Every third Friday of March is a monumental day for thousands of medical students as they find out where they will be undertaking their residency for the next few years. On this day, called Residency Match Day, the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) releases the results for all applications on residency or fellowship training in the U.S.
If you’re a medical student, it’s important that you know and understand the process of Residency Match Day to help you better prepare and feel more confident about it.
The Match is a system that places medical students into a US residency program. It's crucial to secure a spot in one of these training positions. Successfully completing a residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is a key requirement to obtain a medical license.
In the 1940s, the competition between residency programs was so high that medical institutions scouted promising medical students early on in their training. In 1952, the Match was created to bring order to this process by providing a fair and orderly system in matching medical students with the right U.S. residency positions.
Today, the Match is the main system that ensures a uniform process across all residency programs and candidates looking to fill the training positions.
How the Match Process Works
To fully understand Residency Match Day, you need to know the residency matching process.
While it commonly begins at the start of your fourth year, it's helpful to start your preparations early by building a strong academic, professional, and extra-curricular portfolio. It's also important to research the residency programs offered in your chosen medical specialty.
You must then apply for the program using the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) which opens every September 15th. You application must include the following documents:
- Curriculum vitae (CV) or resume
- ERAS application
- Letters of recommendation
- Medical school transcript
- Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE)
- Personal statement and photo
- Licensing exam (USMLE/COMLEX-USA) transcript
Applicants can submit multiple applications to different residency programs. However, the Association of American Colleges (AAMC) notes that submitting too many applications doesn’t necessarily improve your results during Residency Match Day. Do note as well that some competitive specialties receive more than 60-100 applications at a time.
Once applications are submitted, between October and February, residency programs invite applicants for interviews at their institutions. Usually, applicants travel to the hospital, meet with program members, and visit the facilities. However, due to the global pandemic, interviews have been conducted via video calls.
After this, students are to create a Ranked Order List (ROL) of their highly desired programs. Residency faculty and program directors do the same thing — ranking students they see fit for the open slots. If both student and program show strong interest, they can become a match.
By mid-February, the NRMP finalizes the ROLs and enters them into the Registration, Ranking, and Results (R3) system to match applicants with programs. This software uses an algorithm that considers the applicants’ preferences as well as the institutions’ ratings for a match to occur.
On the Monday of Match Week (third week of March), students begin to learn whether or not they match into a residency program. On Residency Match Day, they discover where they will receive their training.
What Happens if You Don’t Match?
Applicants who haven’t matched are eligible for the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP), another matching process that occurs between Monday and Thursday of Match Week.
Many of the unfilled positions, following the completion of the R3 match process, are offered through the SOAP.
How to Ensure a Successful Residency Match Day
Residency Match Day has always been important, but also overwhelming for medical students. To help successfully secure a residency position, these tips can help ease the process:
- Browse the Open Residency & Fellowship Position page of the American Medical Association (AMA) regularly.
- Create a well-rounded ROL.
- Don’t alter your decisions/ranking based on where you think you stand the greatest chance of matching.
- Don’t panic if you don't match.
- Attend all interview opportunities.
- Stay calm and focus on your long-term goals.
- Take your time when applying — especially writing a personal statement, securing recommendations, compiling your CV, and reviewing all other documents.
Residency Match Day is truly a defining moment for medical students. On this day, they learn where they will conduct their residency program, which is essential to obtain their medical license.
If you need any help with your residency match, clinical rotations, or any clinical experiences, C.H.H.A is here. We work with international medical universities, students, and graduates. We can help you build a competitive U.S. residency application or prepare for your interview.
Contact us today to learn more.