Improving medical students

Understand the Match

Posted by medliorator on February 5, 2008

For those who haven’t yet seen Graham’s fantastic piece on the Match

while you’re figuring out where you would like to train for residency (based on a number of factors like reputation, location, research opportunities, etc.) you’re preparing an application for these residency programs. It’s a big electronic folder of things like grades (if your school has them), board scores…, letters of recommendation, evaluations from your time working in the hospital, extracurricular activities, research, and a one-page personal statement. So you submit that to a big centralized clearinghouse called ERAS, which charges you a fee based on how many places you apply to. Depending on how competitive your specialty is…, you may end up applying to an insane number of programs. Like 40. This can be $500-$600 just to apply.

get your application in ASAP… residency programs can start downloading parts of it as soon as you pay… offering you interviews whenever they want. Technically, they don’t have your full application until November 1, when your medical school releases your “Dean’s Letter,” a summary of your performance during medical school and sometimes has a ranking, grade, or keyword (”Graham is a good candidate,” vs “Graham is an outstanding candidate”) to differentiate students at the same medical school.

between late October and early November you’ve heard from most programs via email as to if or when they’re going to offer you an interview. For some of the more competitive programs, you may only get offered one or two dates…. It’s then a scramble to quickly email/call the programs back and confirm the date you want… you are paying for this yourself.

You’ll usually interview with 3 or 4 faculty or residents…. You get a tour, breakfast and lunch, and often there’s a social event the night before to get to meet the residents outside of the hospital environment. They tell you the specifics about the residency program, why the program is unique or special, you get a chance to ask questions. (In fact, often the most common question you’ll hear is, “So, what questions do you have?”)… you gain a ton by going to the institution and seeing it yourself.

the med student ranks all the places he or she interviews. The residency program ranks all the candidates they interview. Then a big crazy computer program (The NRMP, lovingly known as “The Match”) … matches everyone up. There’s a good explanation of how it works here. The Match favors the resident, so if two programs rank you #1, but you rank program A higher than program B, you go to program A.

Everyone finds out where they match this year on March 20, 2008… students on the East Coast would find out at noon their time, and on the West Coast we’d find out at 9am… July 1, or around there, you start your internship. You are contractually obligated to go where you’re placed.

There is a terrible thing called “Black Monday,” which happens the Monday before Match Day, where people who didn’t match at any program find out, and then have to enter “The Scramble,” where they quickly try to find an open residency spot somewhere, often not in their chosen field.

How the Match Works [Over My Med Body!]


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