The Ins and Outs of Virtual Residency Application Season
Wondering how the virtual residency application season is going to be different from prior years? So are we! We asked some questions and received some answers. Scroll down to read some tips from our EMP tutors who are current residents regarding the 2020-2021 application cycle.
Are residency programs taking any new initiatives geared towards 2021 residency candidates?
Yes! Because everything is virtual, this application season is a time for programs to get creative. There are a variety of ways for programs to share information and perks of their program in a way that can be easily accessible to applicants around the country. Many programs have undertaken a new social media presence, most notably by creating an Instagram account, as well as revamping their residency web-page with new information, videos, and updated descriptions of rotations and resident responsibilities. Some programs are sharing short videos from various residents in the program that discuss various topics like taking call, what activities there are in the city the residency program is located, and fun facts about the program.
In addition, programs are hosting virtual “Open Houses” or “Virtual Socials” on Zoom with residents and faculty so that students are able to ask questions, meet current residents, and get a feel for the program.
Lastly, some residency programs are even offering virtual away rotations where medical students have a virtual curriculum and can shadow certain parts of the residents’ day.
Do you have any advice for current 4th year medical students applying this cycle?
One of the most important things that students can do is remain calm and take comfort in the fact that this whole process is going to be new for everyone. That being said, this does NOT mean you can take a back seat preparing for interviews and put in minimal time and effort researching programs. Because many programs are increasing their online presence, it will become even more important to be familiar with their websites and be aware of any virtual opportunities that may be offered. This shows your diligence and genuine interest in the program. It can even be helpful to reach out to any programs you’re particularly interested in to make sure you’re invited to any virtual socials prior to the interview to increase your exposure to faculty and residents. Also, ensure you mention in your interview why you are specifically interested in the program and show you have a connection to the city and would realistically move i.e. friends, family, research etc in the vicinity that would draw you to the program.
In addition, something that can be exceedingly helpful is asking faculty (or current residents) to advocate for you within a particular program that you are interested in. This certainly will not be the case for every program or for every person, but having a personal connection to a program can make a big difference when trying to express your genuine interest. Letters of recommendation will also likely have a greater impact that in years prior.
Lastly, given the virtual nature of this application cycle, all students should get comfortable using Zoom and do some trial interviews with friends or advisors to normalize the experience somewhat. EMP actually offers a great “Mock Interview” package exactly for this purpose.
Do you have any tips for my virtual interview?
Yes – practice, practice, practice! Although there are differences between virtual and in-person interviews, both require adequate preparation. As mentioned above, practice with a friend, an advisor, or with an EMP Mock Interviewer. It’s very important to treat the whole virtual interview experience as you would an in-person interview. For example, you should wear appropriate clothing (top to bottom), maintain eye contact, prepare your questions ahead of time, and try to engage with other students and residents when called into a Zoom social. It’s going to be a little more difficult to make yourself stand out in “group” Zoom rooms, but try to take advantage of the opportunities you have to speak up.
How will the absence of “in-person” interviews affect this cycle?
The lack of in-person interviews, as well as the lack of visiting away rotations, will likely pose a challenge to interviewees as well as the programs interviewing. Simply put, things are going to be different for both parties.
It’s important to consider that one of the perks of in-person interviews is being able to experience the “culture” of a program and interact with the residents, oftentimes in small and informal ways. Very often we talk about finding the right “fit” when interviewing for a residency spot. However, finding the best program for a student, and conversely, each residency finding compatible candidates for their program, is not as straightforward as picking the highest ranked program or the highest ranked students. It may be difficult on both sides to discern which programs and which students are going to make for the best “fit” because it’s difficult to get to know people over the internet within a virtual forum. It’s also difficult to facilitate organic conversation in the virtual socials because you can’t have groups of people breaking off to have side conversations as one can when in person. That being said, it will be very important for both students evaluating programs, and programs evaluating students, to put in extra effort to make real connections and gather genuine information about each residency or each applicant.
In addition, since students will not be traveling for interviews, there is less of a monetary constraint when selecting how many programs to apply to. It’s difficult to determine how exactly this will play out, but it is estimated that students are going to apply to more programs than they would have traditionally, given that they will not have to make the decision to travel to a particular city to interview if provided the opportunity.