More on the Match

April 10, 2014

Hey ya’ll,

Made it back to NC from LA to spend a quick weekend doing laundry and swapping out wardrobe choices before I headed off to Virginia for my last elective. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Match stuff, so now that all is said and done I reckon it’s safe to discuss some of the details and things I learned.

So if you’re planning on Matching in 2015, you should already be working. The school wants all prospective Matchees to submit their Personal Statement by April 1. That was actually really helpful. The summer before Match got so busy for me [finalizing Step 2 stuff] that it would have been difficult to sit down and put into clear words why I want to be a psychiatrist. Ah, yes–the great mystery is revealed–I applied for Categorical Psychiatry programs, Internal Medicine-Psychiatry programs, and Triple Board (Pediatrics/Adult Psych/Child & Adolescent Psych) programs. But back to personal statements, they should state why you find the particular field interesting (usually in the form of a memorable anecdote), why you’d be good at that field, where you want to go once you’re in the field, and lastly, why you’d be an awesome asset to their program. It should grab their attention but at the same time, not be kitschy. DO NOT LIE. You will be asked about your personal statement and its contents, so be genuine and review your PS before each interview so that it’s fresh in your mind and you don’t glaze over if your nerves get the best of you.

Second thing is timing. You need to make sure that you have your CK scores back and available for your ERAS application by late August. It’s best to submit your applications to the various programs on September 15, the first day that application submission is available. In most cases, folks’ scores increase between their USMLE Step 1 and USMLE Step 2 CK so you’ll want both scores to show your improvement. Most folks have a bit of PTSD about the Step 1 and how difficult it was to remember all those details. I think many of us think if we’d just given ourselves another couple of weeks to study we’d have done better, but that’s a fallacy. Don’t let those feelings make you keep pushing your Step 2 CK back. It’s definitely not as difficult (to me, at least) as the Step 1 and I found that on some of the questions I was unsure about, logical reasoning carried me a long way unlike on Step 1 where you either knew the fact or you had to guess. The Step 2 CS is not a big rush–after all, it’s pass/fail, but you always want to leave yourself enough contingency time so that, worst case scenario, if you have a bad day and don’t pass, you have time to reschedule the CS and take it again. My dean’s advice on the CS is that you should have at least taken it by the end of the year you’ve applied for the match. I was cautious and took it early enough last fall that I was able to get my scores back by the end of the year, so that I was able to tell folks during interviews that I had received news that I had passed.

Last thing for today is interviews. It might just be my inner Southern belle, or our meticulous obsession with manners down here in the South, but I was surprised by what I saw during interviews–which I thought should be easy for most folks who had made it through medical school and the CS exam! There are some major faux pas which I saw some of my co-interviewees commit that I thought I’d pass along:

1. Wear a suit. A clean, wrinkle-free professional suit. Everyone wears suits, mostly suits with pants rather than skirts (ladies). And wear nice, bland accessories. No loud ties, bright red pumps, deep-cut blouses. I know there’s a lot of avant garde advice floating around that you need to wear something which will make you stand out or grab their attention–which could be true for dates or regular job interviews–but remember that the folks who are interviewing you are RESIDENCY PROGRAM DIRECTORS! They want to see if you’re trained and civil enough to see patients during some of the most physically and emotionally challenging times of their lives. Program directors don’t care about your flashy scarf or how high of stilettos you can endure for 8 hours, and if they do, this is not the program for you. They are conservative folks who want to see that you clean up nice and can be appropriate with patients and get your work done. High neck lines, comfortable shoes, no wrinkles, and muted ties.

2. Easy on the perfume/cologne. Don’t wear it, it grosses everyone else out and makes it seem like you’re trying to cover up a body odor problem that couldn’t be or wasn’t solved by soap and water. Most hospitals have rules which stipulate you don’t wear it as it nauseates some patients, so don’t. If you insist on wearing it, spray it on your body ONCE, then cover that area up with your clothes so the scent isn’t so strong.

3. Dinner manners. Pretend like you’re on a first date. Most programs send you to dinner with the residents the night before an interview. This is theoretically a time for the residents to get to know you and figure out if you would fit in with them for the next 3-5 years. This is not the time for you to assault them with every cut-throat question about the program’s dirty little secrets you can muster. 90% of the time, I found that the residents were just there for a free meal. Now that doesn’t mean that they weren’t paying attention to the applicants, but they’ll ask you if you have questions and aside from a couple of easy questions about how they see the program or elements of the training from their personal perspective, let it go. Let them eat, enjoy what they have to say, use the time to make observations about their relationships with the other residents–if they get along well, if they have a good sense of humor, if their morale is alright. It’ll tell you a lot about how the program treats its residents.

