Match Day

Match Day; the day in mid-March when fourth year medical students find out their fate. The match is binding; there are no take-backs, no opt-outs, no second chances to change your mind. The match is an algorithm which determines who goes where; residency programs rank the applicants they interviewed, and applicants rank the programs they interviewed at. The more programs you rank, the more likely you are to match. It works like this:

Applicant A interviewed at X, Y, and Z programs, and let’s say for the sake of clarity, that applicant B interviewed at the same programs. And let’s say that applicant A ranked Y, Z, X whereas applicant B ranked X, Y, Z. If X program ranked B at all, B will get matched to X program, at least initially. But let’s say A doesn’t get ranked by Y or Z (or ranks lower than other applicants), and only gets ranked by their third choice, X. Even though X was the first choice of B, if X school ranked A higher than B, A will get the spot. The matching algorithm will then aim to match B to their second choice, Y. Thus, even though B ranked it higher, the program ranked A higher, and therefore A got the spot.

This is why fourth years are encouraged to rank the schools based on where they want to go, not based on where they think they will get in. Basically, there’s no need to rank your safety program higher than you otherwise would, and there’s no reason not to rank out of reach programs very highly. Clearly, when it comes to the match, out of reach is relative; if a program interviewed you at all, you certainly stand a chance of getting accepted.

This year’s match day at my medical school was by all accounts a great success. Sometimes I am amazed by how stupid some medical students are when you talk to them, and yet, how good they appear on paper. It just goes to show that intelligence is quite meaningless when it comes to these exams; they are just a reflection of your work ethic and preparation. Which is not to say that the latter are not important in medicine, but is to say that I would rather have an intelligent physician who can work through a proper H&P, than a book-smart numbskull who is so vapid that they can barely carry on an intelligent conversation. But perhaps that’s just me.




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