonstrating commitment to each field through your essay and letters will be a challenge, so take time to write thoughtfully, and make sure you speak candidly to your faculty recommenders.
Above all: Ensure that you assign the correct specialty-specific documents to the correct programs!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Allopathic Residency Candidates, Check out this Super Useful AAMC Data

I recently found this AAMC website that provides USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK Scores of (2015-2016) first-year residents by specialty. You can look up your desired specialty and then cross check your Step 1 score with your Step 2 score. The chart tells you how many applicants (and what percentage) successfully matched with those Step numbers in your desired specialty - helpful for predicting application success in a chosen field. Check it out.

Monday, July 17, 2017

How to Draft a Strategic Residency Personal Statement

Each year residency applicants ask me if they need to showcase their accomplishments in their residency personal statements if they've already drafted strong ERAS activities sections. The simple answer is yes.

First, remember that you don't know at what part of your application the readers will be starting. If a residency director peruses your personal statement first and it's thin and boring, you'll have lost that reader from the beginning.

Also, note that the faculty members seeing your application are reading many more ERASes than just yours. If you only mention an important achievement once in your application, the program director might simply forget your accomplishment. After all, s/he is reading hundreds of similar applications. Your readers need to be reminded several times of your candidacy's strengths. (You'll mention those accomplishments again in your interviews.)

To a program director who hasn't yet met you, you are what you've done. You need to use substantive examples of your achievements to demonstrate your worthiness for a potential residency position. Evidence is persuasive; use it!