Friday, April 8, 2016

Dr. Thinker: MATCH season

-          Application for the Residency match starts on 15th September.

1.      What all should you ideally keep ready by the end of August?
-          Make sure your LOR’s are uploaded. Waived LORs take longer to get processed than the unwaived ones.  The processing time can be anywhere between 1 day to 2 weeks. The closer it gets to sept 15th the longer it takes.
-          Have your final draft of PS ready.
-          Have your MSPE/Dean’s letter uploaded (Dean’s letter can be a substitution for MSPE)
-          Your profile photo – keep it as professional as possible.
ERAS CV, PS can be uploaded or updated even in the last moment. There won’t be any processing time for this.
2.      How many LORs can you upload?
-          You can upload as many LOR’s as you want on to your ERAS account.
-          But, you can assign only a maximum of 4 LOR’s per program.

3.      How many US LORs and how many home LORs should you assign for each program?
-          It depends on how many US LORs you have.
-          If you have enough, then I would suggest 3 US LORs plus one Indian LOR from the head of the department of the specialty you are applying to.
-          I say at least one LOR from medical school because it is them who had seen you for years.

4.      Should you assign LORs as per region?
-          People have different opinions about this.
-          If you feel all your US LORs are equally good, then assign LORs to the program as per the region where you did your electives and where the program is.
-          Eg: If you had done electives in Florida and New York, then use more LORs from the Florida for the programs that are in the south and more LORs from NY for the programs that are in the North East.
Of course, this scenario arises only when you have more than 3 US LORs to choose from.
Reason:  These are just assumptions.
A.      The author of the LOR might have much bigger influence in the areas nearby or is well known in the hospitals nearby.
B.      The fact that you did a rotation in that region shows you wouldn’t have a problem moving there.

5.      Is applying on Sept 15th very important?
-          Of course, it must be having some advantage for sure. Otherwise, why would all the Program directors and those in the medical field strongly advise you to upload on the 15th itself?

6.      Does applying on the 16TH, 17TH Sept or by the end of Sept affect your chances to match?
-          This is where you should understand not to panic.
-          Applying on sept 15th is strongly advised, but it doesn’t mean applying a day or a week later means you wouldn’t match.
-          If you can’t apply on the 15th, then obviously you can’t apply no matter what. So, stop panicking!
-          Applying a day or two later usually shouldn’t make much of a difference.
-          If your scores are good( don’t ask me what is a good score – its subjective), then even applying at the end of sept or oct 1st or 2nd week wouldn’t affect you much. Again, you are applying late only because you don’t have any other choice and the circumstances are like that. Don’t postpone voluntarily.

7.      When do interviews start coming?
-          There is no such fixed date.
-          For some it can start on 16th, for someone after the 1st week and for someone in October or November.

8.      Does applying late decrease the number of interviews I get?
-          As I mentioned earlier, applying a day or two late or by the last week of September shouldn’t affect it much.
-          If you have stellar scores and CV then even applying in Oct 1st week shouldn’t have a big impact.
-          That said, from my experience I have noticed that a delayed application (esp in October) has an impact on the number of the interviews you get and also on the type of programs you get interviews from. You might miss the IMG friendly ones.
-           This effect is more profound on the people with below avg or average scores.
9.      I am waiting for a step score. Should I still apply on the 15th or wait?
-          It’s better to apply with at least Step1, Step2CS and Step 2ck scores.
-          If you are waiting for any of the above three scores, then I would suggest you to wait.
-          If your score is coming out on the 16th sept or by the end of Sept, then it’s better you wait for it.
-          Because, once a program downloads your application it goes through a filter. If that program has a filter for step results, then your application will be filtered out. Most often, they wouldn’t have the time nor would want to review your application again after your score comes out, unless you have a mind blowing step1 score or CV or of course good contacts in the program.

10.   Should you wait for ECFMG certification before you apply?
-          ECFMG certification needs STEP1, STEP2 CS and CK results.
-          As with scores, if youranticipated ECFMG certification date is within a week from Sept15th or by the end of sept, you can wait until then.
-          There are programs that don’t need ECFMG certification as filtering criteria. You can apply to those in the meanwhile.
-          If the anticipated certification date is in Oct 1st week or later, then it’s up-to you whether to apply or not. There is no clear opinion about it.
-          ECFMG Certification takes anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks after the last required step results are out. On an average it usually takes 4 days.

During my 1st season, I was waiting for my Step 2ck results and so couldn’t apply until 3rd week of October. I even waited for the ECFMG certification for the programs that wanted it. It significantly affected the number of interviews I got and the nature of programs that offered me an interview. I didn’t get an interview from even a single IMG friendly program. All the programs that offered me an iv had no IMG in their resident’s list. So, it was kind of obvious that it was going to be tough to match.
I tried contacting programs desperately, but most of them had already given out the interviews by then and had a huge list of whom to send next.
From this personal experience, I strongly suggest you to apply as close as possible to Sept 15th.
11.  I haven’t got any interviews so far. It’s already mid October. Does it mean I won’t get any?
-          It’s a very scary feeling especially when people around you had already got so many.
-          Don’t panic. Just do what you got to do. Email or call program coordinators asking to review your application.
-          I got my first interview in November and still had good number by the end.
-          I have seen people getting their first in December and still matching.

12.  When is the last date to get interviews?
-          There is no such thing.
-          You can expect interviews even in February.
-          Most of the interviews that you get from December are usually those which were cancelled by others due to various reasons, especially by AMGs who had travelled enough or couldn’t because of weather snow storms.

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