Interviewing for residency is a stressful and often expensive experience. Students can spend thousands of dollars on travel and lodging. The newly initiated Helping Our Students Travel (HOST) program helps to alleviate some of the financial burden by matching randomly selected students with medical school alumni in Boston, New York and San Francisco – three pricey cities where many UCLA medical students interview for their residencies.
A 2015 study from the University of Vermont found that students apply to an average of 36 residency sites and interview with 12. Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) data report that, on average, students spend $3,900 on travel and lodging for their interviews. Costs are even higher in major cities; some students report spending nearly $8,000 during their interview process. In Boston and San Francisco, where UCLA students were hosted during the 2018-2019 interview cycle, students could expect to pay around $400 per night for a hotel room. According to the AAMC, at least half of the 50 largest medical schools in the United States have a HOST program to offset these costs.
UCLA medical student Amy Do-Nguyen interviewed at eight residency sites. “It’s important to try to save money during the process, because it is really expensive,” she says. Do-Nguyen and her classmate Jason Chen both interviewed in Boston. “For my interview dates, the cheapest hotels were $450 a night,” Chen says.
Albert Cha, PhD ’99, MD ’01, saw opening his home in San Francisco to students as a way of giving back to UCLA. “We have an extra guest room and are conveniently located to Stanford University, and we know how expensive hotels are in our area,” Dr. Cha says.
Saving students money during the interview process was the initial factor that led students and hosts like Dr. Cha to participate in the program, but the benefits of being in a home and forming lasting connections are why future residents will encourage their friends to apply to the HOST program, and alumni will continue to open their homes to students.
Do-Nguyen stayed with Meghan Beattie, MD ’12, in Boston. Dr. Beattie is completing her residency at the same hospital where Do-Nguyen interviewed. “It’s nice to talk to people and meet people who work there and to see how they feel about the area,” Do-Nguyen says. “My host was originally from California, like me, and it was nice to talk about how she adjusted to Boston.”
Chen, who was hosted by Dr. Cha in San Francisco and Ethan Brovman, MD ’13, in Boston, also enjoyed how relaxing his HOST experiences were. “It was a great being able to be in the area of my interview and have a nice setup, but it was even better to be able to talk with my hosts after my interviews,” Chen says.
Dr. Cha also valued the conversations he and his family had with Chen. “We have three children, two of whom are in high school, and they were interested in hearing about his experience applying for college and why he chose to go to the school he did.” Chen plans to keep in touch with his hosts.
All of the hosts who participated in the program this year said they are likely to host students again, and Chen and Do-Nguyen both would recommend participating in the HOST program to other students.
“Having a comfortable home and hearing the experiences of people from a similar place is really valuable,” Do-Nguyen says. Chen echoed the sentiment. “It was relaxing, and it was a privilege.” “Having our fourth-year students who are dispersed across the country and staying with alumni in their own homes is truly a hands-on approach to keeping our graduates informed on the current state of the medical school and helping our students save money on travel costs, while connecting one-on-one with alumni,” says Alumni Affairs Director Dana Schmitz.
The goal for next year’s interview cycle is to open up the HOST program to all students in the Class of 2020 applying to residency in Boston, New York and San Francisco.