This article originally appeared on The Wealthy Physician Blog.
In this article we detail key points to focus on in the new year for each of the four years of medical school. We recommend reading about the year you’re currently in first, but the information for the years ahead of you (if applicable) will also be helpful.
FOURTH YEAR: THE MATCH
If you’re a fourth year medical student interview season is winding down this time of year. Sending post-interview thank you letters should not be forgotten. Here are a few key points to keep in mind when preparing them:
1. Make sure to send thank you letters to anyone you came in contact with during your interview.
This is important because each program has a different process for creating their rank order list so you never know who will have a major influence in where you match!
2. Make them personal whether you send hand-written letters or emails.
Start with a template, but be sure to address each letter by the person’s name you’re sending it to (double check spelling!). Also mention a unique component of your interaction with that person in your letter to personalize it further.
3. You can usually obtain names and email addresses of the people you came into contact with on your interview day in the packet supplied to you by the program.
If there is anyone you would like to send a thank you letter to who’s contact information is missing then contact the residency coordinator who ran your interview day to request it.
4. Feel free to use an online service to streamline the letter-writing process and make things easier on you during this hectic time.
A simple Google search will supply you with a few quality options to choose from.
THIRD YEAR: AUDITION ROTATIONS
This is the time of year for third year medical students to start scheduling audition, or showcase, rotations. These are a critical aspect of your future since audition rotations serve multiple important functions including the following:
1. If you’re on the fence about what specialty to choose then doing audition rotations in different specialties will provide useful information to help you decide which specialty to pursue for the match.
Keep in mind we recommend applying to just one specialty for the match as the NRMP match data shows that applicants who don’t match typically apply to more specialties on average than those who do match.
2. Many programs will automatically grant guaranteed interview offers to students who rotate with them. Enough said.
3. Gather additional information about programs.
Audition rotations are not just a way for you to shine at programs you’re interested in to increase your chances of matching there, but they also provide you the significant opportunity to gather additional information about the programs that you won’t get in just a single interview day.
Think of it as your chance to conduct an extended interview of the programs (which is exactly what they’re doing to you!). This additional information may be a major factor when it comes to ranking programs.
As an example, what I anticipated would be a lock for my number one program on my rank order list dropped to number two after I rotated there.
Check out our podcast episode “Audition Rotations” for a more detailed discussion on this topic.
SECOND YEAR: BOARDS
There’s no way to deny the importance of doing well on the boards. Whether you’re an allopathic or osteopathic medical student your board scores are the number one determining factor for getting into residency.
Residency programs put more stock in your board scores than any other aspect of your application. Your board scores will also dictate which specialties you should think about applying to.
As a result, you need to focus as much of your energy as possible to doing well on the boards. Here are some tips for how to do just that:
1. Start Studying Early
Starting early allows you to get your feet wet without the stress that comes later. It also allows you to try multiple ways to study and find out which one will work best for you.
2. Pick a Single Strategy
Once you’ve tried different ways to study (see number 1) you should choose the study plan that will give you the best chance to rock the boards.
3. Study with Others
Studying for the boards is even harder than studying for your classes, so be sure to have people around you that are supportive and know what you’re going through. Find at least one other classmate you can study with to stay motivated.
4. Take Breaks When You Need Them
Studying all day every day for at least six or eight weeks straight without a break will surely wear you down.
Take a day off here or there and do something fun to take your mind off studying when you feel like you really need it. It will serve to clear your head and rejuvenate you.
5. Don’t Get Discouraged
Stick with your plan and keep plugging away. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t see good results from studying early on.
If you’re studying enough and correctly then you’ll eventually get to where you need to be in terms of your score.
Check out our podcast episode “How to Rock the Boards” for a more detailed discussion on this topic.
FIRST YEAR: START THINKING AHEAD
After completing the first half of my first year of medical school I started the second part with my summer vacation already in mind. Now that’s one way to start thinking ahead!
However, there are definitely other important ways to plan for your future as a medical student so lets break down what we really mean here:
1. Volunteering, research, and shadowing are all excellent ways to gain additional experience outside of the classroom that can go a long way in helping you choose your specialty, match into residency, and ultimately shape your future.
2. Getting good grades and board scores are everyone’s goals in medical school, but you will also need to figure out other ways to stand out when you apply to residency.
You will make yourself a stronger candidate for residency by developing unique extracurricular experiences that can go in your application.
3. Make your time off worthwhile for you as a person, not just a medical student. If you need some time off from studying to travel and experience new things that you’ve never been able to do, then do it!
If you’re interested in combining travel with a CV builder then consider doing a study abroad program to gain experience while traveling.
Even though it’s often difficult to actually do this when you’re bogged down with studying for tests and preparing for rotations, keeping this perspective in mind will help you focus on the real reason you’re in medical school in the first place – to become a doctor and live a successful, meaningful life.
What exactly this means is totally unique to you so think about what your ultimate goals for your future are and start planning on how you’ll achieve them.