Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Virtual interviewing

The AAMC has published an Applicant Preparation Guide with a variety of helpful ideas for interviewing virtually during this pandemic, and I certainly recommend reading it carefully. I also have a few additional suggestions:

1) If you're using your laptop, get an Ethernet cable to plug it directly into the router, instead of using Wi-Fi. The signal strength is much stronger and more consistent when using a physical cable! That's what I have, and this is the most valuable suggestion I can make. (also ask other people in your home to avoid using the internet during your interview, if possible)

2) Good lighting helps, as does the location of the lighting. Depending on how your room is set up, you might consider moving to a different spot to take advantage of (or avoid) light from the window. You can also put a small lamp on your desk.

3) Spinning fans directly overhead can be very distracting, and also use up bandwidth as your computer tries to process the image. Also, consider what else might be visible behind you during a virtual interview.

4) If your laptop is an older model with a low quality camera, you should consider investing in an external webcam.

5) There are settings within certain programs that might enhance your use of a high definition camera, if you have one. For example on Zoom you would go to the settings, then click "Video" and finally the checkbox for "HD". However, this uses more bandwidth, and can paradoxically make your connection worse, so test it with a friend in advance.

The AAMC guide has much more information than what I just wrote above, so please read it carefully; I just wanted to supplement it with some other ideas. Good luck!

Monday, August 31, 2020

September 1 is not a deadline during COVID!

There's a lot of confusion about application dates, so I want to say this as clearly as possible:
September 1 is not an application deadline, so you do not need to submit anything through ERAS that day. 

It's true that you could certify and submit your application on September 1, but there's no benefit, and potentially you might limit yourself. For example, imagine if you submit your application that day, but then you want to add something new before the programs can read it? Too bad; there's no way to do that. For example, if in the first week of October you suddenly participate in a one-day health fair, but you already certified and submitted your ERAS application, there would be no way to add that as a new Volunteer Experience. 

October 21 is the actual first day that program directors can download your ERAS application this year, and all applicants should be completely finished well before that date arrives. Here is some helpful information about the schedule. You can see there that the residency programs can't start reviewing applications until October 21, even if they were submitted much sooner. (In case you're thinking that the date "September 15" is important, in the years before the pandemic, that's when programs could review your application; this year for the first time it was changed to October 21)

To use an analogy, imagine that you're standing in line at the U.S. Post Office, with your application in a sealed and stamped envelope. Applying on the very first day would put a September 1 postmark on your application, and that's when your application would get mailed to the program directors. But then the envelope would sit in a pile for a month and a half, gathering dust. The program directors can't open the envelope until October 21, and all the envelopes will get opened on the same day, whether they were mailed on September 1, October 21, or any day in between. Also, according to the schedule link above, "Applications submitted on or before Oct. 21 will display an application date of “October 21” to programs" -- so the programs won't even know that you tried to submit your application early.

As for the NRMP, that's almost completely unrelated. ERAS transmits your documents to program directors (who can't read them until October 21), but the NRMP coordinates the Match in February / March 2021. Although you should register early with the NRMP to get the best price, the Match is not something to worry about right now. By the way, the Personal Information section of ERAS is the only part of the application that can be changed after you certify it, which means you can update details like your address, ACLS certification, and your NRMP identification number. But your Experiences, Publications, Education and almost everything else can't be changed after you certify and submit your application.

In summary, don't rush to finish everything this week! Take the time to finish your application the right way. As always, please contact me if you have any questions about the residency application process. I am happy to provide a free assessment of your application. I have twenty years of experience in helping people develop their personal statements and ERAS applications, prepare for interviews, learn about what residency directors will think of their strengths and weaknesses, and much more! 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Applying for residency during a pandemic

As we start the second month of sheltering in place (at least where I live), I've been thinking a lot about how COVID-19 will affect medical graduates who want to apply for residency in September 2020.

If you're reading this, you're probably unsure about your chance of matching. USMLE test dates have been postponed, externships and observerships will be more limited for at least a few months, many in-person networking opportunities have vanished, and in general, residency goals may feel more out of reach than ever.

But since every applicant will be in the same situation, you shouldn't give up on your dreams. More than ever, it's important to seek out opportunities to get appropriate work, volunteer, and research experience so you don't have big chronological gaps, and then to use those experiences in your ERAS application and personal statement to increase the possibility of getting interviewed.

I offer a free consultation to all potential clients (American graduates as well as IMGs), so please reach out to me. I will offer an honest assessment of whether I think you ought to apply or delay, potential steps you can take to enhance your application documents, and if I think I'm the right person to help. I hope to provide you with the same level of support that I have given to medical students and graduates for the past twenty years, even during these turbulent times. Please stay safe, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Friday, March 13, 2020

SOAP advice

Unfortunately, not everyone who applies for a residency position will match, and it's particularly difficult for IMGs. My own clients have a very high success rate, but I've never had a year when they all matched. With that in mind, I encourage each of them to prepare for SOAP, even if they had multiple interviews and feel "safe" about their chances. Here are some of the suggestions I share with them:

* Have you participated in a new externship, observership, research project, volunteer experience, or something else noteworthy since you originally applied? Perhaps you can request a new LOR and have it uploaded into ERAS. You're still only allowed to send four LORs to each program, but they don't need to be the same set of four you used in September.

* Did you get a new USMLE result? The residency programs might not have your most recent scores, so go to the Additional Documents section of ERAS and look for USMLE Transcript. While there, click the action to "Resend" your scores. This will transmit any new scores (including information about recent failed attempts) to all programs you apply to during SOAP, as well as the programs you previously applied to.

* If you were still in medical school when you originally applied in September, you probably have new grades on your transcript, so consider having the latest version uploaded to ERAS. If you ask, some medical deans will even add the newest evaluations to your MSPE and then help you get it uploaded to ERAS.

* Whatever you do, remember that the ERAS/ECFMG upload process can be quite slow, so please act quickly to be ready far in advance of SOAP!

* You're limited to 45 applications during SOAP, in any specialty. That number is fixed regardless of whether you apply to one specialty only, or a mix of specialties. While you are technically allowed to apply to some programs on the first day of SOAP and hold back some other applications until later in the week, I've never known that to be a winning strategy, so I suggest applying to all 45 on Monday.

* Try to be somewhere with a strong (wired not wireless) internet connection, as both the ERAS and NRMP websites will feel glacially slow with thousands of people logging in at once.

* Contact your advisors as soon as you find out that you need to use SOAP so they know what's going on. However, there are NRMP policies that greatly restrict contact with programs, so familiarize yourself with those.

If you didn't match and can't find a program through SOAP, I encourage you to get in touch with me - we can work together in the coming year to help you find the residency program you've been dreaming of!