Saturday, March 24, 2018

What if I don't Match?

The 12th of March has arrived and what you didn't see coming has unfortunately happened. You checked your email to find an email from NRMP saying: "You did not match". Life suddenly became unbearable and an infinite tornado of thoughts and questions has started! The main one though is: "What to do now?"

Below are some suggestions that may help in answering this question:

 1- Give yourself some time

 > Give yourself the time needed to sink the truth in, yes, not matching is harsh, depressing and soul-crushing. Vent to your friends and cry your lungs out if you feel this will make you feel better.

 > Not matching is hard, but be completely sure, this is not the end of the world, look back at what you achieved till now, you finished medschool, sat for USMLEs, traveled for interviews. You achieved what may be impossible for many others!

 > Check NRMP stats that are released after the Match day, you are not alone, consider this a temporary stop in your life and a chance to build your CV and know more people. Consider it also a test and a challenge that will push your forward to overcome it! The ranking process itself is complicated and is affected by a myriad number of factors so don’t blame yourself and when you feel you are ready, start developing your plan!

2- Polish your CV

 > Sit with a senior/friend/attending and ask him/her how to make your CV better.
Are there any awards or honors that you haven’t mentioned? Any volunteering work that you didn’t add? Can you describe what you did in your previous work experiences in a better way? Are you a member of any international medical organization and you forgot to mention that?

 > You can also review the chapter about writing CVs in “The Successful Match” book which gives many hints about improving your CV. For example, it is advised to use “the action verbs” like “managed” instead of “helped”. The book is available on Amazon, Ebay and many other websites.

 3- Revise/Review your whole application

 In addition to polishing/revising your CV, be sure to check every single component of your application:

 > Did you apply late? Apply earlier this year
> Was one of your letter of recommendations (LoRs) generic or weak? Try to get a new stronger one by asking more people or doing more rotations.
> Did you apply to enough programs? Think of applying to more programs
> Do u qualify for the programs you applied to? Above their cut-offs..etc? Double-check that

 Don’t hesitate to ask seniors or any experienced person who may help.

 4- Taking USMLE Step 3 (if not taken yet)

 > There are many merits of taking USMLE step 3 including the possibility of being ranked higher, an opportunity to have an H1B visa (if you are a non-US International Medical Graduate) and more focus on your residency.

 > A good score in Step 3 also helps if you have any red flag in your application like an exam attempt. It may also decrease the impact of low scores in the USMLE exams and of course it is something nice to add to your CV and show that your are progressing.

 5- Research

 > Research can strengthen your CV and open the doors for more interviews especially from University programs. It can also let you meet new people who may be your contacts in the next match. Some people matched in famous hospitals after doing research there for “a period of time (as short as few months up to few years).

 > Look for research positions either by asking friends/seniors or by emailing institutions like MGH, Mayoclinic...etc. Another way is via websites like, some research opportunities are publicized via Linkedin, so it is advisable to have a neat account there and follow the accounts of major institutions. Linkedin may suggest jobs based on your geographic location too.

> When you apply for research,  check the mentor’s/PI’s name on Pubmed. It is better to join people who are more active and publish faster. A good time to start looking for a research position is about a month or a bit more before the match results. Many researchers who are doing their post-doc fellowships leave their positions after they match so if you know anyone who is doing his/her post-doc fellowship, be sure to contact him/her.

 6- More United States Clinical Experience? (USCE)

>Consider doing more rotations whether observerships or externships. This may allow you to apply to more programs that require a certain number of US clinical training months to be eligible.

 >Through rotations, you may get stronger recommendation letters, make new contacts or may even impress and match in the same program in which you are rotating!

 7- Contacts

 > A contact is any human being who can help you! A contact can be a friend, an intern, a chief resident, an attending, a research fellow and even the PD himself/herself...simply anyone!

 > This is one of the most important things that you have to work on before your next match cycle. Whether you are in a rotation or in a research lab, approach politely and ask for help, people out there are good and are willing to help.

 8- Motivation

 > Develop a habit of being motivated, surround yourself with positive people who always encourage you.Watch motivational videos - Eric Thomas has nice ones, check them - on youtube.

 > Talk to residents who didn’t match the first time they applied and see how successful they became now. This happened because of one thing: they worked hard and never gave up!

 Finally, I wish you all the best of luck and I remind you with what Steve Jobs once said: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future"



  1. Very nice, informative and detailed! Well put! Thank you sir :)

  2. Very motivational and informative Murad!!
    Thank you for your time and good luck for next phase of life!


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