Monday, January 31, 2011
Well, folks.  The deed is done.  Granted, it can be changed an unlimited number of times until 9pm on February 23rd.  But there's still a sense of finality.  I've ranked 8 programs, but will hopefully end up at my number 1!  I'd be happy at any of my top 3, though!  I thought now would be a good time to explain the whole Match process.  It's a foreign concept to most of the world.  Here's how it works:

First of all, the Match is the process by which 4th year medical students apply for and are placed into residency programs in their desired specialty.

During the third and beginning of fourth year of medical school, you decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.  Sounds easy, right?  Right... I talked about how I ended up deciding to go into Family Medicine in the post, "Battle Royale: Ortho v. Family".  Once you decide what specialty you're going to apply to, you start collecting necessary information for the online application (called ERAS).  This involved collecting licensing test scores (Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 2 CS), three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, transcript, and deans letter.  This mostly happens during the summer of your 4th years.

On September 1st, ERAS opens to programs, and students can send their application information to the programs they wish to apply to.  The number of programs people apply to varies greatly depending on specialty, location, future plans for fellowship, and whether or not you are "couples matching" (trying to end up the same place as a spouse).  I applied to 10 programs. 

In general, your applications should be sent to all desired programs by November 1st, which is when Dean's Letters are released from your school to the programs you applied to.  The dean's letter comes from the dean's office, and basically highlights everything in the rest of your application. 

Once the applications are sent to programs, you will (ideally) start to get interview invitations.  There can come in anywhere from September through November, and into December for some specialities (not family though).  Then you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to fit in all the interviews in different places.  It's good fun.

November - January is spent interviewing.  Interview days generally consist of dinner with residency the night before, a couple interviews with faculty members and residents, a tour of the clinic and hospital, explanation of the program and it's benefits, and lunch with residents and faculty.  Most of mine lasted from about 7:30-2:30. 

Once interviews are done, you decide how you want to rank programs.  Here's the tricky part.  The Match.  Why is it called The Match?  Well, because some computer somewhere MATCHES you and a program.  Basically, you rank the programs in the order of where you'd like to be.  Programs do the same with applicants they've interviewed.  A computer goes through the applicants list, and puts them into the program they rank #1.  This applicant is only bumped out of that program when there are enough people the program ranked higher than them to bump them out.  Confused yet?  I thought so.

Basically, it's an applicant system.  There is NO benefit to ranking in any order other than where you want to be.  Just because you think you have a higher chance of getting in somewhere doesn't mean you should rank it higher.  If you do, you may never get the chance to be put in the program you REALLY want to go to.

So, we have until February 23rd to submit a finalized rank list (officially, "Rank Order List").  After that date, computer magic happens.  On March 14th (Monday), everyone finds out IF they matched.  Yes, it's possible not to match.  This happens at noon.  At my school, if you didn't match, you receive a page at noon asking you to come to Student Services.  God forbid this happen to anyone, you enter something called the Scramble.  This involves calling all the programs who didn't fill their spots and begging to be let it.  It's stressful and anxiety provoking and terrifying.  I'm getting anxious just talking about it.  Shutter.  Given that DOESN"T happen, Monday at noon you are relieved to know you will be going to residency SOMEWHERE on July 1st.  Then, you wait until Thursday.  Thursday, March 17th is Match Day.  At noon, everyone finds out where they matched.  At my school, everyone gathers in one room, and then we countdown to noon, and then everyone goes to a table and gets their envelope and opens it.  Some families come.  Some people hide in the corner.  The is much joy and many tears. 

And that, my friends, is how the Match works. 

I hope that clarified the system for you...



About Me

I am a Family Medicine intern at a community hospital in Indiana, navigating the new world of being a physician. I am privileged to work in a field I love, where every day is a new and unpredictable challenge.
I am not only a doctor, but also a cyclist, runner, DIYer in the making, lover of the outdoors, traveler, and human.
Human, MD is a glimpse into the world of a young doctor who is just trying to stay true to herself through the grueling whirlwind of residency.


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