Top Myths About the Residency Match

Medical Residency Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

Myth: You should rank each and every program which gives you an interview

In reality, if you place a program on your rank order list you are making a binding commitment to match to that program, assuming the algorithm matches you with it of course. Therefore if you receive an offer, you must be prepared to undertake multiple years of training in that location, with the faculty members that you met, etc. Therefore, consider whether you would in fact rather not have to train in this hospital – even if that means not training at all for the year.

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Myth: You should rank programs in the order that you believe you’ll match in

In reality, you should rank programs in the order of how much you actually believe you would enjoy them and enjoy working there. Whilst it may be tempting to rank programs in the order that you believe you performed well in (aka how well you performed at interview, or how you believe your statistics and approach match theirs), in reality you are much better remembering that the algorithm is designed to match your preference. Whilst it therefore may be tempting to spend hours or days agonising over a strategic order in which you can come as close as possible to matching your supposed number one choice, you are better ranking according to where you truly want to go, and letting the algorithm do its work.

Myth: Only rank your absolute favourite programs

In reality, despite only ranking programs that you will actively want to work in, you must still rank as many programs as possible. If you believe that you would find a program ‘acceptable’ then you must rank it, as you must try to develop a match list that is both long and full of programs that you would enjoy. Evidence has found that the shorter a ranking list, the higher the risk of not matching as a result. Therefore you must ask yourself whether not matching a program is worth it, or whether you should rank it despite it not being quite ideal.

Myth: You should go with your gut entirely

In reality, there is no one correct approach to the process. Some will go with their gut, some will create carefully weighted spreadsheets that sum up every factor they can consider. In reality, the algorithm itself is more complex than any method you could use, and you’re better to allow the algorithm to do its job. Therefore try to focus on what’s important to you – is it the highest quality training, or is it an area in which you can indulge your passion for the outdoors and get away from the hospital easily? Think about what’s important to you in life, and rank based on these factors.

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Myth: Writing letters to applications stating that you will rank them first is worthwhile

In reality, writing ‘love letters’ to programs won’t have any effect on their decision making. Programs will have a set number of factors that they use, year-on-year, and this will not include a letter that you have written on the off-chance that it could increase your odds.

Myth: IMGs won’t get a spot at the best schools

According to Yale, ‘IMGs enrich our residency, and I’m sure we’ll have many in next year’s class.’ You should therefore check with individual programs to see which will accept IMGs, and which won’t.

Myth: Only grades and board scores matter

Whilst these raw scores make a huge difference, they don’t decide the application. In reality, your evidence of personal skills like leadership, your letters of recommendation, your personal statement and interview are just as likely to have an impact as your USMLE scores.

Myth: If you don’t match, you will receive a spot through SOAP

SOAP is used to fill vacancies left unfilled after the algorithm. If program directors decide not to participate in SOAP, they are not allowed to fill their positions until SOAP concludes at the end of Match Week. In the latest available data, there were 1,768 positions available in SOAP. 7,826 applicants who submitted a rank list remained unmatched. In other words, 6,078 applicants remained unmatched, even if all SOAP positions were filled.

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