The Match The Lottery of Medical School

by Jason

March is an extremely exciting and nerve wrecking time for fourth year medical students across the country.


It's the month of the MATCH.

In one week all of their hard work comes to an end where you will either find out you have matched into a residency program or you have not.

Here's the journey to get to this point.

You spend all of 4th year doing elective rotations at hospitals in the specialty you want to match into along with some core rotations that you will need to complete to satisfy your medical school graduation requirements.

At the same time you have completed your Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) which is a central clearing house for everyone attempting to match. Just think of ERAS being equivalent to your common application when you were applying to college.

Once your ERAS is submitted you then wait to hear back about getting interview invites to all the programs you have applied to.

Interviews usually take place between October through December.

And you will certainly need an interview if you want to match in March.

Once interviews are complete the fun really begins.

As an applicant you have to submit a rank list.

A rank list is where you rank your programs in order from where you would most like to attend to least like to attend.

At the same time the residency programs rank applicants from who they would most like to accept to least like to accept.

Now here's how it turns into a lottery for all intents and purposes with the match.

A computer actually takes all the applicants' rankings and program rankings and with some fancy algorithm decides who is going to be matched to which programs.

To ensure you match it is ideal that you rank a residency program number one and they also rank you number one. Think of the analogy of picking players for a sports game. Everyone lines up and the captains start picking who they want on their teams.

Similar thing is taking place with the match except the captain in this case would be the computer.

Hopefully you have calm nerves because the match process is drawn out.

The week of the match you will receive an email informing you whether you have matched or not.

At this point you do not know the name of the residency program, it's just to let know if any programs have selected you.

If you are selected then this is great and you just wait until the end of the week to find out where you have matched.

For those who have not matched things get very "hairy" to say the least.

There's a list that comes out of all the programs that have openings. In a process called SOAP you can start applying to these open programs and hope you are selected to be matched. I won't get into all the details of how it works but the overall goal is to do everything to ensure someone does end up matched to a residency position.

Sometimes if you don't match it means you have to reapply to the same specialty or realize you aren't competitive enough and change your specialty choice to something less competitive.

Let's say you were informed that you had in fact matched.

You have a week of anxiety and no clue as to what will be your next destination to complete your medical training.

And then on a Friday at noon everything changes.

All results are revealed.

Most medical schools have a match party.

Everyone gathers in a large room and you are called up to receive your match envelope which has the name of the program you matched into.

This is a culmination of all your hard work and studying because not only are you a doctor but you know where you will be spending the next phase of your career as you learn how to treat patients specifically within your specialty.

Basically, everyone across the country on Friday at the same time will know where the next stages of their career will be if they have matched.

What are your thoughts about the MATCH? How do you feel knowing you have a week of not knowing where you will end up? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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