Match 101: 6 Things To Know Before Certifying Your Rankings
On Friday, March 15, 2019, thousands of medical students will open an envelope that will detail where they will be training for the next several years of their life. They have spent countless months preparing their applications and interviewing around the country, and now they anxiously await the next step in their journey! Have you ever wondered as a medical student what you need to do to prepare for the Match, or as a fourth year medical student what is it like going through the match? What do interns have to say to their younger selves? What do the Chief Residents have to say about the interview process and Match? Read below to find out!
1. Location, location, location.
Residency is going to be hard wherever you go. Location is one of the most important factors in choosing a residency program. Do you want to be in close proximity to your family, friends, and support system? Will that particular location expose you to the patient population that you desire to serve?
2. Do you feel comfortable with the program’s culture and people?
Can you imagine yourself working with the people you met on the interview day and living in that city for the next several years? Do you see yourself becoming friends with the current residents? The interview dinner is a great time to achieve a sense for these things. If you can attend the dinner, you should. Attending the dinner will not improve your application, but if you are unprofessional, it can certainly hurt you. Just be yourself and get to know the residents!
3. Is the program’s schedule a good fit for me?
Many programs are starting to switch to X Y schedules (i.e., 4 1) which means that you would have dedicated 4 weeks of inpatient time followed by 1 week of outpatient. The reason that programs are switching to this type of schedule is to separate inpatient and outpatient duties and to guarantee “golden” weekends every couple weeks to reduce burnout. Moreover, see if the program requires you to take your vacation all at once or if you can split it up week-by-week throughout the academic year.
4. Will the program’s educational environment suit my needs?
Are the residents too busy to attend morning report and/or noon conference? That could suggest they may be slightly overworked during the day. Some individuals prefer programs that have larger patient volume as they “learn by doing” while other individuals will prefer programs with lower caps and greater time for didactics. Another data point to use when evaluating program is their ABIM board pass rate. Ideally you want to go to a program with a >90% one-time board pass rate.
5. Will the program let me reach my career goals?
If you are an applicant that desires to go to fellowship after residency, you should evaluate the fellowship match rates and locations for the past couple years when evaluating your rank order list. Moreover, if the residency program you are interviewing at has a powerhouse fellowship in your desired specialty, see if the fellowship program takes graduates from the residency program. If you would like to pursue a career in primary care or hospital medicine, you should also evaluate where the residents find these jobs after graduation.
6. Forego the thank you notes/emails.
Finally, should you be sending thank you letters/emails as you make your rank list or after your interviews? The answer to this question is a resounding NO. The Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine, recommends that candidates do not send thank-you letters as it should not have a bearing on your likelihood of matching. Once you have received an interview invite, that program WANTS you to be a resident at that program. Your interview day in addition to your ERAS application are what will determine if you match somewhere. In fact, the NRMP is starting to crack down on post-interview communication and programs are advised not to respond to emails unless there is a question about the program within the email.
The Match is an exciting time. You will be embarking on a new part of your academic journey. Regardless, of HOW the Match turns out (if you get your top choice, middle choice, or last choice), you will be a physician. Residency is what you make it out to be. The programs just provide the tools to guide you in the process, but in the end it is your motivation and dedication to patient care that will allow you to grow into an amazing physician. Good luck!