Residency training is a crucial time in the career of a medical student. This hands-on training period helps new doctors gain an understanding of specific medical specialties. However, the number of medical school graduates exceeds the number of residency positions.

That’s why it is important to learn about ‘The Match’, the system that controls residency placements and helps medical graduates gain a deserving residency program. The better prepared you are for the process, the more likely you are to secure your residency.

What is Match Day?

Residency positions in the United States are awarded to eligible medical graduates through a centralized and computerized system called ‘The Match’. Candidates are matched with programs based on a rank-order list. This means if a program gives a candidate a high rank, then it is matched with candidates who have also given that same program a high rank.

‘The Match’, which originated in 1952, is the day when the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) officially declares results to medical graduates who are looking to join residency training. The NRMP is a non-government organization in the U.S that is responsible for placing applicants in residency. Match Day falls on the third Friday of March and is eagerly awaited by medical graduates.  

The Match Day process

The Match Day process begins around September when medical students submit their applications through The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), a centralized online application service. The application is sent with the following prerequisites:

  • A completed ERAS application
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE or ‘Dean’s Letter’)
  • Medical school transcript
  • Photograph
  • USMLE/COMLEX-USA (licensing exam) transcript 

As well as the above, international medical graduates need to include an ECFMG Status Report along with a Postgraduate Training Authorization Letter (PTAL) or ‘California Letter’ if they are keen to train in California. 

Students can also submit multiple residency program applications to improve their chances of getting accepted. 

After this, the interview process begins between October and February when applicants are screened by the medical institutes. A Ranked Order List (ROL) is then created which is used by Match to allow students to rank residency programs and vice versa. 

The ROL has a list of residency programs that medical students can rank as per their preference. You give higher ranking to programs that you are interested in and lower ranking to the programs that don’t meet your desired criteria. Similarly, residency programs make their own list of preferred candidates to interview. 

This list gets finalized by February and ROL is fed into NRMP which optimizes applicants and programs using a mathematical algorithm that is applicant centric. 

Tips for a successful residency Match

Give yourself time 

Applying for a residency program is an important task that you must invest time into. Get excellent letters of recommendation and ensure that your medical school curriculum vitae contains a strong personal statement. Stay authentic, avoid making any errors on your application and ensure that you show up to all interviews. This will give you a chance to visit hospitals and talk to the faculty in person. 

Think about the rank list 

You should thoroughly think over your ranked residency program list. Be sure to list all the programs that you have been interviewed for. However, if you don’t fit into a certain program, it’s best to skip it, as the last thing you want is to gain a residency program you have no interest in. 

Don’t stress if you are unmatched 

So, what happens if you are unmatched? First, don’t stress as there are other options available. There is a medium called Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) that allows eligible unmatched students to apply for available residency positions.

Every year, hundreds of Saba graduates match at leading hospitals across the United States and Canada. In 2019-2022, 94% of Saba graduates gained excellent residency placements across multiple disciplines, click here to check out the results of recent matches for Saba students.

Start on your journey to Match Day, by applying to Saba today. To learn more about the MD program and how we successfully prepare you for the USMLE exam click here.