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How to Rank Residency Programs? Your Guide to Making Your NRMP Rank Order List

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How to Rank Residency Programs?
Your Guide to Making Your NRMP Rank Order List

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Rank List, click here.

A key component of the residency Match process is the rank order list, a carefully considered list of residency programs ranked based on your preferences.

Crafting a thoughtful rank list is essential for both a successful Match outcome and setting yourself up for future success in your postgraduate training. This process determines where you will spend the next 3-10 years of your training (depending on your specialty).

In this blog, we will discuss the different factors you should consider when building your Rank Order List.

How Does the Match Algorithm Work?

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), or “The Match,” uses a computerized algorithm to place applicants into residency positions. Your rank order list is your way of telling the algorithm your program preferences. The programs rank applicants as well, and the Match is the result of this mutual ranking system.

Understanding the mechanics behind the Match can help demystify the process and aid in strategic ranking.

Importantly, it is imperative to remember that the Match Algorithm is “applicant-proposing” meaning the preferences expressed on the rank order lists submitted by applicants, not programs, initiate placement into training.

In other words, when creating your rank list you should truly rank programs in your order of preference (as opposed to ranking programs highly that you think will rank you highly) as you will not be penalized.

To understand this process more, you can watch these two videos: Video 1, Video 2.

Interviews and the Rank List

As you navigate through the interview season, the impressions and experiences from each program can start to blend together, making it challenging to recall specific details later on. To counter this, it’s crucial to develop a habit of taking detailed notes immediately after each interview.

Document the pros and cons of the program, your gut feelings about the culture and environment, and any specific interactions with faculty and residents that stood out to you. These notes will be invaluable when it comes time to create your rank list, helping you to remember not just the factual aspects of each program, but also your personal reactions and feelings towards them.

This process ensures that your final decisions are informed not only by objective criteria but also by your intuitive responses to each program, providing a holistic view that can guide you toward the best fit for your residency training.

Practice interviewing with our experts who trained at top-notch residency programs! If you’re not satisfied, get your money back!

Before You Start Ranking

Reflect on what matters most to you in your residency training and beyond. Consider factors such as the type of clinical exposure, the culture of a program, geographical location, and lifestyle. This self-assessment will serve as the foundation for evaluating and ranking programs. Seek input from friends, family, and mentors as this is a big decision.

How to Evaluate Residency Programs? Factors to Consider When Making the Rank List!

Academic and Educational Opportunities

The academic and educational framework of a residency program is fundamental to your development as a physician. Pay attention to the following aspects:

  • Curriculum: A thorough understanding of the program’s curriculum is crucial. It should offer a balanced mix of clinical training, didactic learning, and elective opportunities to cater to your educational needs and career aspirations.
  • Faculty and Their Subspecialties: The diversity and expertise of the faculty can significantly enrich your learning experience. Look for programs where faculty members are leaders in their fields, offering mentorship and exposure to various subspecialties.
  • Research Opportunities: Active participation in research can be a pivotal part of your residency experience. Evaluate the availability of research opportunities, including support for projects and access to resources.
  • Research Year: Some programs offer or require a research year. Consider the benefits of dedicated research time, such as the potential for publications, presentations, and the development of a strong research skill set. Investigate the labs and mentors available to support trainees during this year.
  • Recent Graduates’ Success: The achievements of recent graduates, especially in terms of fellowship placements, can provide insights into the program’s strength in preparing residents for advanced training. A track record of successful matches into competitive fellowships is a positive indicator of a program’s academic environment.
  • Types of Fellowships: While evaluating a program’s success in fellowship placements, consider the diversity of specialties. A program may be strong in matching graduates into certain subspecialties (like cardiology) but not others (such as GI or Heme/Onc). This could align or conflict with your long-term career goals.

Rank List Advising

Get expert advice on how to rank your residency programs from our advisors. Get your money back if you are not satisfied.

