I’m sure many people have been seeing posts online from medical students that say “I matched!” or “I matched to this program!” You might be wondering what that means. The Match system is a process for 4th year Medical Students applying to Residency. Match Day occurs in the spring every year, typically in March. On Match Day, medical students find out where they will be completing Residency training for their desired specialty. This article will clarify the Match Day process for friends, family, loved ones, aspiring medical students and medical students soon to match.
Applying to Residency
Applying to Residency is a lot like applying to Medical School as far as the application process. You fill out your online AAMC ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) application: Name, Hometown and other personal information, USMLE Step Scores, Extracurricular activities (leadership, volunteering, community service) and Research (abstracts, publications, presentations). You also have to submit a quality Personal Statement and at least 3 solid Recommendation Letters. For Residency applications, you typically include only activities that were completed during the 4 years of Medical School and significant things from Undergrad and if you completed a Graduate Degree beforehand. So long and behold, these applications will follow you for the rest of your life lol, even for Fellowship too. Shoutout to my Pre-Meds, hold on to those spreadsheets with all your volunteer logs. You will need those templates again soon lol.
Once your Residency applications are submitted in September, you will be emailed by programs about whether you will be invited for a Residency interview. You then go on interviews until you reach the number of interviews based on the strength of your application that you need to ensure a safe match. (Interview season for me this past year lasted mid October to end of January, but varies for everyone.) There are many charts and tables out there about the statistical data about number of interviews needed to match. This varies by specialty so please take a look at more specific information if needed. (Also, all travel costs are on the applicants, stay tuned for that blog post in the future.)
The Match Process
After you complete all of your interviews, you then rank each of the programs that you interviewed at in numerical order (1-10, for example). This is done by the end of February through the NRMP System (National Resident Matching Program). The NRMP System is the computer algorithm that runs through every list of every applicant and every Residency program to make a match. This algorithm system has won a Nobel Prize. Your number 1 ranked program will be your absolute favorite and 10 being your least favorite program/less desired location. While the applicants are submitting their lists, Residency Programs are also ranking their preferred applicants. This is also done in numerical order of who they feel would be the best fit as future residents in their program. In order to match at a program through the NRMP Match System, both the applicant and the program have to both be ranked and match each other. It’s essentially like Tinder you both have to swipe right! In mid March, it’s finally the long awaited Match Week. On the Monday of Match Week you find out if you find out if you matched into the specialty that you applied to. Friday is the day you find out where you will be actually going. (On Monday, unfortunately not everyone matches… there are more applicants than there are spots and some specialties are more competitive than others.)
Keep in mind, this process literally lasts months. Talk about patience! Applications are submitted in September. Interview invites occur in October. You interview at different schools across the country from October to February. You submit your numerical rank list of preferred Residency programs at the end of February. Then you finally found out IF you matched in March and where you will be moving to in 2 months. (Residency starts July 1st every year.)
Alas, You have finally Matched! Find out where on Match Day
So on the actual Match Day, you find out where you will be moving to or staying if you matched to your home school. How it is typically done is the NRMP sends a list to your Medical School the day before of where all of the students in your class matched. The dean’s office of each medical school then prints out Match letters for everyone. They put these letters in an envelope for the Match Ceremony on Friday. On Friday in a large auditorium, you and all of your classmates are there with their family and friends anxious to finally know your futures.
At my school, names are randomly drawn out of a bowl, your name is called on the microphone and you go up on stage to grab your letter. You then get your letter and walk over to your family in the auditorium and open it up huddled together. So even though you’re in a public auditorium, you still only open it around a few people. There may be screams of joy or cries from disappointment. Your whole life literally changes after opening up an envelope, insane. This past year was very different due to the coronavirus. With a ban on large gatherings in auditoriums, many of used Zoom to have a virtual Match Day where we opened up our own personal emails.
Whew. This is a lot to take in. If it seems crazy, it’s because it is. Imagine being in the midst of all of this and trying to stay calm for literally over 6 months. One thing about Medicine is that is nearly impossible to solidify plans for the future. Match Day has been like this for as long as time. Is it the best way to go about doing this? I honestly can’t say. Like many things in Medicine, it’s how things have just always been done. This was a lot of information and a very quick brief overview, if you have any further or more specific questions please let me know in the comments below.
Pictured in this photo are my friends and I on Match Day! Specialties that we matched into include Pediatrics, Med-Peds, Dermatology, Ob-Gyn, Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine. Say hello to your future Physicians!