Preparing for Residency

Match: Tips to help medical students fight rank-list uncertainty

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

AMA News Wire

Match: Tips to help medical students fight rank-list uncertainty

Feb 16, 2024

The only thing certain about submitting a rank-order list as part of the Match process is that each prospective resident is going to feel at least some level of uncertainty.

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Chantal Young, PhD, director of medical student wellness at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, counsels students through the residency-application process. She shared with readers the advice she’s been offering directly to medical students.

Submitting a rank-order list, as a medical student, is likely the biggest career decision you have made to date. But other, more significant decisions are going to follow it. And no decision can’t be undone.

“The perspective should be that no choice is final, and you are doing the best you can with the information you have today to make an educated guess about what is going to bring you the most fulfillment,” Young said.

How a program aligns with your life goals, not just your career goals, is an important part of finding the right fit in a residency program.

“Some of our students feel less willing to forgo their normal self-care,” Young added. “That could mean choosing less competitive residencies than they may have otherwise.”

The AMA Road to Residency series provides medical students, international medical graduates and others with guidance on preparing for residency application, acing your residency interview, putting together your rank-order list and more.

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Figure looking at a winding road

Residency program webpages and social media accounts are good resources for information, but nothing is better than hearing it from the source. “We are encouraging more communication with our alums at various sites,” Young said. “Getting them to get over that hump and reach out for guidance. Ask those questions they don’t feel like they are getting the chance to ask during interviews: What’s this specialty like? What’s this site really like?”

Think about these overlooked factors for your Match rankings.

You’ll never feel completely satisfied with your rank-order list. Knowing that going in can make things easier.

“The truth about rank lists is there is no perfect rank,” Young said. “There are just different ways to prioritize competing pros and cons. So students shouldn’t feel like they are trying to find the perfect list. Rather, they are making a list for what their best guess is about what will make them happiest at the time they make the list.

If a student has their “goals and priorities and values straight and try to choose a site based on those—not what somebody else wants for you or what you think you should want, but what you actually deeply value—that’s the best any of us can do.”

When creating a Match rank-order list, avoid these common missteps.

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