Clinical Experience

When assessing the clinical experience offered by residency programs, several factors play a crucial role in ensuring comprehensive training. Consider the following:

  • Type of Hospital: The hospital’s level, such as a Level 1 Trauma Center versus a community hospital, impacts the complexity and variety of cases you’ll encounter. Level 1 Trauma Centers typically offer a broader range of high-acuity cases.

  • Location: The hospital’s location, whether urban or rural, influences the patient demographics and common conditions treated. Urban centers may offer exposure to a diverse patient population, while rural settings can provide unique primary care experiences.

  • Academic Affiliation: Programs affiliated with academic institutions often provide opportunities for research, teaching, and exposure to cutting-edge treatments and technologies.

  • Types of Cases and Pathologies: The variety of cases and pathologies you see is crucial for a well-rounded training. Consider programs that offer a balanced exposure to both common and rare conditions, tailored to your specialty.

  • Volume of Cases: The volume of cases is indicative of the hands-on experience you’ll gain. High-volume centers can offer extensive procedural experience, which is critical for specialties requiring technical proficiency.

  • Catchment Area of the Hospital: The hospital’s catchment area determines the diversity of the patient population and the range of conditions treated, affecting your learning experience.

  • Types of Rotations: Evaluate the breadth and depth of rotations offered. Some programs may be strong in certain areas (e.g., trauma surgery) but have limited exposure in others (e.g., surgical oncology). Ensure the program provides a balanced experience or aligns with your interests.

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Program Culture and Environment

The culture of a program significantly affects your training experience. Seek programs where you feel supported, where mentorship is strong, and where residents are satisfied with their education and work-life balance.

During the interview process, most programs will disclose specific factors regarding the program such as call schedule, rotation schedule and the flexibility to incorporate electives into your education. These are important considerations that may factor in your reasoning for ranking a program higher or lower.

Salary and Benefits

Salary and benefits are yet another consideration when creating a rank list. This information can be found online and is typically universal for the entire healthcare system regardless of specialty (although there are some salary incentives for Family Medicine and Rural Medicine Programs).

Consider both the salary and the cost of living in that area as $70,000 is very different in Boston vs. rural PA. Finally, you should also see what additional benefits are provided, this includes health insurance, childcare, fertility care/counseling, and retirement benefits.

If you are looking for a comprehensive guide on how to reach out to research mentors, email and CV templates, who is the best mentor, and what is the best research position, check out our course on how to find research positions in the U.S.

Opportunities for Professional Development

A residency program’s commitment to the professional growth of its residents is a critical factor to consider. Opportunities for professional development not only enhance clinical skills but also prepare residents for leadership roles in their future careers. When evaluating programs, consider the following:

  • Discretionary Education Funds: Some programs provide residents with a budget for educational resources, allowing them to attend conferences, purchase textbooks, or subscribe to professional journals. This financial support is crucial for staying current in your field and networking with peers.

  • Funding for Medical Supplies: Look for programs that offer funding for essential medical supplies, such as surgical loupes, stethoscopes, and handheld ultrasounds. These tools are fundamental to your training and can enhance your learning experience.

  • Internal Educational and Research Conferences: Participation in these conferences can significantly enrich your educational experience. They provide a platform for presenting research, engaging in academic discussions, and learning from peers and experts in your field.

  • Visiting Professorships: Programs that invite visiting professors offer residents the opportunity to learn from renowned experts. These experiences can introduce new perspectives and techniques, broadening your educational experience.

  • Workshops Focusing on Hands-on Techniques: Hands-on workshops are invaluable for developing and refining technical skills. Look for programs that offer workshops in advanced procedures, simulations, and other practical skills relevant to your specialty.

  • Mentorship and Career Guidance: A program that facilitates strong mentorship relationships and offers career guidance can have a profound impact on your professional development. Mentorship can provide you with personalized advice, support, and opportunities for career advancement.

