Residency Application Tip: Residency Application Dinners

Continuing in our series on things I wish someone had told me when I was applying for residency, let’s talk about residency application dinners. 

For those who don’t know, the typical residency interview goes like this: Arrive to your hotel in the afternoon. Go to a dinner with the other applicants and the residents (and sometimes some of the faculty). This may be at a restaurant or at one of the residents’ houses. After the dinner, you go back to your hotel, get a good night’s sleep, and have the formal interview the next day. The interview day itself usually lasts from about 8-9am until 2-4pm, and typically includes a powerpoint about the program (case numbers, special programs, etc), a tour of the facility, several interviews with faculty and residents, and lunch with the residents (and sometimes faculty).

When I was applying, people told me to absolutely go to 100% of the dinners, 100% of the time, no matter what. Since my medical school only gave us a few days off to interview, I ended up using my post-call days as “travel time” so I only had to take an actual day off for the interview day. That meant that my typical interview circuit looked like this:

  • 1100: husband picks me up from the hospital post-call and drives to the hotel
  • 1700-1800: arrive at the hotel
  • 1900: applicant dinner
  • 2130: get back to the hotel, go to sleep
  • 0700: get up, shower, dress, get ready for interview
  • 0800-1600: interview day
  • 1630: change in a lobby bathroom, drive home
  • 2200: arrive at home, fall into bed
  • 0430: get up and go to work (on call that night)

Needless to say, I was exhausted a lot of the time. Especially at the dinners. I was post-call, and instead of napping all day, I had been traveling. Even though my wonderful husband drove us, it wasn’t like I could just sleep all day in the car like I would at home, and I wasn’t getting to bed early to catch up. But I was told to go to the interview dinners no matter what, so I was always there.

Now that I am on the other side of the process, I have seen how this can hurt people. It’s hard to tell the difference between someone who is exhausted and someone who doesn’t care. Applicants may come off as cold, disinterested, or unfriendly when they are actually just tired from traveling all day, or being post-call. When we review applicants, it’s not uncommon for someone to comment on an applicant who didn’t seem engaged, didn’t participate in conversations, or started to “zone out” towards the end of the event.

At my program, at least, if someone wasn’t able to make it to the dinner, that is pretty much neutral – it doesn’t help or hurt. I can’t speak for other places, but I know that at least in some places, you may be better off missing the dinner than going exhausted and seeming like you aren’t excited to be there. Other programs may feel differently about this, of course, so it is always best to try to get as much information as you can about the actual programs. But if you know you aren’t going to be able to be on your game and put your best foot forward, most people won’t blame you for saying that unfortunately, you will be arriving late and will miss the dinner.

The best solution, of course, would be to take time off (if your school allows) during the peak of interview season. For OB/GYN, this is mid-November to mid-December. That way, you won’t have to worry about being post-call and can present your best, peppiest, most stress-free version of yourself at every interview! More on that later.


As always, please feel free to leave comments and questions below! Happy ERAS season everyone!

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