I got a little queasy while writing my last post and realizing how much I actually spent on the interview process, but then I remembered how important of a time and investment those few months were for my career.
If you asked me what my ten year plan was freshman year of college, I would have told you to go to Emory for medical school then match dermatology. Little did I know back then how competitive dermatology residency is! I worked really, really hard over those 8 years to make one dream come true. For that reason, it would have been ridiculous for me to skimp on money once I reached the finish line. That was my attitude going into the season. Saving $1,000 was not worth the risk of not matching and having to do the whole process over again.
The amount of money you spend will depend on how competitive of a specialty you are applying to. Specialty competitiveness factors into cost in four big ways:
1. The number of programs you apply to - For the more competitive programs, you have to cast a broader net to ensure you get enough interviews. This is becoming less of a discriminating factors as every program becomes more and more competitive each year. This is also true of couples matching. You have to cast a broader net because you need overlapping interviews and then you need a program from those overlapping interviews to want you both.
2. The number of interviews you go on - This is especially true if you are applying to an advanced program. I made the decision to only go on two intern year interviews. I knew I wanted to either stay at Emory or go home to be closer to my family. I didn't want to move across the country. Other people want to spend a year in an awesome location or spend their intern year at their advanced program. Only interviewing at two programs was a risk because transition year programs are highly competitive, but for me the benefit of saving a significant amount of money and energy outweighed the risk of scrambling into a preliminary program. I'm really happy I did this because by my last interview I was so over interviewing. I can't imagine if I'd interviewed at 10 intern year programs before even starting derm interviews!
3. The geographic distribution of your interviews - I was lucky enough to fly all over the country to visit some of the best dermatology programs in the country. It was a luxury that came with a luxury price tag. If you are focused on doing residency in one area of the country, it might be a little cheaper for you. I had absolutely no geographic preference or restrictions. There were weeks where I went from the mid west to the North Pacific to the North East then back down South. (Make sure when save your interview times you know what time zone they're in! On the iphone, it will let you put in time zones which is really helpful, but on my computer it would automatically save things as Eastern time zone which is really dangerous when you're all over the country!)
4. The number of paid flights and hotels you receive - One program paid for my hotel. That's it. On the other hand, I have a friend going into peds that had only one program that didn't pay for his hotel.
I think it's absolutely ridiculous how much money it costs medical students - who have already acquired significant debt obtaining their education - to finally get a job. It's not going to change in the next month, however. My advice for this time period is to not think about how much money you're spending (worst life advice ever). My parents helped with a portion of my expenses, but I still had to take a small loan out to cover everything (it sucks, but in the grand scheme of things, it is so little for something so big). I know people that stayed in airbnbs to save money. I stayed at the recommended hotel every interview but one, and that's because I was in town for a couple of days and had time to figure my way around. You will be flying into unfamiliar cities late at night. Catch a cab from the airport. Usually there's some shuttle service from the recommended hotel to the interview. Make life easy on yourself. This is a stressful time and it's important that you shine. Save all your physical and mental energy for your sparkle. (More traveling advice coming Saturday!)