How to Make Your Residency Rank List
This blog was originally posted on May 23rd, 2019, and updated on November 2023 for the 2024 application cycle by Dr. Courtney Connolly.
You’ve spent countless hours pouring over every word in your ERAS application and personal statement. You’ve traveled far and wide to be wined and dined and interviewed. And you feel that you’ve taken one too many hospital tours in the past few months. Well, congratulations, you’ve made it through the hardest part of the residency application process! Now, it’s time to take a step back and think about creating your rank list!
See below for some tips on how to make your rank list before it is due in February.
1. Priorities, Priorities, Priorities!
There are many factors to consider when making your rank list, and the importance of each of these is unique to each person! Think about what matters most to you. You have no doubt interviewed at programs with different strengths. Now is the time to whip out your notes from the interview trail, compare programs, and really ask yourself what is most important to you?
Location, research opportunities, advocacy opportunities, culture, program size, call schedule, diversity or patient population, diversity of the residency program, exposure to subspecialties and fellowship training, program reputation and prestige, and more
Out of these, find the top three factors that matter most to you in both your professional development and your day-to-day happiness. This will help guide the creation of your rank order list. Some applicants find it helpful to create an excel spreadsheet to keep track of these factors during interview season.
Once you sit down to compare programs, if you realize that there is information you are missing that would be helpful for you, do not hesitate to reach out to the programs directly. Often, many programs are happy to connect you with residents or provide answers that would help you make the decision that is best for you. This is also the time to talk to your advisors, mentors in the field, family, and friends! Use them and their advice to create a list that makes sense for you.
2. Strategic Ranking: Should Fear of Non-Matching Affect the Ranking of My Top Choice Program?
No! This is not how the match works! The algorithm behind the match will attempt to place you in your highest preferred program. For a very helpful video on how the algorithm actually works, see this video published by the NRMP. You should rank your true top programs at the top of your list. Do not rank programs you think you would have a higher chance of matching at higher if they are not your true preferred top programs!
3. Communicating Your #1 Choice with Residency Programs: Guidelines and Considerations
You may be wondering if you should reach out to programs to inform them that they are your top choice. We are here to tell you that you SHOULD! Residency program directors are eager to match their top-ranked applicants.
However, this comes with a few caveats. Only do this if you are absolutely sure you are ranking the program as your #1. Integrity is extremely important, and remember that your specialty field is smaller than you realize and any act of unprofessionalism can come back and affect your career in the future.
It is also important to remember that post-interview communication is encouraged to be limited, and you should not expect a response to this email. It is also very important that if programs explicitly ask for no post-interview communication you respect this!
Lastly, a code of conduct governs the match, agreed upon by both applicants and program directors. Applicants may not contact programs to inquire about their ranking spot. Similarily, programs are prohibited from disclosing this information to uphold the integrity of the match.
4. Effectively Communicating Your Top Choice: Reaching Out to Residency Programs
The most common way applicants go about this is at the end of interview season. You may reach out to the program director via email or to the program coordinator to send a message on your behalf explicitly stating they are your #1 program and why. It is helpful to relay here why you think you would be a good fit.
5. Should You Rank Every Program You Interview With?
This depends! If there is a program you interviewed at that you would truly not be happy matching at, then do not include them on your rank list. You should only include programs you would actually be interested in training at on your rank list. The match is a legally binding agreement, and it is expected that if you match at that program, you will fulfill your half of the agreement and begin training at that program. Taking this into consideration, it is okay to leave off a few programs if you know you would not be happy there!
However, it is also important to note the competitiveness of your specialty. If you are worried about not matching, talk to your advisors about the pros/cons of different programs and if you have enough programs on your rank list. If you are still unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation with one of our residency advising tutors to help you!
6. When is the Rank List Due?
The ranking system opens on February 1st at 12:00pm EST this application season. You can start ranking programs in the system then. However, the list is not official until you certify your list. The due date for certification this season is February 28th at 9:00pm EST.
Do not wait until the last minute to submit your rank list! There are often delays in the system, and you do not want technical difficulties to be the reason you miss the deadline.
For all deadlines, including when to register for the match, see this helpful NRMP calendar here.
6. A Final Note of Advice
This is an exciting but nerve-wracking time for many…waiting for an algorithm to tell you if and where you matched! Remember to use your support network of friends and family as well as colleagues and advisors who have gone through this process before. And finally, remember that these programs interviewed you and were interested in you! Do not forget all of the hard work and accomplishments that led to this moment.
Good luck and happy match season! If you are looking for help with this residency season, or any medical exams, contact us to learn more about how we can help you succeed!