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    Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Rank List in 2023

    Key points: 

    • The NRMP has a matching algorithm used to rank lists submitted by applicants and program directors to place people into residency program positions.
    • Don't wait until the last minute to submit your list. The NRMP ranking process opened on February 1 and closes on March 1.
    • As a general rule, it is recommended to rank at least 10-12 programs.
    • Consider your values, location and community, vibe check, work-life balance, future career prospects, funding and benefits, and program size when putting together your residency rank list.
    • Research the programs on social media to find out more about their current residents' daily schedule, values, and community.
    • Create a rubric to score each program based on the important factors and then compare scores to make your final ranking decision.

    Gearing up to submit your residency rank list? Submitting this list marks a new beginning in your medical journey, becoming a resident! You've worked tirelessly on your residency applications and have gotten through the nerves of interview season, and now it's time to submit your rank list.

    This process can be stressful (and exciting)! You might be thinking, "Am I making the right choice?" or "I really like 2 programs! How will I choose which to rank first?" but with the right strategies, you'll be confident in your rank list and excited for Match Day. Here are our top tips for medical students to help you submit your rank list.

    What is a residency rank list?

    A residency rank list is a list created by medical students during their final year of medical school to rank their preferred residency programs in order of preference. The list is used in the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) to match medical students with available residency spots.

    The NRMP has a matching algorithm used to rank lists submitted by applicants and program directors to place people into residency program positions. The residency rank list is critical to determining where a medical student will train as a resident physician for the next 3-7 years.

    How does residency match work?

    In your final year of medical school, you will begin the residency application process. In October, residency interviews begin. You will submit your residency rank list to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) in February, and by mid-March you will know which residency program you matched with. 

    How does the NRMP matching algorithm work?

    The NRMP has a mathematical "matching algorithm" that intelligently places residents into their most-preferred program that also prefers them. 

    How many residencies should I rank?

    The number of residency programs you should rank on your residency rank list will depend on a number of factors, including the number of programs you have applied to and the number of programs you are interested with. As a general rule, it is recommended to rank at least 10-12 programs.

    It is binding, so you should only rank residency programs where you intend to work. It's important to rank only those programs that you are truly interested in and would be willing to accept a position at!

    How do I make a residency rank order list?

    After you've researched and applied to residency programs and gone through interviews, it's time to think about your residency rank list! Using the information you have gathered from your research and interviews, start your list: 

    1. Create a list of the programs in order of preference and rank the programs that you would most like to attend at the top of the list. Rank the programs that you are less interested in at the bottom.
    2. Review your rank order list carefully and make any necessary changes before submitting it to the NRMP. Double and triple check it to ensure that your rank order list is complete, accurate, and reflective of your true preferences.
    3. Submit your rank order list to the NRMP by the specified deadline.

    The NRMP will use your rank order list to match you with a residency program based on the preferences of both you and the programs. 

    When are residency rank lists due?

    This year, NRMP opened ranking lists on February 1 and you have until March 1 to submit your ranking list.

    When do residencies submit their rank list? 

    This year, the NRMP opened ranking lists on February 1 and will be open until March 1 to submit ranking list for programs.

    Residency programs typically submit their rank lists to the NRMP in the same time frame as medical students. The deadline for residency programs to submit their rank lists is usually in late February or early March, although the exact date can vary depending on the specific NRMP and the year in which you are applying.

    It's important for both students and residency programs to submit their rank lists on time, as the NRMP uses the rank lists submitted by both to match them with each other based on their preferences and the available spots. 

    What to consider when creating your residency rank list

    1. Your values: Have an idea of what you hope your future career will look like? Identifying which programs share your same values is important to consider when making your rank list!

      For example, do you have a passion for working with low income teenagers and making a difference in their lives? Does one of the programs you interviewed with have a higher likelihood of working with that patient population? Evaluate the diversity of patient populations, supervision and mentorship, the availability of educational resources and opportunities to help you create your list. 

    2. Location and community: This one is super important! Where do you see yourself for the next 3-7 years?

      Do you prefer a city or a rural area? Does one of the program have a location with a lower cost of living that might help you focus some funds toward student loans as well? Is one of the programs closer to your support system, like your spouse, friends, and family? Look at the location of the program, cost of living, cultural opportunities, and the surrounding medical community.

