This was a common occurrence last year during rotations:
Physician, after asking a difficult anatomy question: What year are you?
Scott: Oh, I'm a third year.
There was great comfort in saying those words - he had just finished two years of book work, and even if he was at the end of his third year and had completed many rotations and "pimping sessions" (where the doctor grills the med student with complex questions on disease function or drugs), he still had an excuse for not knowing the answer... or by knowing the answer, he was some how more impressive.
That excuse is gone.
And fourth year can be intimidating. Some audition rotations give their fourth year students great responsibility because the next year they will be doctors charged with the care of patients. On the other hand, some audition rotation sites will have plenty of interns (first year residents), residents, fellows, and faculty who have received their doctor status. Fourth year students are then merely given the opportunity to shadow. No matter what the experience is, in audition rotations the student has a glimpse of what their working life would be like if they were a resident there.
Even though we've begun fourth year, the schedule and process of fourth year medical students is still so mysterious to me. There is little to no direction from the school (Scott may receive emails from the school's rotation office, but that rarely gets relayed to me). The decision of where to do audition rotations and where to fulfill school rotation requirements is all up to the student. Scheduling of those rotations is all up to the residency hospital systems, so your fourth year schedule is at the mercy of every residency coordinator.
When do you start applying to residencies? When are interviews supposed to occur? How does the match really work (in layman terms, please)?
This is about the time when I really wish there was a class ahead of us, and I could have spent the last few years watching them mess up and learning from their mistakes. Alas, we are the first graduating class on this campus.
Using my finely honed research skills, I have found some helpful articles linked below. But truly, if someone out there has gone through this mysterious process and can offer advice, I would be overjoyed to read said advice.
Applying for Residencies
AAMC: The Cost of Applying for Medical Residency
NRMP Match: Tips and Reminders
AAMC: Roadmap to Residency
DIT: When Should I Schedule Interviews?
DIT: 6 Tips for Residency Interviews
Chief Resident Interview Tips