Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What is Match Day?

Actually, Match Day is the day when all the fourth year medical students find out where they'll be spending the next 3-5 years of their life. In February, you enter your residency choices in numerical order into a computer. The programs likewise enter their top choices for residents into a computer (a different computer... not one giant computer). And some program somehow magically matches med students to residencies.

One day this program will likely become self-aware and launch an attack on the US. Or develop compassion. I'm not sure which. In the meantime, this is how the matching process works.

In my med school, we all found out where we matched at once. We had a little ceremony where the dean gave a speech while we all jumped up and down waiting to see where we matched. When the speech ended, we all gathered around tables corresponding to the letter of our last name. They handed us an envelope and inside that envelope was a one-inch wide strip of paper that determined the next 3 to infinite years of our lives.

What's crappy about match is that it's basically a one-year contract. So if you put down Bumfuck University as your #20 match choice, thinking you'll never get it in a million years, but somehow you end up with it, you're screwed. That's why everyone says, "Don't rank a program that you don't want to go to." But we never learn, do we?

The Monday before match day is Black Monday (or maybe I just made that up). It's the day you find out IF you matched. If you didn't match, you have to Scramble. Although that sounds fun, I've heard it actually isn't. It involves furiously faxing your resume to gabillions of unmatched programs in the hopes that one of them will take you. Sometimes you can end up getting a better spot by doing this. Like in Happy Gilmore, when the grandmother loses her house and it goes up for auction and they think they can now buy the house back for cheaper. Although that didn't work, did it? That evil Shooter McGavin got the house.

This is what I wrote on my own match day:

This was a really intense day, second only to my wedding. There were moments when I thought I might faint, especially when they couldn't locate the envelope that had my match information.

I matched for primary care at ________, which was my first choice. I was so happy about it at the time and I still am. I don't think I realized quite how much I wanted to get into primary care. So now I'll have an easier life than if I were categorical IM. I really think it's the best match I could have made, so I'm happy with it. I almost started crying when I first found out and I started crying a little bit the first time I typed this, but I think now I'm ok.

It's ironic that I was talking about a program that I quickly came to hate with every fiber of my being. I mean, I was actually crying with happiness that I matched there. How naive I was.


  1. I lol'ed at the the tennis reference!

  2. I had a similar sort of end result. I was so thrilled when I got a job exactly where I wanted to work, but it very quickly became something other than what I had hoped it would be. Bleh. Feel your pain.

  3. I LOVE this cartoon and article. I'm sending it to everyone (family, friends) who I have to explain the whole stupid thing to.

  4. "Bumfuck University"...Yes! :)

    Yes, Sara did!

  5. They're starting to change the way the scramble is done, starting with next year's class. Basically, instead of a massive scramble to fill remaining positions, the unmatched programs and students will be having little mini-matches every 4 hours or so.

  6. Love the cartoon... my husband matches on Friday!!!

  7. There was no scramble this year. It's been replaced by the SOAP (Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program). Thankfully I matched and didn't have to find out how it worked.