In a few months, 4th year medical students all around the country will be putting on their caps and gowns celebrating the end of their student journey. They have gone into beast mode for the past 4years putting in long study hours, sacrificed their social lives, spent $$$$ to take national exams, and have acquired an insane amount of medical knowledge. Yes, eventually this grueling process gets them a medical degree, but what’s more special than graduation day is the 3rd Friday in March when they find out that they have a job: Match Day!
My dear medical student, you are now about to match into a residency program; eager to find out where you will embark on another 3-8+ years of specialty training!
Everyone doctor remembers their Match Day. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been 8 years since my Match Day. Now that I am an attending, it’s a very nostalgic experience to witness current 4th yr medical students participate in their Match Day extravaganza. I remember the week started with much excitement as we all stalked our inboxes awaiting the one email that will seemingly decide our faith; we find out if we Matched. Those who Matched got a confirmatory email, then spent a few more anticipatory nights wondering which program (from their submitted rank list) they have matched into. The week ends with students receiving an envelope with their Match results at 1pm the Friday of that week.
My rank list contained the same #1 and #2 programs for Emergency Medicine as my friend Marsha, and we seriously doubted that we BOTH would be accepted into the same program; it would be either me or her. Marsha was called to receive her Match acceptance letter first and I watched her open it, she screamed and cried with joy as she had matched into her #1 choice. As happy as I was for her, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of impending doom that this can only mean I was not accepted to the same program(also my #1 choice). Fortunately, the odds were in both our favors as we both matched into the same program, our #1 choice. Party Time!
Historically, the match rate for U.S seniors is 92-94% (~80% of whom will have matched into their top 3 choices). Not everyone matches into their top choice, and by no means does this mean a less than stellar training will be received or that these students had to endure years of discontent.
With such a large percentage of medical students successfully entering the match process, there are students who do not match into a residency program at all. For these students, this week can feel quite chastising and emotions run wild as the clock starts for these students to “scramble” for unfilled positions at various programs throughout the country. My advice is not to let this detour derail your career plans. Aside from the scramble process, explore the option to enter into preliminary year or transition year. This can be advantageous if you plan to re-apply to a residency program at the same program where you just did your prelim year. Also, take a look at your application to find out what areas can be improved before you re-apply next year.
Overall, Match week is a time of much angst as well as jubilation. Whatever life has in store for you this Match Day, remember that you ALL have worked hard to get here. The road ahead is equally exhilarating and challenging, in a much different way than what you went through in medical school and the skills set needed to navigate residency successfully isn’t going to be found in any medical text you will ever read. Advice on surviving residency is truly another story…
Here is my brief advice to the newly Matched student who has the adrenaline of the week coursing through their veins:
- Give thanks- Send thank you notes to those who took the time to write you those glowing Letters of Recommendations, as well as those who offered you their couches and beds to crash the night before your interview. Staying in an hotel is not always financially feasible. Through my interview journey, I spent nights on couches of friends and family who lived in various cities where I had scheduled interviews.
- Celebrate– Grab friends and family for a great celebration. There is without a doubt match day festitivies planned at most medical schools. So enjoy, and please imbibe responsibly.
- Don’t burn bridges – If your desire was to match at your home program but didn’t (or vice versa), be courteous and don’t forget to show up to current clerkships. After Match Day, “senoritis” kicks in but remain steadfast in your obligations as a student and as part of a medical team.
- Take a break– Hopefully you have planned clerkships well in advance allowing a 1-2 week period where you can escape for a mini reprieve before residency life starts.
- Plan your Move– Start looking for housing/apartment shopping, don’t forget to reach out to current graduating residents in your matched program. Many graduating residents will be relocating after graduation so you can score a great deal on a cool pad if you inquire early.
Best of luck and good thoughts to all the new docs in their new programs! Congrats on being a Maven in Medicine.
Tag us #mavensinmedicine and let us join in your Match week celebrations.