On the Trail: Monster truck or bag of coal?

Christmas was my favorite holiday growing up.  There ain’t nothing better than eagerly waiting for the sun to rise on Christmas morning so you can run downstairs to a pile of Santa’s presents under the family tree.  Fortunately for me and my siblings, my Grandma and parents were particularly generous with the presents.  We didn’t get anything extravagantly expensive, but we certainly had a lot of presents to open that morning.  Add to all our presents quality time with family, lots of good food, and a celebration of great religious significance for us, and we had ourselves one fantastic holiday.

Reflecting back on the many Christmas mornings I shared with my family as a young boy, I remember quite vividly the pit in my stomach I felt as I raced down the stairs to the presents, consumed with anxious anticipation of what was awaiting me:

“Did Santa think I was a good boy that year?”

“Did I do well enough in school and was I nice enough to my brothers to get that awesome monster truck I so desperately wanted?”

“Did my tally of misdeeds over the last year earn me a bag of coal?”

This moment of anxious anticipation—imbued deeply with both fear and excitement—is a moment I’ve lived many times each day for the past month.  As many of my fellow applicants well understand, the refreshing of my gmail inbox multiple times each day has been a reliving of these Christmas mornings.  And when I see that all-to-familiar email from “noreply@eraspod.aamc.org”, that same pit settles deep in my stomach, sweat collects on my brow, and I know I’m about to get either a monster truck or bag of coal.

Now that interview invite season is coming to a close, I can reflect back on my experience and offer the following advice for next year’s applicants:

1.      A smartphone is both a blessing and a curse, but given the necessity of early replies to interview invites to secure the date that works best for you, I think it’s a must-have for urology applicants.  Be sure you set up your email to the “push” setting so you know exactly when you get each interview.

2.      Book hotels, trains, planes and automobiles early, and organize your travel itinerary with this FANTASTIC website:  www.tripit.com.  (Shout out to the friendly applicant who shared this gem of an organizational tool with me).

3.      Prioritize interviews in advice; many applicants face tough choices on which interviews to schedule given the mad November crunch of interview dates.  It’s much better to have a good idea of where you want to go most before sweating over these decisions during interview season.

4.      And finally, stay open-minded and humble.  I’ve already been to some programs I never really considered I’d go that I’ve loved (and vice versa).  And be prepared for harshly-worded rejections.  Everyone—except you freak-of-nature applicants who have already published 87 first-author papers in between founding an AIDS orphanage in Africa—get them, and you just have to roll with the punches.  I know many posters have shared some rejection masterpieces, but here is a snippet from my personal favorite:

“Dear [BLANK],

While we are impressed with your many accomplishments, we cannot offer you an interview because you suck at life."

Ok, so I made that last part up, but I literally did receive a rejection addressed to “Dear [BLANK].”  I hope they got the right guy.

Anyway, to end on a positive note, the interview trail has been a blast so far.  How affirming it is to meet so many awesome applicants—y’all make me more confident and happy about choosing urology as a specialty.

Best of luck and safe travels to everyone!


P.S.  Fellow and former applicants:  please post comments and share your own interview stories and advice on this or any other topic!