Well, have you?
Don’t worry, we’re not trying to rush you into making a decision! However, you should be thinking about how you’re going to rank the programs you applied to, and if you’re even going to rank all of them.
If you followed our advice from our other posts and/or in our eBook, you should’ve been collecting information on the programs and should be getting emails from current house officers. Obtaining inside information is crucial for you to assess if a program is a good fit for you! Due to the holiday season, some people won’t reply until after the New Year (ie. now). And some will not reply at all – that’s why it’s important to email multiple people from the same program!
How hard can it be to rank programs? After all, it’s just a list!
It might not be as simple as you think!
I can’t speak for anyone else, but it is very easy to overthink every single decision and change the rank order list many times – that’s what I did a few years ago.
Should I rank program X first or second? If I rank it second will I not match there? What am I supposed to do and what is the best way to go about this?
What about another scenario? I would really like to go to program X; everyone says it’s great and the current interns/residents love it there! I’m going to rank it #1! But wait, it’s so competitive and I couldn’t visit, so do I really have a chance, or should I rank program Z first since they contacted me for an interview and I really like it as well?
Finally consider this – I applied to program Y, but now I’m not sure if it’s a good fit for me. Should I rank it or not? If I decide not to, and then don’t match anywhere else, was it my fault?
All of these scenarios probably sound familiar, huh?
There are really no straightforward answers for the above questions. The reason for that is that we’re all different. As mentioned above, for some people it might be quite easy – for example, they know exactly which programs to rank on the top 3, and it doesn’t matter to them how they rank other programs. This was not the case for me. When I was in your shoes, I carefully thought about every single one of my rank slots.
Remember that you can only match to a program if they have ranked you. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter if you ranked them #1 or #50. And although you want to think about your chances of ranking high at a certain program, don’t be too fixated on it. There are many other things to consider – the main one being if the program would be a good fit for you!
Everyone is different.
For some people, it doesn’t really matter where they end up as long as they match. After all, it’s either a 1 year internship or a 3 year residency and in the end, you’ve accomplished your goals. Others would prefer to wait to match at the program of their dreams.
What did we do?
In case you’re wondering, I only applied to 10 programs and pretty much went through the same process both times I applied for residencies. I didn’t match the first time I applied. What did I do in the meantime? I worked to make myself a better candidate and have a better VIRMP application for the following year. My wife had a completely different experience – she didn’t apply to the match for a residency, and took a position that was offered outside of the match in January. Clearly this wasn’t typical, but you never know what can happen!
Looking back, there are a few things we’d have done differently: 7 things we would have done differently for the VIRMP Match
Here are a few tips on how to rank programs:
– You don’t have to rank every program you applied to!
– Do you have a preference between academic vs private practice? If so, rank those programs higher.
– What are your main goals for an internship? Do you want to become an ER doctor afterwards? Then programs with a high ER caseload are more desirable in order to gain more ER experience.
– Do you have certain areas of the country you don’t want to move to? Is your partner currently employed and unable to move? Can you handle separation from your partner and/or family?
– Make sure the programs you’re applying to feel like they’d be a good fit for you. If you don’t like ER but are ranking a program that is 65% ER, you may not end up a happy camper!
Bottom line, you want to rank your favorite program #1 and go down the list until you rank your least favorite program last (but that you still think it would be a good fit).
Still confused on how the algorithm works?
Dr. William Thomas from VIN-Foundation very clearly described how it works on a Student Doctor Network forum post:
“The algorithm always attempts to match you (the applicant) with your #1 ranked program. If that program has ranked you, the algorithm will tentatively match you there. You will stay matched there unless and until an applicant comes along that the program has ranked higher than you. At that point, the algorithm will cancel your match with your #1 program and attempt to match you with your #2 program. And so on.”
The algorithm will always match you with your highest pick, assuming the program ranked you higher than other candidates.
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, rank a program if you know beforehand that you do not want to go there.
Remember that you can only match to programs you rank.
Therefore, if you match there, you don’t have much of a choice other than accepting the position. If you don’t go and don’t have a good reason, you’ll be blacklisted from the Match for 3 years. And no one wants that!
Your mentors at your school or internship program are always great sources of information and advice! Don’t pass on it!
Lastly, don’t forget to check the 7 things we would have done differently for the VIRMP match mentioned above. There’s nothing better than help others avoid the mistakes we made in the past!
And while there’s a lot of material on the blog about the Match, we added even more information and detail to our eBook, How to Navigate the Veterinary Matching Program. Make sure to check it out!