Rank List Advising

Making your rank list is a stressful task! Our advisors have extensive expertise and can help you make the best decision on where to spend the next 3-10 years of your life.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A residency program’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is crucial for fostering a learning environment where all individuals feel valued, respected, and supported. When evaluating programs, consider the following aspects:

  • Diversity Statement and Policies: Look for clear statements and policies that reflect the program’s commitment to diversity. This includes efforts to recruit and retain a diverse workforce of residents, faculty, and staff.

  • Inclusive Environment: Evaluate the program’s environment to ensure it is inclusive and supportive of all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or socioeconomic background. This can often be gauged through discussions with current residents and faculty during interviews or visits.

  • DEI Initiatives and Resources: Investigate the specific initiatives and resources the program offers to promote diversity and inclusion. This may include mentorship programs, diversity committees, cultural competency training, and support groups.

  • Representation: Consider the diversity of the program’s leadership, faculty, and resident body. Representation matters, as it contributes to a richer learning environment and provides role models for all trainees.

  • Community Engagement: Programs that engage with their local communities, especially underserved populations, demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and health equity. Look for opportunities to participate in community service and outreach activities.

  • Support Systems: Evaluate the support systems in place for residents, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. This includes access to mental health resources, professional development opportunities, and networks for personal and career support.

Location and Lifestyle

Consider the impact of location on your personal life and well-being. Factors like cost of living, proximity to family, and lifestyle opportunities should align with your long-term satisfaction and happiness. 

Looking for a detailed ERAS Application Template with samples of various experiences?

Ranking Strategy

Balance is key when creating your rank list. Consider each program’s strengths and how they align with your priorities. Be honest with yourself about where you see the best fit.

Again, because the Match Algorithm is applicant-proposing, your rank list should reflect your true preferences. Don’t be afraid to aim high.

How many programs should I rank for residency?

You can rank as many programs as you like. Generally, it is recommended to rank only the programs you interviewed at. Do not rank programs you don’t want to match at (not a good fit for you).

When is the Deadline to Submit and Certify the Rank List?

For Match 2024, the deadline to submit and certify the Rank List is FEB 28 09:00 PM EST.

Finalizing Your Rank List

After thorough research and reflection, revisit your list with fresh eyes. Seek input from mentors and peers but remember that the final decision should reflect your own preferences and judgment.

Finally, trusting your gut feeling about a program’s fit can be just as important as its academic credentials.

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Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Ranking Programs

Avoid common mistakes such as ranking programs based solely on prestige or underestimating the importance of program culture.

Remember, the goal is to find a program where you will thrive, not just survive.

Finally, it is important to realize that you do not have to rank every program that you interviewed at. If there is a program that gave you particular bad vibes or came across particularly malignant it may be in your best interest to not include it on your rank list as this is a legally binding commitment

Conclusion

The Match is a unique and complex process but approaching it with a well-considered rank list can significantly increase your chances of a positive outcome. Remember, this is about finding the right fit for you, where you can grow, learn, and become the physician you aspire to be.

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Network with Residency Programs for a Successful Match

Match Application Blog

Network with Residency Programs for a Successful Match

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your residency journey, click here.

Networking with residency programs has become increasingly popular with each application cycle becoming more and more competitive for all specialties across the board. Through networking, you can gain valuable insight regarding residency programs which can help tailor your application process, establish personal connections, secure letters of recommendation, and opportunities for research and away rotations. Networking is key in obtaining opportunities, especially if you are an IMG or come from a school that does not have a department of your desired specialty.

In this blog, we will equip you with a set of invaluable tips and tricks to enhance your networking skills. These strategies are designed to give you a competitive edge, increase your chances of successfully matching into your desired residency program, and ultimately help you realize your dream of becoming a practicing physician.

What is the Overall Timeline for Networking with Residency Programs?

The timing of when to reach out to programs depends on what stage of medical training you are at and why you want to connect with that program. Are you wanting to connect with them because of a research project? away rotation? residency interview?

