You’re getting so close to graduating from medical school and moving on to your first job as an M.D. Congratulations. You are probably filled with optimism as you prepare for “The Match” and the days of travel and interviews ahead of you. Prepare to be available for residency interview invitations. Turn on your push notifications for your emails.
You might need to book travel ASAP to a different state. You have so much travel ahead of you. Planes, trains, and automobiles. The financial burden of this travel can be quite significant. As a medical student who is probably in debt, you cannot ignore the expense of traveling to residency interviews. Below are some tips to help optimize this time in your career:
Set a budget and stick to it.
As I’m sure you’re aware, you haven’t started earning yet. In order to make it to every interview, you need to keep the expenses on an all-time minimum. Making plans without a budget comes with the risk of overspending and misappropriating funds. Set a reasonable budget that is enough to cover all expenses during your travels.
Travel and eat economically.
To minimize travel expenses, drive to your interview instead of purchasing a flight/train ticket, when the interview is within driving distance. Find the best travel rates! I use Google Flights for flights, since it compares all rates available. Pack a lunchbox or cooler with food for the interview. Eating every meal at a restaurant is a sure way to lose a lot of money.
Dress well on a budget.
You don’t have to wear an expensive suit to the interview, you just have to be neat and professionally presentable. Don’t break the bank on your interview attire. There are so many bargains where you can find fashionable professional wear without dropping hundreds on name brands.
Plan your interview suitcase.
Be prepared. Don’t be ashamed to write down a list of everything you will need in your interview suitcase. Review this list every time you are preparing to leave for an interview, ticking off each item once it is safely packed in your bag. What documents will your interviewers ask you to present? What suit will you wear to the interview? Do you need to bring an iron? How about a stain stick in case of emergency? How many days will you be staying? Make sure you have everything, and enough of everything. You don’t want to panic the night before the interview when you realize you forgot to pack toothpaste. Most hotels don’t even offer free toothpaste anymore, so this means you would have to make an extra trip to go find toothpaste. Ensure everything you need is well packed, including any travel or educational documents.
Weigh your accommodation options. Accommodations can be expensive, but a comfortable place to sleep is a crucial component during your interview travels. While sleeping at the airport might be cheapest option, it’s not be the best option, as it may end up reflecting on interview day. Hotels, on the other hand, are expensive– so what do you do? Good news is that most programs provide the option of staying with a resident. I would encourage you to take advantage of this option, as you will not only be saving on accommodations, but you will have the opportunity to interact with the residents and learn more about the program. If you have friends and relatives that can host you in that city, you should consider that option.
Remember time differences.
One thing to keep in mind while traveling is the different time zones. This travel is going to take a toll on you. While booking flights, be aware of the different time zones and make your plans in accordance with the interview time and location. You must allow yourself enough time to travel to/from the airport, to/from the hotel to the hospital, etc. Once you arrive, make sure your phone reflects the appropriate time zone. Most smartphones do this automatically, but it never hurts to double check. You want to make sure you arrive at the airport at the right time so you won’t miss a flight.
It’s very difficult to sleep soundly the night before an interview. Do all you can to ensure you will be able to sleep. Bring exercise clothes and hit the gym the night before. Take a long walk to get to know the area. Do whatever you can to make sure your body and mind are ready to rest! Traveling is exhausting on its own and chances are, you are a nervous wreck already in anticipation of the interview. Adequate sleep will enable you to show up at the interview well relaxed and composed, and avoid being edgy. Showing up at the interview with eye bags and an exhausted look may not reflect well.
Get to know the other interviewees.
Interact with the other interviewees. They’re also nervous. See if they already interviewed at a place where you have an upcoming interview. You can learn a lot from one another. You can also split Uber rides. Furthermore, they could be your future co-workers!
Bring a book or headphones.
Carry a book along to keep you relaxed. Bring your headphones so you can listen to your favorite music. Do whatever you can to get yourself in the right mindset for performing well during your interview.
Half the success of an interview is being well prepared and confident, and the other half is how you carry yourself during the interview. Traveling for these interviews is tiring and expensive so you need to make it count. Do all you can to put yourself in the best position to represent yourself well. Try to avoid going into debt with the traveling expenses. Save in advance! Look into travel credit cards. You could end up getting a free flight or two.
Good luck in your interviews!
Dr. Andrew Nimmich is a PGY-1 in Integrated Vascular Surgery. He’s also a Co-Founder of Tutor the People, an online and in-person service that provides one-on-one MCAT test prep, as well as all other graduate entrance exams.