It's that exciting time of year again, residency interview season! Last month, we gave you our best tips for nailing your residency interview. This month, we wanted to address one of your most asked questions during interview season: how to rank programs for residency?
After interviews, it can be hard to weigh the pros and cons of each program and decide where you want to go for the next 3–7 years! It's a huge decision, to say the least! And, right now, you're probably making your decision based off of online interviews. So, what do you look for? And, how will you rank the programs you interviewed with?
Advice From Someone Who Has Been There on How to Rank Programs for Residency
We chatted with @hey.eden (Dr. H), who is in her Pediatrics residency in New Orleans. Throughout her residency she's been part of the interview team at her program. We asked her about her systematic approach to ranking and her thoughts about Zoom interviews this season. Here's what she had to say!
Should You Take a Systematic Approach To Ranking, or Trust Your Gut?
I did a little bit of both and you may have to as well. I am very type A, so I listed off things that were very important to me. Part of my process involved focusing on these important factors in my interview. I then had a rubric that I used to score each program. For example, one of the main categories in my rubric was location. I scored a program with a one if I didn't care for the location, and three if I liked the location. Then, at end of the interview I had a score for the program. I did this for each program without comparing scores until I had completed all of my interviews. That’s how I came up with my rank list.
I got down to two programs that were both highly scored, and I struggled with how to choose my number one. One program was in Chicago. I had a lot of friends in Chicago and I could really see myself there. The other was the program that I ultimately went to.
How Did You Know That Your Residency Program in New Orleans Was Right for You?
I am from Alexandria, Virginia and I did med school and undergrad in Virginia. I know deep down that I want to be close with my family later on where I practice medicine. So, residency was the perfect time to escape for a little bit and get to experience a new city on my own and really just do my own thing!
I actually rotated in New Orleans and spent a whole month out here for a NICU rotation. If I hadn’t done that I don’t know if I would have ranked them as highly as I did. Getting to meet the attendings and residents and seeing how everyone functions on a day to day basis helped me fall in love with the program. I loved everything about it. It came down to general feel at the end of the day, but I did have to take a systematic approach to get to that point.
Did You Consider Any Perspectives Outside Your Own When Deciding How to Rank Programs for Residency?
I feel like I got lucky in the sense that I didn’t have anything holding me down to any city. I’m not married, I don’t have any kids, and my family was very open minded about where I wanted to go. It was pretty much where my heart led me. Of course, I talked to my boyfriend about it because he wanted me to be in Dallas and be close to him. But, it was three years of my life, so I had to make the best decision for me. I did take other people's perspectives in mind, but it ultimately came down to where I found myself the most.
Weather was also a factor. One thing I like about New Orleans, is I don’t have to deal with the snow. I don’t have to clean off my car in the morning. You wouldn’t think it, but that’s a big deal to me.
How Would a Zoom Interview Experience Change How You Rank a Program?
During a Zoom interview, I would have wanted to see how innovative a program would be to make themselves stand out. On our end [being an interviewer,] it is very difficult to try to interview a whole bunch of people! We want them to realize that we know that it's hard to talk to a camera and not see us in real life. We incorporated activities via Zoom and ways to socialize with residents without the program director. We tried to make it as chill as possible and make them feel comfortable. You don’t really get to see what they are like in real life, so giving them that opportunity to relax and just talk to us is the most important part.
In your rubric you may want to add a category for this. When a program can take a difficult experience and make it better, that would lead me to give them a higher score. If the experience is really stressful over Zoom, I would lower the score.
Any Additional Words of Advice?
If you're headed into 2021–2022 residency interview season, keeping these tips in mind can help you during your this tough year. You’re pretty much choosing where you’re going to become a doctor for the next however many years, and you’re doing that over an internet connection. It’s very difficult this year and unfair. My heart really goes out to 4th years, but knowing what's important to you and creating a rubric with those important factors can really streamline your ranking experience.
Make sure you're following @hey.eden on Instagram to keep up with her journey in residency and beyond!
Plus, if you want more advice for med school and residency, follow us on Instagram @MedStudySTRONG! We share out daily study tips, Q&As, and inspiration.