Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Make Your Residency Rank Order List

Author: Sepi Jooniani, MD MPH

Interview season is usually a whirlwind of traveling, navigating your way around too
many new cities to count, and meeting so many people that you tend to lost track of the
details along the way. Programs may start seeming more alike than different to you after
a certain point. In making your rank list, my best advice is to follow your instincts. Your
heart usually knows what will make you the happiest before your brain does. But for
those of you who like more concrete facts, here is some actual data that shows what
factors applicants value the most in making their rank list decisions.

In the largest study of its kind, performed in 2004, all medical students registered with
ERAS that year were surveyed to assess exactly what about a program mattered to them
most. Receiving over 7,000 responses, the top five factors that students considered were
the following (please note these are in no particular order):[1]

  • The geographic location of the program
  • How invested the faculty are in the residents
  • How well the current residents seem to interact with each other
  • How happy the current residents are
  • How well you think you might fit in at the program
Other more recent studies, which have asked current residents to retrospectively answer
the same question, have consistently found the same trend. Beyond the list above, other
popular responses included the reputation of the program and its faculty members, the
interview day experience, the diversity of the patient population, and having a good
work-life balance.[2,3] Not surprisingly, it is not the logistical differences between
programs, such as their schedules, but the morale of the work environment that applicants
are drawn to. Speaking from personal experience, I couldn’t agree more. My top
consideration, besides geographical location and family ties, was the gut feeling I had
about that program on my interview day.

Lastly, remember that the match algorithm favors you as the applicant, and follows your
rank list in order of preference to match you to your top choice.[4] If you have a dream
program that seems too far out of your reach, you should still rank it on top of your list. If
they didn’t rank you highly enough for you to match there, the algorithm will simply
move on to your next choice — no harm done and nothing lost. For a great example that
may help you better conceptualize the process, please refer to the NRMP’s article, Run a

1. Nuthalapty FS, Jackson JR, Owen J. The Influence of Quality-of Life, Academic,
and Workplace Factors on Residency Program Selection. Acad Med.

2. Yarris LM, Delorio NM, Lowe RA; Factors Applicants Value when Selecting an
Emergency Medicine Residency. Western J of Emerg Med; August 2009

3. Laskey S, Cydulka RK. Applicant Considerations Associated with Selection of an
Emergency Medicine Residency Program. Acad Emerg Med. 2009; 16:355-59

4. National Resident Matching Program, Matching Resources. How The Matching
Algorithm Works

5. National Resident Matching Program, Matching Resources. Run A Match

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