How Med Students Get Matched for Residency

March 20, 2014
Emily Hause

I feel like the belle of the ball!

I feel like the belle of the ball!

Hello my future med student readers! This is an exciting week in the medical school world because the fourth year medical students are learning where they have matched for residency! If you’re embroiled in the medical school application and admissions process, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re going to do a similar process again in a few years when you apply for residency positions. If you know nothing about the matching process, hopefully I can demystify it a little for you today.

As a fourth year medical student, in addition to rotating through various interesting specialties, doing research, and finishing up your required clinical rotations, you spend time flying around the country and interviewing for residency spots. The idea is that you’re trying to gather information about the residency programs and the program is trying to find out more about you. I know some students who flew to 30+ different places to interview!

After the interviews are done, both the programs and the students create a rank list. It must then be finalized and locked-in. Students are not allowed to change their minds after verifying and submitting their rank lists. Obviously this is a fairly stressful endeavor as you’re committing to a program that may or may not want you.

The schools’ lists and the students’ lists are then combined by the National Resident Matching Program. As far as I can tell, this is essentially like pledging a sorority. They have a secret list of ideal candidates and you have your ranked lists of ideal places to end up. However, unlike some sororities, the NRMP is very official and explicit in their selection process. As per their website, here’s how they make matches: “The process begins with an attempt to match an applicant to the program most preferred on that applicant’s rank order list (ROL).  If the applicant cannot be matched to that first choice program, an attempt is made to place the applicant into the second choice program, and so on, until the applicant obtains a tentative match or all the applicant’s choices on the ROL have been exhausted.”

So, on the third Monday in March, students are alerted to whether or not they’ve matched. If they haven’t matched, they then have the opportunity to scramble and fill any open residency spots. Then, four days later, the students each receive an envelope with their residency location in it. Most schools have a large ceremony where all of the fourth-year students receive their match assignments, since it’s an  important and often very joyous event. On Friday this week, quite a few lives will be changed forever by their residency matching system.

What are your thoughts on the matching system? What would you do differently if you were in charge?
Happy studying,

Emily Hause Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over eight years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.

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