    3. Vibe check: Does one pass the vibe check more than the others? 
      Though this has been a little harder to gauge in recent years, since most programs have taken their interview to Zoom or another digital format. But, did any of the programs stand out to you despite being a video interview? Which program gave you the warm fuzzies during your interviews? Did you meet a current resident in one of your interviews that you could see taking you under their wing? Consider if you feel comfortable with the people and environment.
    4. Work-life balance: This one is tricky when looking at residency, since, schedules during residency will be hectic. It's a time of intense learning! However, even during residency, it's important to have some form of work-life balance. 
      Does one of the programs seem to hold higher value to this balance and support it's residents when they need time off? Do you get any guaranteed golden weekends? Consider the hours and call schedule, workload, and the support provided to residents. 
    5. Future career prospects: Does the program have a track record for producing stellar physicians? What's the program's board certification pass rate? Are there fellowship opportunities? What's the job market like in that region for after you graduate residency? Any opportunities?

    6. Funding and benefits: Evaluate the financial support provided by the program, including stipends, benefits, education tools, and loan repayment programs. Hey, we won't judge if you choose your top ranked program by the one that gives unlimited free cafeteria food

    7. Program size: This is more important than you might imagine! Do you see yourself in a small tight-knit community where you get to really know your fellow residents and attendings? Do you see yourself in a larger program which might give more opportunities for better shift coverage?  

    Don't wait until the last minute to build your residency rank list 

    The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) just opened ranking on February 1 and will be open for you to rank and edit until March 1. But, definitely don't wait until the last minute! This is a big decision and will take some dedicated time before the deadline. So make sure it's top of mind before crunch time. 

    With that being said, we've heard horror stories about students getting their list all ready to go early and then forgetting to submit it come the deadline. So, if you're on top of your game and have everything in already, set a reminder now closer to the deadline to go in and actually submit it

    Do some last-minute research on residency programs

    Find the programs that you'll be ranking on social media and spend some time going through their posts! Does one of the programs have more wellness activities? Does one of the programs have an annual PGY1 retreat that you'd really love to attend?

    In addition, follow @medstudystrong on Instagram! We do a residency recap each week called This Week In Residency where we highlight what programs have been up to. You might just discover your dream program to rank first if you go down our #ThisWeekInResidency hashtag rabbit hole

    Use Dr. H's method to build your residency rank list 

    We did an interview with Dr. H on how she chose which program to rank first, and she gave us some great pearls of advice for building your residency match list. She created a rubric to rank each program. She listed out all of the important factors to her of where to match. Then, after each interview, she went through her list and wrote a 1-3 by each important factor. Then she added up all of the scores. This process helped her choose her rank list order. 

    "One of the main categories in my rubric was location. I scored a program with a one if I didn't care for the location, and three if I liked the location. Then, at end of the interview I had a score for the program. I did this for each program without comparing scores until I had completed all of my interviews. That’s how I came up with my rank list." - Dr. Eden H  

    Take some time to reflect

    This is a big decision, so take the time to reflect on your priorities and goals before submitting your rank list. Make sure you're comfortable with the programs you're ranking and confident in your choices.

    Be prepared for Match Day! 

    The NRMP Match Day can be a stressful time! You're finding out an important piece of your future! It’s hard being at the mercy of an algorithm, especially when you’ve worked so diligently in school and during the application process. Try to stay relaxed and focused on the day of Match Day. It can be a nerve-wracking experience, but remember that you have worked hard to get to this point and that the outcome is out of your control. Consider your backup plans in case you don't match with your preferred programs.

    Keep an open mind

    Remember to keep an open mind and be flexible. You may not match with your top choice program, but that doesn't mean you won't have a great experience and opportunities for growth in your residency.

    As you submit your residency rank list, remember to embrace the uncertainty and trust in the process. Cheers to a bright future as a resident physician.


    Related content: 

    Dr. H's Best Tips on How to Rank Programs for Residency

    7 Ways to Maintain Your Sanity Until Match Day

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