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The Match

Generally speaking, the match is a process designed to help applicants secure their preferred residency position(s) and help programs secure their preferred candidates. It's based on a computer algorithm that compares the rank order list of applicants with those of residency programs. This basic premise is simple, but the circumstances surrounding the match are complicated.

There are increasingly more applicants than residency positions, and certain specialties experience an even more disproportionate amount of applicants. This means residency applicants must act strategically to ensure they match to a residency program. And without residency training, the career options and income available to medical school graduates are severely limited.

Doctor with fingers crossed
Ashley Rufus & Kavita Jayaswal with letters

Several matching programs exist that use a matching computer algorithm, and you'll choose which one(s) to use based on the specialty and programs you apply to. However, most specialties and students use the National Resident Matching Program®.

Regardless of the matching program you use, you must act strategically — evaluating your particular situation (e.g., your competitiveness, specialty choice, and personal circumstances) and making decisions that help ensure you land a residency position.

Red balls numbered 1-5

Your rank order list (ROL) is the list of all the residency programs you're willing to attend. By participating in the match, you accept a binding agreement to attend any program on that list.

As such, you must strategically approach many decisions leading up to creating your ROL to ensure you choose programs where you fit with their mission and culture as well as will be relatively happy. Then you must prioritize these programs and submit a list long enough so you're likely to match. Luckily, effective strategies are available to maximize your likelihood of matching.