Making Your Match List

Dear 4th year medical students,

Now that interview season is over, it’s time to deal with the palpitations and second guessing – Match Day is just around the corner!

This is a scary time but I promise you’ll get through it. I just wanted to offer some advice for making your Match List, known officially as your rank order list. I linked the NRMP website which has some tips but I wanted to share my thought process for making my own list.

Using a Point System in a Spreadsheet

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of using this approach toward making your list, although I do think it has its merits. The reason that I’m against using it as your deciding system is that it is inherently flawed to assign arbitrary point values and weights to certain categories like pay, location, and prestige. How do you know that location is 2x more important than pay when you create your Excel spreadsheet? Location actually was super important to me and was almost non-negotiable in creating my list. For you, proximity to family, dating prospects, culture/hobbies etc. may all be important as well. Please don’t limit yourself by confining those to a formula.

That being said, I think that this system is useful in creating tiers of residency programs (e.g. Tier A = reach/highly desired but unlikely, Tier B = likely to match, Tier C = “safety” if there even is such a thing). Within tiers, the things that separate programs will be so specific that you are splitting hairs by using a point system. My top 3 programs vacillated often and the point system was useless since I ended up using my gut at the end of the day to some extent.

Take Attendance

Most of, if not all of you, are data driven and are probably going to use the point system spreadsheet with built in calculator that you downloaded from Reddit anyway. If you’re going to do that, at least balance it out with something less insane. If you were smart (not like me because I was a procrastinator), you wrote down your feelings after each of your interview on the back of your name tag/in your folder/in a journal etc. In addition to writing things like whether or not there is a food allowance for call shifts, hopefully you wrote things like how well attended educational sessions were, including morning report and noon conference). In my opinion, programs who highly valued education made sure that the floor was covered by at least the senior while the interns went down or by PAs and NPs if all residents went. Additionally, the quality of noon conference is a great indicator of the program. Is there a lot of resident participation? Do faculty get involved in getting questioned?

I use a similar attendance lens when I look at the resident happy hours/dinners. If they are well attended, one can assume that the residents get out on time AND still want to hang out with each other even though they see each other more than they see their own family members. Being on the other side, I do think that it is true that these happy hours/dinners are more for you as an applicant to judge us than it is to make us like you more (honestly there are so many applicants that it is more likely that a bad impression will hurt you rather than a good impression will help you). Use this time to see how the residents interact with each other, how honest they are about the program, and whether or not they are giving off the same energy in this setting as they were during the tour.

Get Opinions From Your Friends and Family

Unless they’re in medicine and specifically in your field, they probably have no idea what they’re doing. However, you should farm them for some questions like “do you think you could see me being happy here?” or “am I choosing this place for the right reasons?” I think sometimes we can convince ourselves into making up a BS reason for why a program is a better fit for us over another and our loved ones can see right through that. Conversely, a program may look great on paper and look like a perfect fit for you, but family and friends (and mentors) can give a realistic dissenting opinion. At the end of it all, the decision is yours but I have been in both of the situations mentioned above. In retrospect, I’m happy I involved my loved ones in helping me decide on my final list.

Got any other advice? Leave me a comment below or let me know on my Instagram!

– TS℞