Networking For RESEARCH PROJECTS

  • The best time to reach out to such programs for Research Projects is the summer before your M2 year. If your medical school has dedicated research time allotted for you, make sure to start networking at least 6 months before that time period.
  • If you are IMG and have finished medical school, there is no specific timing that applies, however, there are several research internships offered through medical institutions that have specific application deadlines so stay on the lookout for that!
  • You can email the faculty that have active projects expressing your interest. Attach your CV to the email and describe how your skills align with their goals.
  • With application cycles becoming more competitive with each year, research is becoming an increasingly important factor when it comes to a successful match! You can read our blog on how to find research opportunities as a medical student HERE.
If you are looking for a comprehensive guide on how to reach out to research mentors, email and CV templates, who is the best mentor, and what is the best research position, check out our course on how to find research positions in the U.S.

Networking for AWAY ROTATIONS

  • The best time to apply for Away Rotations is the winter of your M3 year or at least 6 months before the start of that rotation. These rotations can be through VSLO but many programs have rotation applications on their website so be aware of those deadlines as well!
  • If you are applying through VSLO, be sure to check for the number of away rotations slots available per rotation. Financially, it is better to apply to programs that have 3+ spots per rotation compared to 1-2.
  • If you have not heard a rejection or acceptance offer 4-6 weeks prior to the start date of the rotation, reach out to the rotation coordinator via the methods outlined below!
  • If you are an IMG and your school does not participate in the VSLO, you can check our guide on electives without VSLO HERE.
  • Check out our blogs on the Best Electives in the U.S. and How to Find U.S. Clinical Experience for FREE.

Are you an IMG trying to find USCE with no luck? Check the list of our experienced doctors offering USCE to IMGs!

Networking for RESIDENCY INTERVIEWS

  • The best time to reach out to such programs for Residency Interviews is 2-3 weeks into the ERAS application cycle.
  • It is always better to reach out to someone you know within the program who can reach out to the program director compared to you reaching out to a program director that you do not know.
  • We don’t recommend waiting too long before you reach out to your connections within the program or the program directly as some programs start sending interview invites 2-3 weeks after the ERAS application season opens (the date from which programs are able to see the applicants’ applications).
  • Have a realistic goal for the number of interviews you wish to obtain for a successful match and continue to work towards that goal through the tips outlined in this blog!
  • Check out our blog on how to write letters of interest to residency programs HERE.
Practice interviewing with our experts who trained at top-notch residency programs! If you’re not satisfied, get your money back!

How To Reach Out to Programs

Email

It is generally recommended to send the email to the research/rotation/ program coordinator’s or director’s email address. Keep the email under 500 words and be as concise and direct as possible.

  • Be sure to mention specific reasons why you are interested in the program. This is also the time to mention whether you have any special connections to the program or the area. Always end your emails by thanking them for taking the time to review your email.
  • If you are emailing a specific research faculty, their email can generally be found online. It is helpful to know what kind of research they are working on currently to see if you can get involved in the work!
  • As mentioned above, it is always helpful to highlight how your current skills and experience make you a suitable candidate for the project as well as how the faculty can help your professional growth.
  • For away rotations, it is helpful to propose multiple dates of the offered rotation to maximize your chances of getting that rotation!
  • End every email with your signature which should include your name, medical school name and year as well as your AAMC ID if you have one.
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Social Media

Most programs and physicians now have a social media presence, whether that be Instagram or X, and this can be another way to learn more about the program and its unique features. Many times, they will do Q&A sessions and that is a good time to attempt to learn more about the program.

  • Many physicians are active on MedTwitter (now X) and LinkedIn, and this is a good way to connect with attendings and residents who have shared a similar journey to yours. There are many postings about research opportunities and even openings for residency spots that applicants can take advantage of.
  • You can follow specialty-specific accounts or programs that you are interested in.
  • If you know current residents who graduated from your medical school or are from the same country as you, you should reach out to them via these methods as well.
  • Overall, it is also a great tool for medical education as many physicians are active on these platforms and share their knowledge regularly. This is a very useful method of finding a mentor!

