2 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for Interview Season
Even though you may not have submitted your primary application to AMCAS, TMDSAS, or AACOMAS yet, it is a good idea to start thinking about interview season now. Later this summer we will have a post dedicated to preparing for interview day and another post dedicated to preparing for the interview itself, but today we want to focus on a couple of things you can do now to have a smooth interview season.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Getting to Interview Day
Chances are that when you are invited to interview at a medical school, it will be located in different city from where you are. This brings up the conundrum of whether to drive, take a bus or train, or fly to the interview. Only you will be able to determine what is the best option for you, but there are a couple of ways that you can make the travel process smoother.
If you are thinking about driving, consider signing up for a fuel rewards card. These are often offered by major gas station and grocery store chains and usually give card holders 3 cents or more off the listed per gallon prices. You may also want to keep in touch with other pre-meds at your school to coordinate interview dates so you can carpool.
If you are thinking about taking a bus or train, keep in mind that the options for this type of travel may be limited depending on the part of the country you are located. Megabus and BoltBus are both great options if you want to travel by bus, and BoltBus offers the BoltBus Rewards program where you can earn free trip tickets. If traveling by train is an option for you, you likely know that Amtrak is the only game in town. Fortunately, they do have the Amtrak Guest Rewards program that allows you to earn free trips. They also offer multi-ride tickets, which allow you to take multiple trips within a certain timeframe, but those may not be very cost effective for you.
If you are thinking about flying, definitely consider signing up for the rewards program for each major carrier and consider being added to their email list so you’ll receive information about deals on fares. Regardless of your preferred airline, we highly recommend signing up for the TSA Precheck program. Yes, it’s $85, but it’s good for 5 years, which means that you will be able to use it for travel throughout medical school and as you are applying for residency programs. There is an application process, so you will want to apply this summer, but the time saved when going through airport security is well worth it.
Finally, as you are considering your travel options, keep in mind that many interview day experiences are in fact, a full day. Here at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), our interview days run every Monday and Friday from September through the end of January and have scheduled programing from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Having a rough estimate of the interview day timeframe will help you better plan your travel so you have fewer stressors during the day.
A Place to Hang Your Suit – Finding a Place to Stay
The other main thing you will want to start thinking about is where you will stay when interviewing. As we mentioned when talking about travel options, it is important to keep in mind that many interview day experiences can last a full day. It is common for interviewees to arrive in a city or town the afternoon or evening before their scheduled interview. Recognizing this, many medical schools offer informal activities or gatherings the night before an interview day. All of this is fine and good, but it does mean that you will need a place to stay that evening. There are usually two main options for interviewing students – provided housing and not provided housing.
Provided housing is not the same at every school, but usually falls into a couple of categories – namely student hosts or campus housing. If available, staying with a student host is probably your best bet. It will give you an opportunity to meet current students more informally and see how they live as well as get a feel for the culture of the school. Student hosts at Vanderbilt are volunteers and always excited to share what they love about the school and help make your interview day as low-stress as possible. With campus housing you may not have as much interaction with current students, but you will get a chance to see what the campus housing is like – which may factor into your decision-making process. Keep in mind that provided housing is usually offered on a first come, first served basis, so it is important to request it as soon as you select your interview day!
If housing is not offered by the medical school where you are interviewing, you can look into several other options including staying with family or friends in the area, hotels, or Airbnbs. These options can range from free (family/friends) to quite expensive (hotels), so it’s worth your time now to starting thinking about your options and budget for interview season. Almost all major hotel chains have reward programs of some type, so it’s worth signing up for those programs to get benefits like free breakfast or earning a free night’s stay. Some hotels may also have special discounts or deals for visitors affiliated with the institution you are interviewing at, so it is worth asking when making your reservation.
We think that by starting to think about your interview day travel and accommodation options now, you will be setting yourself up for an enjoyable interview day experience where you can focus on learning more about the program and not your logistics. Learn more about Vanderbilt’s Interview Day for the MD program.
This is the second post in our series about the medical school admissions process. Check out our first post, 4 Things to Consider when Completing Your Med School Application and our third post, 3 Things That are Essential to a Positive Interview Day Experience.