Wednesday, 25 January 2012

“The waiting is the hardest part…”

I borrowed the title of this post from a 1981 single by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Coincidentally, it was in high rotation on my iPod around this time last year, and I feel that it is quite appropriate at this stage in the admissions process. For some of you, the deadlines for applications have long passed, and that feeling of “YES! I got all of my documents and applications in on time” is starting to wear off. Now, you might be asking yourself, “When do I finally hear about interviews? What should I do while I am waiting? How can I prepare if I suddenly get an interview offer?”

I don’t have a firm answer for the first question, but I believe that it varies by school and by year. When I went through the application cycle, a friend of mine in his first-year of medical school told me I would hear about interview offers pretty much as soon as I started my Winter semester in January; instead, however, I heard back from schools from the last week of January until mid-February. Needless to say, I worried all throughout January, wondering if I had accidentally not submitted my applications or documents, or if there were other delays in my applications being received and/or processed. In hindsight, all I can say to you is: Relax. Don’t worry! If you got a confirmation e-mail of some kind when you pressed ‘Submit’ on your applications, you will likely hear back soon. When the time is right.

Now, what should you do while you’re waiting? One thing I highly recommend is to start getting some training or advice on medical interviews. At the U of A, I was lucky in that our campus career centre offered a mock MMI (multiple mini-interview) session, which I will tell you more about in a subsequent post. If your campus offers a mock medical interview session, I highly recommend signing up for it, even if you don’t know whether you have been offered an interview yet. The experience is priceless! If your campus or local area does not offer a similar service, you might be able to contact some friends who are in medicine who can offer you advice or perhaps even run through some standard practice questions with you. If you like reading, you could also look into getting some how-to books for the interview. However, be careful! Some books are targeted more towards medical schools in the US, and others tell you more about one particular format of interview (usually the panel-style interview, which is quite different from the MMI). If possible, try to find books that are geared toward the format of the interviews of the school(s) you applied to.

While you’re waiting for interview offers, you can also look into working on other aspects of your application. For instance, if you weren’t sure whether your MCAT scores were high enough, you could look into rewriting your MCAT in the meantime. I must stress, however, that since you already submitted your MCAT scores, your newly rewritten scores would not be considered for your current applications. That being said, if you don’t get accepted this time around and yet you score higher on your MCAT rewrite, it’s one less thing for you to do in the summer and you might have a better chance of getting in next year! You can instead spend more time and energy then on your summer research project, volunteering abroad, or even taking that much-needed holiday with your loved one(s). You could also beef up the extracurricular part of your application by engaging in more volunteer work, or even giving piano lessons. The sky is the limit, really.

And don’t worry, it might seem like suddenly you have an interview offer in your inbox, but usually the schools give you about a month before the interview, so you’ll have enough time to work out your transportation and accommodation arrangements, to get a nice haircut, and to practice your interview skills. Most interviews take place from about the end of February through to early April, so it might be a good idea to keep this time period free of extensive holidays or other commitments, depending on how many schools you applied to.

Yes, the waiting is the hardest part, but remember, it’s always darkest before dawn.

Good luck, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!