Subscribe Here!

    | 3 min read

    What To Do if You Didn’t Match With a Residency Program

    If you didn’t Match last week, the most important thing to know is: you’re not alone.

    According to NRMP, 5,262 active applicants did not Match in 2023. AND the NRMP reported a record number of applicants that certified a rank order list. Some of these applicants went through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP,) but still, not all received a Match. What comes next if you still have no Match?

    No matter what happened last week, there’s a plan in place for your future. It might not feel clear right now, but these tips have helped countless people who’ve been in your exact same shoes.

    Focus on positive thinking

    Try to have a positive view on your current circumstance like John Brewer Eberly Jr., MD’s friend in his article “We are sorry, you did not match to any position:”

    It’s [not matching] either ‘the worst thing ever’ or it’s something strangely exciting and even freeing — an opportunity. Yes. Both. It feels like the worst sort of obstacle, but also a brutally solid adventure — a battlement that is both a closed wall and an open portal — a window into a new, real, and wild work.

    Take a breath. This might not be the way you wanted your medical career to start, but you are not alone, and you still have options.

    Find a mentor   

    A good mentor is a gold mine of wisdom, encouragement, and guidance and can positively impact how you feel during this time. This mentor should be someone who can:

    • Understand and support you

    • Motivate and inspire you when thinking about the future

    • Act as a sounding board

    • Widen your network (they can often point you in the right direction, introduce you to the right people, and help you find the right resources.)

    Meet with your confidants

    Speaking of mentors, set up time to meet with your school’s student affairs department to gather more information and start planning out what to do next.

    Then make a list of people who you can rely on for references, etc. This can be anyone who:

    • Is willing to make a phone call for you

    • Would be available if a new position opens up for an attending-to-attending call

    • Can help you find a research position

    Pro Tip: Add these contacts on LinkedIn to grow your professional network.

    Look for research opportunities

    Taking a year to do research, might be the boost that your application needs—nearly half of residency program directors cited research experience as an important factor they look for when considering applicants to interview.

    They state reasons to seek out a research position, including:

    Working with a mentor in your desired specialty enables you to demonstrate how interested you are to continue in a career in that specialty. In addition, presenting your work at national or regional conferences enables you to shine and be noticed by physicians and program directors working in other hospitals … A single connection you make can be the one that gets you a residency position and starts your career as a doctor.

    Source: Student Doctor Network

    Take the USMLE Step 3

    This might not be what you want to think about right now, but, taking this exam and scoring highly could be another way to boost your application (and help make up for lower scores on Step 1 or 2).

    Approach your next application process with a new frame of mind

    Try to pinpoint reasons that your first attempt at matching was unsuccessful. You may want to assess these areas:

    • Was your personal statement well written?

    • Were your recommendation letters up to par?

    • Did you only apply to programs in a specific area?

    • Do you have proper interviewing skills?

    Use this assessment as a learning experience moving forward and make the changes you see as necessary before applying again.

    If you didn’t Match the first time, don’t give up. Many great physicians did not Match on their first attempt. Take a few weeks to let the news sink in, then keep your focus on the positive. You got this!

    Related Categories

    Med school Residency life

    You may also like:

    Med school Learning science USMLE

    How to Study for Microbiology in Med School

    Key Takeaways: Microbiology is challenging but foundational, as it impacts various medical disciplines. Microbiology kno...

    Med school

    6 tips to break down the USMLE question format

    Key points: 1) The structure of a USMLE® question contains the stem of the question, a lead in, and answer options. Typi...

    Med school

    8 things you should know before you become a psychiatrist

    Key points