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What Med Students Should Do Post-Match

 Dr. Mike Ren contributed to this post.

Congratulations to you for matching! It’s a big deal. Celebrate well and then consider completing the following to make your transition into residency that much easier.

 

1. Give thanks
As you celebrate with your friends and family, don’t forget to thank your mentors. There were various parties who helped you match, from the faculty who talked you up in your letters of recommendation to your deans who reviewed your application. A simple thank you email or card goes a long way and keep in mind that you may continue to benefit from their future support. Here’s a sample thank you message: “Thank you for all of the support. You have made a difference you’ve made in my career for the better and I could not have matched without you. I look forward to the next chapter and will keep in touch!”

2. Talk to current and incoming residents
Get in touch with your program’s current residents. Discover the spots to eat, play, and study and learn about intern life. Find out what rotations are demanding, vacation time, and electives to prioritize so that you’re comfortable in your first year. Socialize online or in person with the incoming residents as well. Get to know them as you’ll be working alongside them for the next few years.

3. Pay it forward
Remember when you were a bright-eyed, bushy tailed student with questions about the field you’re going into now? Help out the future of your speciality. Give a lecture, talk at a panel, or provide some general advice at your school’s specialty interest group for the students who were in your shoes. At this point, you not only know your speciality and its application process, you literally are a walking success story. Let underclassmen learn from your journey.

4. Communicate with the program director and/or coordinator
Reach out and introduce yourself, show your excitement to join your program. A simple message to let the program know that you are glad to have matched there and look forward to learning from them goes a long way.

5. Compete credentialing paperwork
Credentialing at some hospitals, especially county and government institutions take longer than expected. Read and sign the paperwork that comes to your inbox promptly. You do not want to be the intern who starts day one of their rotation without a badge or EMR access.

6. Take a Trip to Your Residency’s City
Plan a weekend trip to where you’ll be spending the next 3-7 years of your life! Organize some apartment/house tours to decide where you will live next year. Look for an apartment close by to the hospital where you’ll be at the most intern year to minimize the time spent traveling. Also consider whether you would prefer to live in a more lively downtown area or in a quieter suburban area (if it exists). Check out the downtown area by going out to dinner or to a local bar and celebrating your accomplishment of landing a residency there. During the day, drive around the suburban area to get a feel for it. Often people with families will choose a suburban area for more square footage and access to particular school districts, whereas singles tend to choose the more lively downtown area to easily meet people and prevent loneliness.
7. Plan Your Budget for Next Year
    • Student loans
    • Car (lease/mortgage, fuel, insurance, tolls, maintenance)
    • Public transport
    • Food and drinks
    • Household items
    • Clothes
    • Healthcare
    • Utilities (don’t forget internet/cable, cell phone bill)
    • Vacation
    • Miscellaneous (nights out, gifts for birthdays/holidays, haircuts/coloring, etc.)
    • Children or pet expenses
    • Try a yoga class or learn to meditate to develop stress-reducing techniques.
    • Start watching your diet to make sure that you’re not eating more ice cream than you are fruits and vegetables. Try to limit your sweets and get in at least four servings of vegetables daily.
    • Does that one glass of wine per night keep turning into three or four? Start cutting back now.
    • Sign up for some exercise classes or start hitting the gym on a regular basis to improve your overall health and mood. Remember the wise words of future lawyer Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” Point being, exercise can help to keep you happy during residency! Even squeezing in a 15-30-minute run every day can make a big difference.
You’ve finally hit the point in your medical training where you start earning money! While it may be tempting to start splurging on rent for that luxury apartment you’ve always dreamed of, that may not leave you with enough money to pay for other living expenses on a resident’s salary. Use an online income tax calculator for your residency’s city to determine your post-tax salary. Your $65k salary may mean you only take home a net pay of $50k.
Now you can start adding up your basic expenses for next year:
Suddenly that $50k can become $10k-25k after these expenses are deducted. Now when you’re looking at apartments or houses to rent or buy, consider how much of this leftover pay you can afford to spend on it. You should make sure that your budget (including housing) is still less than your net pay to have extra money in case of emergencies or unforeseen costs.
8. Connect with Current Residents at Your New Program

Reach out to some of the current residents and ask them questions about the next few years. What part of town do residents live in? Are certain areas safer to live in than others? What should you expect from the different rotations during intern year? If your residency allows you to choose your schedule for intern year, how would the resident recommend doing it? How does vacation work? Asking a resident all of these program-specific questions will allow you to better plan for next year.

9. Look Forward to Graduation

You will finally get to call yourself a doctor in just a few short months! Start considering who you would like to invite to graduation. Does your grandma need to fly across the country to attend? She’ll prefer to buy an airline ticket a few months in advance, when prices are cheaper. Schools will typically limit the number of tickets per student, so carefully consider the length of your invite list so that you won’t have to rescind any invitations. You should also start planning for the day of graduation. If you have a party of 10 hoping to have dinner at 7pm, make reservations several weeks in advance before the restaurants start filling up (many other students may be hoping to do the same with their guests).

10. Try a New Hobby

Have you always wished you knew how to cook a perfect steak? Sign up for a cooking class or dust off those cookbooks and start using them a few nights per week. Have you dreamed of learning how to ballroom dance? Take a dance class. Do you love to help others? Find a local community service organization (or even your medical school’s) and sign up for some events. Have you been dying to read the series of A Song of Ice and Fire (the book that Game of Thrones is based on) the past four years, but haven’t found the time? Cozy up with those books and dive into their story. Make sure that you find hobbies to keep yourself engaged, especially if you have a lot of time off towards the end of fourth year!

11. Develop Healthy Habits

Let’s face it: residency can be a stressful time. You are making real-time decisions regarding your patients’ health and you have a lot more responsibility than you had as a medical student. On top of this, you’ll have a lot less free time and a lot more call. Now is the time to develop those stress-coping strategies and a healthy lifestyle.

12. Plan a Vacation

You deserve a reward for all of your hard work the past four years! Plan that trip to Europe that you’ve been dreaming of. If you’re on a tighter budget, consider a road trip to a beach, mountain, or nature getaway to work in some quality relaxation time. If you like to live more on the wild side, think about a vacation to Las Vegas or NYC and check out all of the city’s attractions. Adventuring to a new place is a great opportunity for self-renewal, no matter where you go!
*Bonus objective: Take Step 3!
For most specialties, taking USMLE step 3 earlier is more sensible as you tend to lose general medicine knowledge as you delve deeper into your field. For others such as primary care, you can afford to put it off. Either way, you will need a passing Step 3 score to apply for your boards, so getting it out of the way early means you have one less worry during busy residency rotations.
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