As the holiday break has helped a bit to settle the dust from the road, I guess this is a good time to just let the past few weeks sink in. Also I just realized that earlier this week marked the 2 month countdown to match day. Too soon? Or not soon enough? I suppose it’s a matter of perspective, but for me it still feels much too distant after this long month of travelling. As the interviews are starting to dwindle and I have more time and breathing room in December, the attention has shifted to another aspect of this whole ordeal that may be a little more in the grey area. I’ve been pondering the various elements and complexities of the courtship dance between programs and applicants. Sure, when it comes to interviews, we know absolutely that we’re expected to show up on time, that we’re supposed to gregarious, be confident and appear interested. However, after the show has ended, there’re the other less obvious strings that I have to pull off the table as well. As many of you have probably done, I peruse through the various rooms in the forums but find there is really no consensus on who, when, or how to send thank-you letters, as well as the issue of whether to sending a final “love-letter” to remind programs that you’re interested. On top of this, some programs were dropping the most unsubtle hints for the importance of second-looks, which is a whole other beast altogether. I know we’re expected to navigate this, but at this point I’m just doing it blindly, without much guidance on what the appropriate amount of courtesy and desperation should be. All of this sounds very trivial when I take a step back, and I know ultimately the question is, how much does this all matter? It may be unanswerable, and maybe it doesn’t need one, because how many of us want to risk not matching because we didn’t send that one thank-you note? Take the matter of thank-you letters. Simple sounding at first, but there’re arguments back and forth on the forms debating hand-written vs typed, email vs stamp, all faculty or just PD and chair, so on and so forth, including people arguing for not needing to send one at all. It seems as if everyone’s got a different opinion on the correct approach. I’m a bit lost and just did my own thing, but when it comes down to it, we’re just all shooting in the dark and arguing who’s got it on target -- fact is that no one knows. Maybe it we had some actual program directors’ input on this we can settle this matter once and for all. Second-looks are treacherous and basically the definition of a double-edged sword. I guess the argument is that it shows programs you’re really interested and allows you the chance to see them at work, while the drawback is if you won them over the first time you risk blowing your case and overstay your welcome. I don’t quite understand why some programs repeatedly “hint” for applicants to come back, I mean if we paid over $300 to come out here and interview do you really think that we’re not interested? Blatantly insecure. The frustrations notwithstanding, I had a chuckle when I saw a video clip the other day that vaguely reminded me of all of us applicants. It’s a male bird doing an awesome dance to showcase his talents to the female, who briefly considers his case. Best part is when the narrator says the female has to “step out for a moment and think”, eerily similar to these two interviewers who told me after we talked to “shut the door behind you so we can discuss”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dx2CUMtZ-0
Alternatively, programs should feel the same way. I spent a lot of time, money, and effort coming to your program. You should be inviting top applicants, thus expect that they are otherwise desirable. Programs should return the courtesy, which is often not the case.
gotta admit, I laughed out loud at the bird video. Good call.
As I look at my rank list, I've realized a few things. One is that my mental pre-interview rank list and my now drying-cement rank list are very different. The programs I didn't expect much from have been the most impressive, and I have ranked them higher. Maybe this is because those programs really are a better fit for me, or maybe it's just the disparity in my first and actual impression of the programs. If I expected the world of a program and it was "good but not great," maybe that program doesn't shine nearly as bright on rank day as a program I saw as a "practice interview" but ended up with a "good" impression.One of the other things I've noticed is that programs who suggest I should come back for a "second-look" inevitably fall down on my rank list. Maybe it's because I leave the city discouraged that I have to spend more money to visit again. Maybe I am offended they don't think my $300 - $500 of initial investment is good enough. Either way, it's a turn off. The AUA would be well-served to eliminate "second-looks," as all they do is coerce some applicants, aggravate the rest, and encourage programs to "settle" for the people who can easily go back.
I am really tired of hearing people debate whether or not to send thank you notes. In what world do you interview for a position and not send a thank you note. Call me old school, but they are a necessary evil. Will we not match you because you didn't send one? -No. Thank you notes show that you have good follow through and communication skills. I have even seen were a well written thank you note has bumped a candidate up in the ranks a few spots. It is your last chance to stand out or at the very least show you care and that you appreciated the hospitaltiy.As far as second looks go. I don't see the point and agree with you completely.
I loved UPenn, but their suggestion that every applicant who was "truly interested" come back and do a second look turned me off and made me not rank the program nearly as highly.Congrats on getting your top 4 Penn - you certainly fixed it.