Conferences/Meetings

Many specialties will have annual meetings or conferences that have meet-and-greet sessions for future residents. This is a great way to get some direct face time with the program’s residents and leadership. Although this can be difficult for many IMGs due to visa or financial issues, you should try to attend if possible. Many conferences offer scholarships to students, especially if you present your research at the conference.

  • These meetings also have networking events for learners of all levels. This is yet another way to find mentors and opportunities for research and away rotations.

  • Examples of these meetings include:
    ○ American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting
    ○ Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting
    ○ American Society of Anesthesiology Meeting

  • This is an in-person activity so dress professionally, smile, introduce yourself, and shake their hand at the start and end of your conversation.

  • Ask them about themselves, what opportunities are available at their institution, and express your interest in those opportunities.

  • You can ask for their email address or contact number so you can continue to connect with them in the future!
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Phone Call

Typically, the last step in reaching out to programs after you have tried the other methods. You can attempt to give the program/research/rotation coordinator a phone call.

  • Be polite, respectful and sincere.
  • Ask them whether there are any updates regarding your application. It is beneficial to have already sent a letter (email) of interest prior to the call so you can ask them whether they’ve received it / had a chance to review it. You should always be prepared to answer why you are interested in the program. Don’t forget to thank them for taking the time to speak with you, especially during the busy application season.
  • This method has personally worked for me in getting both away rotations and residency interviews.
  • It is best to give them a call if you have not heard anything 2 weeks after sending an email for residency interviews and 3 weeks after sending an email for research or away rotations.

Overall Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO: Always address your emails to the “admission committee” for residency emails, using the specific Ms./Mr./Dr. Last Name for research and away rotation emails.
  • DO NOT: There have been several instances where students have addressed emails to “Sirs”. The medical community is comprised of male and female physicians and faculty.

  • DO: Always be as specific as possible as to why you are interested in the program. Research the website and look into specific rotations, program tracks, or certificate opportunities they may offer. Find out how they match for fellowships and if the residents from that program match into fellowships YOU are interested in.
  • DO NOT: Simply stating that they are strong clinically and have a diverse population is not a good reason for your interest in the program.

  • DO: Have a professional appearance on your social media accounts. It is perfectly acceptable to mention your interests and hobbies. In fact, this will help you even more with networking.
  • DO NOT: You should not be spamming programs or any associated faculty and residents with personal requests (UNLESS they specifically have offered to give advice to interested students).

  • DO: Be polite and respectful on the phone. Know the name of the person you are calling, introduce yourself, and offer to give them your AAMC ID for further identification over the phone for a residency interview. Ask them if this is a good time for them to talk and always thank them for taking the time to talk to you and taking an extra look at your application.
  • DO NOT: If you do end up speaking to someone from the program, make sure they know your name (this is a common mistake). If you had the chance to speak to someone, do not call them again. If not, you can leave a voicemail or try two times after that but not any more than that.

As we conclude our comprehensive guide on networking for residency programs, we hope these insights and strategies empower you in your journey towards securing a residency spot. Whether it’s through research projects, away rotations, or residency interviews, effective networking is a crucial skill. Remember, building meaningful relationships and showcasing your dedication and interest can significantly impact your success.

We’re committed to supporting your aspirations and encourage you to reach out for personalized guidance and assistance in your residency journey.

Our residency advising is risk-free (you get your money back if you are not satisfied) and our advisors will provide you with individualized guidance on how to optimize your chances of matching and tailored strategy on how to build a competitive CV. If you need a one-on-one consultation with one of our EXPERT advisors, you can sign up here.

We wish you the best of luck!

Shriya Tanti, MD

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