So money, baby

I am almost done with my interviews for residency! I have just one left in the next week, and it’s at the program associated with my medical school. I’m hoping it’s less of a real interview day, and more of a gossip session. After all, all of my letters of recommendation come from this department. There’s not much else to say, if you’ve already said it all in your own letters.

Instead, I bring to you, my obsessive organization and deep love for pie charts. Data analysis is the only way to make sense of a mad, mad world, don’t you think?

Here’s a pie chart of the money I’ve spent during interview season.

This total includes the costs of Setup, which was a new suit and three new shirts, and all the registration fees for applying to residency programs. I had two suits that I alternated between, one of which was a holdover from medical school interview season, 4 long years ago. I’m sad to say that though I still fit in it, it’s not looser — that was the goal. In return for med school sucking out my soul and making jam with it, I was supposed to become svelte and model-esque in stature. Once again, med school did not hold up its end of the bargain. My interview shoes (two pairs) were old shoes, though I did have to spring for new shoe inserts in one pair, as well as re-soling and polishing the other pair. My interview purse was a gift from my aunt (yay, Aunt M!), and probably cost more than all my other clothing combined.

Air travel includes only tickets for flights. In total, I flew 11 times through 10 airports, most of the time round-trip, but a couple of times with multiple city destinations as part of the interview trail. I never checked in a bag. I flew stand-by twice, to get on earlier flights. I got delayed 3 times, usually due to weather. I missed no flights (success!). I ate a lot of snack packs on Southwest, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Virgin America. I did not fly Delta (the Devil Airline). I didn’t count the flights from school back to home, because I was going to have to make those flights anyway for the holidays. In all, I think $1045 (that includes tax) for 11 flights is a pretty good deal.

Automobile is probably better described as ground transportation. For the most part, I rented cars after I figured out that a 24-hour car rental was usually cheaper than roundtrip airport shuttles. In some cities with great public transport, I took public transportation. In many cities, especially towards the end, I had made some good friends who were happy to give me a lift to the airport, or split a car rental. In return, I shuttled people to the airport whenever I could. For the most part, we were all really generous about giving our fellow interviewees rides to the airport. Big shout-out goes to Rachel, who picked me up from my hotel the night of our pre-interview dinner, dropped me back off after dinner, and then picked me up from my hotel again the next morning to go to the actual interview. That was above and beyond, man. Also a big thanks to Jess, with whom I had 5 interviews in a row, and when I gave her a ride from City 3 to City 4 (a 2-hour drive), chipped in money for gas.

Hotel refers to when I had to book my own hotels. Some programs pay for hotels the night before, which is key. I have heard that certain programs can even pay for flight + hotel, which is disgustingly generous of them. I paid for 7 hotels, which averages out to less than $75 (including tax) per hotel stay. This category also refers to when I had to PAY for HOTEL PARKING, which I think is a total travesty. Most of the time, I tried to get street parking, because meter parking didn’t kick into effect until 8 AM the next morning, by which time I was long gone. My biggest feat was getting a downtown city center Courtyard Marriott for $45 pre-tax, and the hotel room was one of the nicest single rooms I’d been in. Or, maybe the Hyatt for $55 pre-tax, in a hotel room that included an adjoining sitting room and pull-out sofa.

I did not include all the airport food I ate, simply because I was going to eat anyway, no matter where I was. I suppose airport food always costs more than non-airport food, but then again, I was usually getting dinners and breakfasts for free, so I think the cost of food evened out.

I’ve also made a line graph of each of the interviews I’ve gone to, and how much money I’ve spent for each of them.

The high spike for Interview #12 is a bit falsely elevated (source of error!), because I got lazy and just lumped in the flight and car rental under Interview #12, even though the flight was also done for Interview #13, and the car rental was 26 hours longer because I insisted on staying the weekend with a friend, as a mini-vacation built into the trip. I don’t think the line graph is as telling as the pie chart. The only real findings I can see are that interviews with flights account for all of the spikes above $100. The two small spikes that are below $100 (Interviews #3 and #14) were due to driving to the vicinity in a car, and spending the night in a hotel. Interviews #6 through #11 were, interestingly enough, on two different coasts, but they straddled Christmas, and so I was able to use either my med school home or my parents’ home as home base.

In a future entry, I’ll go through the different ways I saved money, from the art of priceline’s Name Your Own Price to rebate sites (I love you, ebates!). Oh shoot, I didn’t put in how much money I saved or made back via ebates and retail coupon codes. Nuts.

Anyway, the grand total is $2,702, which I think is a pretty neat deal for having gone to 18 interviews. When I’m truly done, I will have gone to 19 interviews. NINETEEN! Most people I know have gone anywhere from 10 to 15 interviews. I’ve been interviewing since late October, and my last interview will be in February. I’m fairly certain I have the longest interview season out of all my classmates.

I do have to say, though, that when I was using my parents’ home as my home base, all interviews that were drive-able distance were done using my brother’s car. And my brother’s car’s gas. I think that I would have to tack on another $100 for gas money, but hey, I didn’t pay for it.

I met this guy who said that he’d spent about $15,000 for interviews and applications. $15,000. I boggled and couldn’t believe it, but then he told me about the foolish, foolish ways it had happened. He flew 5 separate trips from his home base (his medical school in New Orleans) to the West Coast. He took taxis. He booked hotels that the residency programs recommended (generally, these hotels are within walking distance to the hospital, and tend to be nicer places like Sheratons and Marriotts), and though he used the bulk rate negotiated by the hospital, it was still always more expensive than he would have found if he’d hunted a bit harder. He didn’t combine interviews, or “couldn’t combine interviews,” even though I definitely had interviews at some of the same places he did, and had combined them. I think he might not have been quite so dogged in combining interviews, though. Certainly, flying out of a smaller airport didn’t help the expenditures. He also counted the rent and living expenses he incurred while doing away rotations at other hospitals, which I didn’t really count.

Let me backtrack about away rotations. As a 4th year med student, you are sometimes encouraged to go to other programs and do month-long “away” rotations at programs you might be interested in. The goal is to get a letter of recommendation and a foot in the door, because you’ve auditioned for a full month. This can fail horribly if you are a total jerk or are really awkward, lazy, or hopelessly stupid, because then the month proves to the program that they really wouldn’t want you, whereas if you hadn’t shown up at all they might still be ignorant of that fact when you sent your application. I did two away electives. During one of them, my sublet rent was $380 for the whole month, which is approximately 1/2 of what I pay back at school. While I was gone from school, I subletted out my own apartment, which, if you do the math, means I made money that month. Hahaha. During the other away elective, I imposed on the hospitality of my poor younger cousin and stayed with him instead of paying rent.

I guess this guy who had ended up spending $15,000 counted the money he spent during his away rotations. I don’t think that’s entirely fair, though, because it’s not like he would have been not paying rent or not eating meals, even if he had stayed back at his medical school.

Oh, perhaps I should add $300 to the grand total because I bought a netbook at the beginning of interview season expressly for travel use. Then again, this was a convenient excuse because since I bought my netbook, I have been using it more and more because my old laptop has decided to crap out on me, frequently and without warning. Well, interview season done for $3,000 is still a pretty neat trick, I think.


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