Volume 3, Issue 4 | October 2016
Letter from the Editor

Keys to Success in the Match: The Rank Order List

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Matthew Chin, MD

University of California: Irvine, Orange, CA

ACG Case Rep J 2016;3(4):e143. http://dx.doi.org/10.14309/crj.2016.116. Published online: October 12, 2016.

In 2012, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) made adjustments to the application and interview process for internal medicine fellowship programs participating in the NRMP Specialties Matching Service® (“the Match”). The application process was moved to the fall and winter, prior to the summer start of the next academic year. This schedule is well-known to anyone applying to fellowship programs starting in July 2017, as the interview season is in full swing. Soon, applicants will extert tremendous mental effort making, revising, and re-revising rank lists ahead of the November 16, 2016 deadline. Everyone approaches this process with their own unique perspectives and priorities; however, we offer advice that may be helpful to those seeking additional guidance.

Be informed. Many applicants to GI fellowship have already participated in the match process prior to starting internal medicine residency, and some may participate in the match again if they pursue additional training in interventional endoscopy. A basic understanding of the match process is a mandatory first step to success, especially for international medical school graduates or those who may be participating in the couples match for the first time. The NRMP has resources, including frequently asked questions, which address many concerns: http://www.nrmp.org/faq-sections/applicants-faqs/.

Be organized. As the interview season winds down, it can be difficult to remember specific details about individual programs. Keep a centralized database of information that may be important to you such as number of fellows per year, call schedule, characteristics and number of clinical sites, research, mentorship, and clinical opportunities. You cannot have too much information when creating your rank list. For many applicants, organized information can provide order to what often feels like an emotionally overwhelming and confusing process.

Be aware. Strict rules guide appropriate and fair behavior from programs regarding contact with applicants during the match process.1 While applicants may freely voluneteer any information to a program director, any coercive behavior from programs such as requests for rank list orders or early offers/acceptances outside of the match are not condoned. As an applicant, any program behavior that violates NRMP rules should be considered a grave premonition. A program that does respect the rules of the match is unlikely to respect ACGME requirements that protect trainees from abuse and form the framework for educational success. The NRMP openly requests that violations be reported by calling (202) 400-2235 or by emailing policy@nrmp.org.

Be in communication. The application process doesn’t end on interview day. If you have additional questions or special interest in a program, stay in contact with the people you met during your interview. Send thank you notes and communiques expressing your continued interest in programs that you plan to rank. However, be honest in your communications to program directors; freely volunteering a false impression that you intend to rank their programs at the top of your list is not only fraught with risk, but is also highly unethical and violates the spirit of the match.

Be committed. Historical experience has shown that the more programs that an applicant ranks, the greater the odds of success.2 However, a match decision represents a binding commitment, and applicants should not place on their rank list any program where they do not see a reasonable chance for success. The match process is designed not only to protect an applicant’s efforts to make a successful and fair match, but also to protect programs, which require fellows committed to the implicit obligations of the match process.

Be true to yourself. Continue to involve your mentors, families, and friends in your rank list decision-making; however, understand that their perspective may not reflect your priorities. Ultimately, you will be the one completing fellowship, and your rank list should reflect your true preferences.

Be happy with your decision. Although it is easier said than done, try to enjoy the time between the rank list deadline and match day. Having the tools and knowledge necessary to make an informed, fair, and honest rank list is the key to being happy with the outcome of the match process.

Best of luck to everyone leading up to the November 16, 2016 rank order list deadline and December 7, 2016 match date.

Matthew Chin, MD
University of California: Irvine
Orange, CA

ACG Case Reports Journal

Correspondence: Matthew Chin, University of California: Irvine, 101 The City Drive, City Tower, Suite 400, Zot 4092, Orange, CA 92868 (machin@uci.edu).


  1. American College of Gastroenterology. Resolution Regarding Gastroenterology Fellowship Applicants, Including all Research and Clinical Fellowship Applicants and Positions. Available athttp://gi.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/fellows-GI_Fellowship_Match_Resolution.pdf. Accessed September 2016.
  2. National Resident Matching Program and Association of American Medical Colleges. Charting Outcomes in the Match, Specialties Matching Service®, Appointment Year 2011: Characteristics of Applicants Who Matched to Their Preferred Specialty. Available online athttp://www.nrmp.org/match-data/fellowship-match-data/. Accessed September 2016.

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