How to Prepare for Residency Match Day


Before Submitting NRMP Rank List…

Congratulations, you have finished interviewing at residency programs. You are ironing down your NRMP rank list and soon will be clicking “Certify”. What should you do now?

Ignorance is Bliss

Take a seat. Expel that sigh of relief. The hard work is done—you have flown around the country interviewing, ranked several excellent programs, and perhaps grown a few grey hairs in the process. Now is the calm before the storm. I have personally enjoyed this time with one-too-many massages, expensive brunches, and a ClassPass subscription. Do what relaxes you.

“Second Looks”: Do it For You

Some applicants return to their top programs and do a “second look,” attending rounds and lectures or meeting with the program director or chair. The use of “second looks” depends on the specialty and program you are applying to; some specialties do not allow second looks. Programs advertise that they do not factor “second looks” into ranking decisions, particularly due to the added cost of travel and lodging which may place applicants without financial flexibility at a significant disadvantage. If you choose to take the money and time to do a second look, do it for yourself, in order to learn more about your top programs. If you cannot attend a second look, there are other ways to express interest in a program.

Call (or Have Someone Call) Your Number One

After deciding on a number one program, the applicant can choose to contact the program to let them know. Depending on the specialty-specific rules, this can either be direct contact between the applicant and program, or the applicant may have to ask his/her program director or program chair to call and inform the program. The jury is out on whether contacting one’s top program really impacts any part of the match process. However, as long as you follow your specialty’s rules for post-interview contact, there’s little harm in following the norm.


After Submitting NRMP Rank List…

Once your rank list is submitted, approximately one month remains until opening the envelope that seals your fate for the next 3 to 7 years. How should you use this time to prepare for what is to come?

Invite Your Close Family and Friends to Match Day

It is impossible to predict the complex emotions that will overwhelm you on Match Day. I suggest you only invite family and friends around whom you are comfortable shedding a tear—whether it is happy or sad. There is always graduation for those whom you do not invite to Match Day.

Don’t Undersell the Importance of Monday

As Match Day looms closer, you realize there is a very important day preceding it. On the Monday of Match Week, affectionately called Un-Match Day, you will receive an email in your inbox telling you whether or not you matched. This is a big deal. Matching is a huge accomplishment—it means that coming out of this process, an institution has hired you to care for their patients. Remember to celebrate!

Make Great Dinner Reservations for Friday

If there is any day to treat yourself, it would be Match Day. You’ve worked tirelessly through four years of medical school and it all culminates to this moment. It’s a time to celebrate, eat great food, and spend time with loved ones. Just be sure to book the restaurant reservations ahead of time.

For Every Residency Program Listed on Your NRMP Rank List: Imagine Opening an Envelope with That Program Listed on it.

Whether we like it or not, Match Day is on the horizon. In the not-so-far future, the envelope will be in our hands. Whether it is on stage in front of the medical school or on flat ground surrounded by friends and family, opening the Match Day envelope is sure to be an intense and nerve-wracking moment.  Hope for the best, but prepare for anything!

Did I Mention Relax?

In between the stressful contemplations of where you might end up next year, do not forget to enjoy this time. This is it. After this phase of fourth year, you will embark on a difficult and grueling path towards becoming an excellent physician in residency. This is the time to see friends and family. This is the time to spend those precious 2-day weekends going to wine country or up to the mountains to ski.


Enjoy this time leading up to Match. Overanalyze and stress out all you want, if you’re so inclined, but don’t forget to relax, cherish your medical school friendships, and be as excited as you are terrified.


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