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When Does Fourth Year Slow Down?

Colinson72x722Colin Son -- The myth is that the fourth year of medical school here in the United States is a time to kick back and take in the future, maybe with a margarita by the pool. You’ve come through a time-consuming third year and your application for residency is set and eventually you reach a point in the year where you can just relax. That is sometime after interviews come and Match Day is approaching.

I’m wondering when that day might be. The horizon does not look all too clear, at least in terms of my schedule. I want to go into a specialty that is relatively competitive and it has clouded the "ideal" of the fourth year.

In my first three months I will have done two away rotations, and sub-Is are typically brutal, at least in terms of the hours put in. I’m in my second sub-I right now and within days of finishing I will go on my first interview for residency. I will be gone almost half of the month of November on interviews. December and January get a little better as my schedule now stands, but interview invites are still coming. Considering I want to give myself the best shot possible to match, I’m considering going on twenty interviews, although I’m continually told that will be difficult and I’ll get exhausted and run out of money before I make it to that many.

Whatever the case, I really didn’t consider how much time so many interviews would take up. I have already rearranged my schedule to take November, December, and half of January off just so I can work in that many interviews without interrupting an actual rotation. In February, when interview season is over, I go abroad to do an international rotation. Granted, that is a personal choice but still is far from a vacation.

My school has mandatory didactics for fourth years during March. Those are supposedly an easy time, but unfortunately, it means I cannot schedule a rotation during that time. With my schedule as it is I will still owe my school a mandatory home outpatient rotation in order to graduate. The only time it works in is during April. That is the last month I will be in school. To be taking a required rotation the last month of medical school is a little unheard of. In fact, I may have to beg to try to get it because they typically don’t let students do those rotations in April. There are a couple of reasons I can think of:

First, what if something went wrong and you got sick and couldn’t complete the required rotation? There would be no time to make it up.

Second, and most importantly, you’ve already matched. You can imagine that the effort put into a rotation post-Match Day may be a little haphazard.

Granted, I get some time from May to June. And I intend to take advantage of it. But my fourth year schedule is a little more hectic that I imagined it would be when I was a first year dreaming of the future.

Let me be clear, I know the next six or seven years of my life will be a whirlwind and I’m not really complaining about my fourth year schedule (okay, maybe a little) except that it is unexpected. Fourth year was supposed to be a little more laid back before you entered the rest of your life.

Oh well.

October 10, 2008 in Colin Son | Permalink


Your situation truly characterizes the unique nuances that can arise in the fourth year schedule. I am impressed with your time management approach that will yield rich experiences.. It's important to make every day that you can count and to remember that time has dimensions beyond the calendar grid. Thanks for the glimpse of your world.

Posted by: katherine | Oct 10, 2008 9:50:57 AM

Right on, Colin!

I see no end in sight for me either. I think the easy 4th year is a fantasy.

Posted by: thomas | Oct 10, 2008 1:40:03 PM

Great post Colin! Comparatively the 4th year schedule is way better than the 3rd year clerkships, however there seems to be a different level of stress. I keep feeling as though I've been sold a bill of goods by my predecessors who made it seem like I could just lollygag around and reap the harvest of 3 years of hard work during my senior year. In essence, for most of us, thus far, being a senior hasn't quite turned out how we expected. "Senioritis" has kicked in indeed, and it is fulminant.

Posted by: Marie | Oct 14, 2008 3:19:36 PM

you're doing it wrong.
July - off
Aug - away
Sept - sub-i
Oct - away
Nov - ER
Dec - outpatient orthopedics
Jan - inpatient PM&R
Feb - international away
March - off
April - rural medicine
May - off

Posted by: sunil | Oct 14, 2008 3:47:59 PM

No. You're doing it wrong. When do you plan to interview?

Posted by: Jerry | Oct 14, 2008 4:30:56 PM

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