Ok, must go get ready for rounds. There are many, many more tips which could follow on Match processes, which I will try to share later. 12 more work days of rotations left! YAY!!!


8 Responses to “More on the Match”

  1. Rob said

    Hi Jenn. Congratulations on all your success, including matching into Psychiatry! I’m going to attend MUA in September, so I’ve been reading through your blog all day–it’s been so helpful, thank you so much for these comprehensive posts!

    I had a couple questions about the MUA process. I’m sure you’re super busy, but if you wouldn’t mind sharing a little more knowledge I’d be so thankful! I could post the questions here, or you could shoot me an email, whichever you prefer. And if you don’t have the time, I’d absolutely understand!

  2. Emily said

    Hi Jenn. Congrats on your residency!! I’ve been reading your posts for a while now, and I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am for your very detailed posts!! I am considering accepting my September seat at MUA. Regarding Step 1 scores(and later USMLE scores), would you say you need to make a score higher than US students(more than 15 points?) to achieve your wanted residency? Obviously you need to do better than the average USA student, but I am confused to how better. Though I’ve tried to look, I cannot seem to find a recent report/table of scores of IMG students that got into residency(with the speciality). Say if you wanted to get into psychiatry, anesthesiology, or even radiology, what would be the range of scores needed for Step 1 and Step 2? Could you give me a vague idea of usmle scores we caribbean students should aim for? Also during your match interviews, did interviewers ask you why you chose a caribbean school? Did you feel as though MUA adequately prepared you for your Step 1/2?

    • jenningers said

      Hello, Emily,

      Thanks for reading! Glad the blog has been helpful. Congrats to you on your acceptance to MUA! And thanks for the congrats, I’m terribly excited!

      Though long, I think this document published by the NRMP (‘The Match’ folks) in January 2014, should answer many of your questions with much more specificity than I could:

      What did my interviewers want to know about a Caribbean school? Hmm, well it depends on the program. Some programs I interviewed at were riddled with residents from Caribbean schools, so those program directors weren’t so concerned about me coming from a Caribbean school. Others, where there weren’t so many Caribbean grads were more curious about life on a Caribbean island for 2 years (‘paradise’) coupled with the challenge of basic sciences (‘not paradise’). I can’t say that I recall anyone coming out directly and asking “Why did you go to a Caribbean school?” but they approached it in a more subtle fashion–i.e. “So, I see you went to medical school in ‘Nev-uss.’ What was that like?” and instead of going down the “well, I wanted to go to a US school but…” trail, I told them what it was like living on Nevis with the monkeys, free-roaming donkeys and goats, power outages, driving on the other side of the road, hiking up 100-year-old water piping, stuff like that, touching on the unique aspects of my adventure in med school. You know, things they don’t hear from the folks who go to US schools and have to take a summer off to go to Europe to get that much excitement. Heh.

      MUA will prepare you as much as you want to be prepared. All of the information is there and taught to you but it’s how much effort you bring to the table and how badly you want to learn it. It’s the same with US schools, except we have attendance requirements. There are some fabulous teachers down there where, if you show up to class and listen, that’s 80% of it right there–you just need to review your notes a couple of times and you’ve got the material down-pat. Dr. MS in Med 1 is FANTASTIC! But on the other side of the coin, there are profs down there who aren’t prepared, are down on the island for the wrong reasons (just like there are students there for the wrong reasons), and just aren’t meant to be instructors/aren’t good at conveying the information they’ve learned. Thankfully you have great instincts about professors by now and can usually sort the good ones out from the bad, at least after the first round of tests, so with the bad ones, you learn to do notes on your own, read on your own and do practice questions on your own. That way, you only have yourself to blame if you don’t learn the material. The key is not to let those folks around you who aren’t doing so well become a negative influence. You must figure out what works for you and rise above all of the other folks and their negativity. Sure, you’ll make some great friends and folks who you have studying chemistry with, but just because there’s a whole pack of folks who come in late and sit in the back of the classroom with their headphones in, watching movies, doesn’t mean they’re passing exams.

      So…in other words, yes–good teachers but you must be motivated also!

  3. knawsheen said

    Hey! I see you graduated from UNC! I am a tarheel as well, I am so confused right now about making a decision to Carribean school. Are you close to Chapel Hill by any chance?

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