This article originally appeared on The Wealthy Physician Blog.
Imagine going through medical school not knowing where you will end up. You are committing valuable time, energy, and money for an outcome you may have very little control over.
You’re sacrificing almost a decade of your life to become a doctor and help people, but it can sometimes feel like you are flying first class on an airplane without a final destination.
Don’t you want to have a say in where you’ll end up after medical school?
Getting into residency should be the goal of medical school. The residency program you match into will dictate the future of your career in medicine. It will provide the training for you to be a competent, successful, and happy physician.
The NRMP statistical match data is not a reliable measure. Taken at face value, the high match rates you hear and read about will make you feel as though it will be effortless to match into the specialty of your choice in a location you desire.
THE PROBLEM WITH MATCHING INTO RESIDENCY
The reality is that matching into residency is more competitive than it has ever been, so much so that nearly one-quarter of the applicants don’t match at all.
This does not even account for the medical students who match into a specialty that was not their preferred specialty (a back up). In addition, there are more medical schools opening each year that are pumping out new medical students without a similar increase in new residency spots. This means that the competition is only going to increase.
The match was created decades ago when there were TOO MANY residency spots available, not TOO FEW. It is an archaic system that attempts to take the power out of your hands and puts it into a computer algorithm instead.
Going through medical school without a detailed plan to get you into the specialty and program of your choice is an unwise idea. You will be greatly mislead if you decide to depend on your medical school and their career services department (if they have one) to lead you to success in the match.
You have to be proactive and smart about how you strategize for the match.
3 THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL MATCH:
FIND A MENTOR IN YOUR CHOSEN SPECIALTY
This person is already where you want to be. He or she can help guide and advise you along your journey based on his or her experience and expertise. This person can also be an excellent source for one of your letters of recommendation.
RESEARCH 3 PROGRAMS IN YOUR IDEAL LOCATION AND MAKE CONTACT WITH EACH OF THEM.
This will help set you up for potential audition/showcase rotations. You will also learn what to focus on to match at your top choices for residency.
SIGN UP FOR THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE IN THE SPECIALTY OF YOUR CHOICE
You will meet residents and program directors to network with for interviews. You will also gain valuable experience so that you will appear more knowledgeable and passionate about your specialty during interviews.
By doing these 3 things right now you can significantly increase your chances of matching where you want for residency. These are just some of the many strategies that you can utilize, but they are a great place to start.
In the end, the more you do to help yourself prepare for the match the better your match outcome will be. So start your preparation now so you can be confident about where you will match.
by MATTHEW BLOOM, DO, Co-Founder of Docs of Tomorrow
Matthew Bloom is a PM&R Resident and co-founder of Docs of Tomorrow. Matthew is passionate about helping medical school students choose a specialty and match into residency.