Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Stop Second Guessing Yourself

We have covered your rank list in great detail, but with the Rank List certification deadline approaching (February 25 at 9 pm), many of you are starting to second guess your top programs. This is normal. Everybody does this. You hear from friends, advisors, and deans, and they all have different opinions on where you should go. Remember to focus on what YOU want, above all else.

Think about the top 3-4 programs on your list. Picture them in your mind and see which one causes the biggest smile to split across your face. That is your number one. Stop perseverating - that is YOUR number one. 

When deciding the order of the next few programs, continue to follow your heart. The Match is student weighted, so you get preference. The order you rank the programs matters. You want your list to reflect your true desire to train at the program. Put the spreadsheet down, stop talking to everyone, and focus on how you feel overall about each program. Above that, these are the common pitfalls to avoid:

Squirrel - Being distracted by shiny objects 
Many of the superficial attributes of a program are not going to determine if you are satisfied with your experience training there:

Programs with big names in EM, and those your parents recognize are usually tremendous programs, but that only matters if they were a tremendous fit for you. Don’t elevate a program based solely on reputation or how much you anticipate others will be impressed.

Helicopters, aerospace medicine and hyperbarics are cool, but that won’t be where you spend the majority of your time. Choose to elevate a program based on elements that actually make up a large part of your experience training there.

Location is really important for most people. Though being in a location that others think is cool, but you don’t see yourself in, shouldn’t count as an asset. This is not a vacation, you will live there - make sure it is someplace you want to be, more than visit.

Glossing over glaring negatives
There are only a few things in a program that will have an enormous impact on your training experience:
Program Director - If you didn’t click with the PD- think hard before ranking this program highly. This is not a person you can avoid.
Residents - If they weren’t really happy, or you don’t see yourself as a part of their group, this is not the program for you.
Curriculum - ensure the educational approach, the design of the rotations, and the responsibilities on shifts match up with your needs.

Being Flattered by attention
Be careful to not allow a program’s perceived response to you influence your ranking. Many programs purposefully withhold telling students how well they were liked, while others may overestimate where you are on their rank list. This is a time to trust yourself and be wary of being influenced.

In the end you need to trust your gut, rank your programs in the order you want to be there. Keep in mind more than half of you will get your top choice, and 80% will get in your top 3. You have the control. Use it wisely.

For more on making your rank list see these posts from Academic Life in Emergency Medicine's EM match adviseMaking Your Rank List and Top 10 Tips When Making Your Rank List, as well as our post on Going with your gut that includes a more detailed explanation of the Match Algorithm in case you do not believe the whole "student weighted" thing.

Lucienne Lutfy-Clayton is a former Clerkship Director and Associate Residency Director. She believes in shaping destiny, and that things work out as they were meant to. "Life is what you make it, so you might as well trust yourself." 

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