The residency interview season brings excitement, anxiety and more often than not, a great deal of expense. From hotels to flights and other travel-related costs, the figures can add up quickly. But with proper planning and budgeting, the interview process doesn’t have to break your wallet.
Jordan Hitchens, DO, and former student trustee to the AOA Board of Trustees, is currently gearing up for her second round of residency interviews. After interviewing around the country last year, she landed in a traditional rotating internship, and is now planning to spend $1,500 this season on the 10 interviews she has lined up at emergency medicine and family medicine programs.
Below are several travel insights Dr. Hitchens shared with The DO, along with other travel best practices gathered from around the web to help cash-strapped fourth-years and other prospective residents save on interviewing.
1. Try to coordinate your interviews
Lining up multiple interviews in the same city around the same time can yield massive savings of both your money and time. While residency programs are juggling a number of applicants and schedules and may not be able to honor specific requests, there’s no harm in politely inquiring about a date you have in mind when you’re setting up your interviews.
“This year, I have done a better job at grouping several interviews together in the same city,” says Dr. Hitchens. “I am saving money that way. I am in the Midwest, so I will be driving to Chicago for several interviews there, as it’s about six hours away. That’s my limit for driving places.”
2. Buy two nice suits
You don’t need an entire wardrobe of interview clothes; two solid outfits will suffice.
“I made sure to buy two suits that I really felt good in, and comfortable trendy shoes,” says Dr. Hitchens. “Most of the interviews will bring you on a tour. You don’t want to be hobbling around the hospital in heels that hurt.”
Also, make sure to bring a travel steamer for easy wrinkle removal.
3. Cut lodging costs
Last year, as a medical student, Dr. Hitchens got a loan to fund her travel costs, which amounted to about $4,000. Now, as a resident with a modest salary, she’s working even harder to keep costs down.
“This year, I am staying at my own apartment for local interviews or staying with friends and family for all my other interviews, except for one,” she says.
Interviewees can also consider Swap and Snooze, a platform where medical students with available housing can connect with residency interviewees seeking lodging. The website was launched by two emergency medicine residents in California who were seeking a way to give students the chance to save money and create new social connections during the interview season.
4. Choose your airline wisely
Traveling by plane? Before booking the cheapest flight, check out what the airline charges for add-ons such as checked and carry-on baggage. Investing in a solid carry-on bag will allow you to avoid checked bag fees as well as the baggage carousel and lines. You’ll also want to steer clear of airlines that charge exorbitant change or cancellation fees in case your interview schedule changes on short notice.
5. Take advantage of frequent flyer miles
Booking flights through an airline that will allow you to earn points may help defray the cost of future flights, a definite plus if you’ll be traveling extensively. You can typically apply points toward additional flights, lodging, rental cars or other travel-related expenses. Applying for an airline credit card is another way to rack up frequent flyer miles.
Keep your eyes on the prize
While saving money is important, don’t forget that your ultimate goal is to secure the best residency position for you. Avoid getting so focused on penny-pinching that you sacrifice your ability to make a good impression. Sometimes it makes sense to spend a bit more on a particular interview if the opportunity is exactly what you’re looking for.