So you’ve scheduled an interview at your dream school and bought your plane ticket, but where will you stay the night before the interview?
Interviewees have several options available to them when choosing lodging. Oftentimes, the obvious choice is a hotel room located close to the school, but this option can be expensive. Staying with a student host can be a great alternative.
If you have browsed the Student Doctor Network Forums, you are probably aware that student hosting exists, but you might not understand exactly how it works or why it’s a good option.
Many schools offer student hosting programs to help applicants better bear interview costs. While it might seem a bit daunting at first to stay with a stranger, students were once in your shoes and understand the challenges of the interview trail. As a result, these kind souls have volunteered to help by offering a free night’s stay.
Also, student hosts are not admissions committee spies, as you might fear. No need to worry that your Sponge Bob jammies will be the topic of the hour at the next committee meeting or that your failure to put the toilet seat down will lead to an immediate rejection.
In addition to free lodging, there are several other benefits of staying with a student host that might not be readily apparent. An interview is not only a chance for the school to decide if you fit with their vision, but also for you to decide if a school meets your needs. Who better to provide valuable information about life at a particular school than the students that attend on a daily basis?
Students can give you insight that you might not otherwise get during the formal tour or question and answer sessions. You will see how the student lives and have a captive audience for questions that you might feel uncomfortable asking in front of a large group or other interviewees. The feedback you receive about the school might be more candid.
Having an insider to contact may help to answer questions about the interview day itself. How will you get to the school? Where exactly is the admissions office? How long does it take to get there? What can I expect at my interviews? Your host will be able to answer these questions. Furthermore, since interview days often begin at the same time as class, you might be able to catch a ride to school with your host or take public transportation together. Travelling with someone else is a great way to reduce the chances of a catastrophe on the way to your interview.
By now, you are probably thinking that staying with a host may be an even better option than a staying in a hotel. There are, however, a few drawbacks to consider as well.
Since you are staying in someone else’s home, you will need to respect their space and be considerate. While hosts do offer to help, it’s important to remember that they are busy students and might not be able to spend all of their time with you. Also, you might be sleeping on a futon or couch as opposed to the comfortable bed you would likely encounter in a hotel. Accordingly, you may need to bring sheets or towels with you. Conditions vary from host to host so be sure to ask about your concerns before you travel.
Now that you’ve decided you would like to stay with a student host, how do you go about setting it up? Lists of students willing to host applicants are frequently sent out along with interview information or posted on schools’ status pages or websites. If not readily accessible, a call or e-mail to the admissions office could clear up whether or not this option is available to you. Schools may be able to provide you with the appropriate contact information if you ask. If it is up to you to make arrangements from a list of available students, make sure to pick someone near the middle or bottom of the list as those at the top are most often called.
Once you’ve found a host, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with them and let them know of your travel plans and itinerary. This way you can be sure that he or she will be home when you arrive. Also, if you are not familiar with the city you are travelling to, your host might be able to offer some advice about the best way to get into town from the airport, bus, or train station. Who knows, you could even get lucky and score a ride from the airport with your host!
At the end of your interview day, you’ll be glad that you stayed with a student host. So wouldn’t it be nice to give your host a small token of appreciation? After all, he or she helped you out immensely and, if nothing else, saved you some cash. A $10-15 gift card to a local store, restaurant, or coffeeshop would suffice. At the very least, when you do become a medical student, consider returning the favor by becoming a student host yourself.