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Interview season is coming to a close. Some are relieved to be finished with endless traveling, hotels, dry cleaners, and plane tickets. You can finally get back home, resume a predictable schedule, and play catch-up on that which you left untended at home.

Others might lament returning to “normal life,” saying goodbye to jet-setting, and getting wined and dined all over the country by programs trying to garner your interest.

No matter which camp you fall into, when interview season ends, it is time to form a rank list! All your work since last summer (and since you started medical school!) will be distilled into this list that will decide your fate.

How to form your residency rank list at the end of interview season:

1. Finalize and certify your residency rank list. Do it NOW.

It would be the greatest travesty if a clerical error kept you out of residency. DO NOT put yourself in a position where certifying your rank list is something you will “get around to,” or plan to do in the 11th hour on the day of the deadline, only to find your internet is down or your reminder didn’t go off.

When you are done interviewing, put a preliminary list together and certify it. Do it today. Even after certification, you can rearrange your list and re-certify. You are better off certifying a tentative list and revising it than putting ANY possibility of not having a certified rank list by the deadline. 

The deadline for rank order list certification in 2020 is February 26, 2020

2. Leave the residency pros and cons list at the door

Of course, organizing your rank order list is a big decision, and you want to make the best decision you can with the information that you’ve got. This decision should not be made based on small pros and cons about one program versus another. 

The thing that matters most for arranging your rank list is the feel you got when you interviewed at that program. 

There is no greater guide than your gut and heart when deciding where you want to train.

From a big picture perspective, your criteria should be pretty simple. You want to find a program where you will get the best possible training, in a city you can tolerate (or even better, have a strong desire to live in) for the duration of training, in a stable program with satisfied residents and engaging faculty.

Don’t overlook the volume of time you will spend with the cadre of residents and attendings you meet at the interview and pre-interview dinner. You’ll be spending more time with them than you do with family, so gelling with their personalities to some degree is relatively essential to your well-being. 

You should be able to ascertain how the programs on your list size up on these huge and simple criteria. While simple, it might not be easy. There might be a program which you absolutely love in a place you aren’t keen on moving to. Maybe the training in your dream locale is a little less robust than the former. These decisions can be tricky, and it’s surely important to bring significant others and family into these conversations. 

Don’t worry about salary differences, cafeteria ratings, or hospital call room accommodations. Keep the big picture at the forefront.

3. Don’t share your NRMP login data with anyone

We’ve all heard the urban legend of the applicant’s fiancee who surreptitiously logged into their rank list, and reorganized it to their own liking. While things like this aren’t happening left and right, it is best to have the piece of mind that for something as important as your rank list, you are the only one who has access to it. 

4. Don’t let your chances of matching at programs influence your rank order

The match algorithm is built in such a way that your desires of where you’d like to match outweigh the program’s desires of whom they’d like to match. What this means for you is that you should simply rank the programs in the order you’d like to attend them.

There’s no need for advanced strategies, or trying to figure out how a program is going to rank you. Just put your favorite as number one, second favorite as number two. It couldn’t be simpler. 

Naturally, you don’t want to rank any places that you don’t want to attend. If you had a terrible interview somewhere and truly desire to not match there, just don’t put it on your rank list. 

Submitting a rank list can be a stressful thing, but it needn’t be. Follow your heart, certify early, and get your programs in order. In one more month, the charade will be over, and it will be time to cruise through the rest of 4th year on the way towards finally becoming an MD.

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay 

Further reading:

How to Choose a Medical Residency Program That's Just Right


Residency Advisement with MST
Brian Radvansky

Brian Radvansky

Brian believes that excellence comes from never taking "no" for an answer, and putting as much work into organizing one's studying as into studying itself. After producing an incredibly average MCAT score, he decided he was going to quadruple his efforts in preparing for Step 1. His greatest successes have brought students who were going to drop out of medicine altogether for fear of not matching to matching into their specialties of choice. He reminds students the importance of performing well on a single test, or even learning how to sell themselves can make an extreme difference in their futures. Students can rely on Brian to hold them accountable and make sure that they don't sabotage themselves with excuses. He can help them to totally reevaluate their approach to USMLE questions in a methodical, protocolized way that ultimately leads to more correct answers and a higher score. With his help, you will trim the excesses, and put all of your collective efforts into only the work that will improve your score. Through his residency admissions consulting, Brian has consistently revamped students applications by helping them to highlight their best (and sometimes hidden) characteristics, and get them to match into the programs they had ranked number one. He can help you to master your personal statement, and craft the story as to why your program of choice needs to have you as a resident. Brian will help you find that all too difficult balance of being proud of and selling your accomplishments, without coming forth as someone who is merely checking boxes to bolster their application.
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