1 | What is the NRMP (National Residency Match Program)?
The Match is a system designed to allow medical students who are applying for residency to be placed or “matched” into a residency spot at a US program in their chosen specialty. It is based on an algorithm which won a Nobel prize in 2012.
2 | How does the Match work?
The Match uses a computerized algorithm which attempts to prioritize the applicant’s preferences. After applying and interviewing at programs across the country, each applicant will create a rank list. This is a list of programs at which the applicant is willing to match, ranked in the applicant’s order of preference. Meanwhile, each program will create its own rank list of the applicants they interviewed.
Once these lists have been submitted, the Match algorithm will attempt to pair each applicant with their highest ranked program that listed them as well. Essentially, the algorithm first tries to match the applicant to its highest program; if not possible, it will move to the second program and so on. This is a dynamic process. Because there are many applicants on each programs rank list, as the algorithm works it considers all applicants and programs. Therefore, even if an applicant is ranked by a program, if enough higher ranked applicants match at that program to fill all the spots first, that individual will not match there.
Ultimately, the algorithm will work until as many residency spots are filled as possible. Most applicants will match, but some will not. Similarly, most programs will fill all their slots, but some will not. It all depends on the relationship between applicant and program rankings of one another.
3 | How does the Match differ from other applications?
This point is somewhat self-explanatory, but I still find it important to emphasize. The match is different from any prior application process that most medical students have experienced. This is because rather than potentially receiving multiple acceptances at different times and being able to choose among them, applicants will match to only one program. In other words, on match day (and not any sooner) each applicant will get their match spot at only one program (or none at all). This match is considered binding, and the applicant will be expected and required to matriculate to that residency program.
4 | Not all specialties use the same Match
The vast majority of residency specialties will use the match system run by the NRMP (National Resident Matching Program). These specialties all match on the same day in mid-March. A few specialties match early and some use other matching programs. These unique matching specialties include Ophthalmology which matches in January, Urology which also matches in January, and military residency programs which use their own matching system.
5 | What is the Match timeline?
The road to the match really begins with residency applications in the fall of fourth year. Applicants interview throughout the fall and into the early part of the new year. For most specialties, rank lists must be submitted around mid-February. The match results are released in mid-March.
A few days prior to actual match day (which is March 15th this year), applicants will find out whether or not they matched. They will not find out the actual program until later in the week on match day itself.
6 | What happens if I do not match?
As mentioned, applicants who do not match will find out on Monday of match week, a few days prior to actual match day. Fear not. For these applicants there is an alternative system called SOAP (Post-Match Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program). This system allows applicants who did not match to apply for residency positions which were unfilled. It starts on the Monday of match week and culminates on Thursday, which is match day itself. Those applicants who match via SOAP will generally know by match day.
Some applicants will not match in SOAP either or will opt not to take one of the spots available in SOAP. These individuals will need to wait and reapply the next year. Most applicants take this opportunity to complete research or other experiences which will strengthen their resume and increase their chance of matching the next year.
7 | What is couples matching?
Couples matching is a component of the process which allows couples to apply in parallel (even to different specialties) and try to match into programs which are as geographically close as possible. Each partner will submit a rank list. The two rank lists will be paired, and pairs of programs (which are geographically proximate) will be considered by the algorithm in the same manner as above.
The residency match is a unique system that is certainly not perfect, but strives to match applicants at the highest possible program while filling as many residency spots as possible. Though it seems complicated, hopefully this information demystifies the process a bit.
When the time comes for you to match, you will be well prepared. If you require assistance with any component of this process, from crafting your application to interviewing to creating your rank list, consider our outstanding services which can help with any and all of these steps. Good luck along the way!