Top Tips for Your Residency Rank Order List

Top Tips for Your Residency Rank Order List

Nov 20, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

We know that creating a Rank Order List on NRMP could be quite tricky for residency candidates. You may have several questions in mind about the process of matching and whether you should give preferences to your personal considerations or to what others are doing. Moreover, you would want to know about the salient do's and don'ts to build a Rank Order List that increases your chances of Matching. To help you make a wise decision, here are some helpful tips and tricks to follow when you create, certify, or change Rank Order Lists.

Focus on Factors That Really Matter to You:

When building a Rank List, professional opportunities like research projects, clinical volume, job prospects, and fellowship match are of immense significance for some people. For some, personal factors such as geographic preferences, quality of life, and similar other aspects matter the most.

We would suggest that you should identify on your own what is most important to you. Consider it a necessary first step towards creating a productive Rank List. If you don't know what you actually want, you won't be able to set your priorities right and remain confused when ranking programs.

Should You Follow your Gut Feeling or Be Systematic:

To accomplish this, you must try to balance being systematic and following your gut feeling. When deciding between programs, the ideal approach is to follow your gut because of your intuition and reaction to the residents you meet, and the faculty is the best barometer for determining the right order of ranking. If you believe that you will be satisfied with all of the places you interviewed, then the ideal course of action should be to take a systematic approach and build a spreadsheet.

Give a rating to each program based on the criteria mentioned above and weigh their pros and cons as well as their relative importance to you. Compare the ratings with the weights to get an initial ranking for each program. The spreadsheet will give you a semi-objective starting point that can prove to be very helpful for you.

Gather Maximum Perspectives:

Apart from your intuition and a spreadsheet of preferences, you will need to research as much as possible to assess all your options. It isn't easy to get a complete impression of a residency from a single interview day or through conversations.

Hence, in the two weeks between finishing the interviews and submitting your rank list, speak with as many people as possible. You can speak to peers who are also participating in the application process like you. You can also ask your family or friends who aren't part of the medical field about what option they have about it. And most importantly, speak to mentors who you think can offer a deeper perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of different departments. You may receive conflicting advice, but the reasoning and information behind that suggestion will certainly prove valuable.

Rank the Programs you Interviewed With:

It would be best to rank all the programs you interviewed because technically, the programs you didn't interview with won't rank you back without an interview. So, despite that you can rank those programs that you didn't interview with, there's no chance that you will receive an invite for an interview. However, this doesn't apply to those residency programs you didn't like or don't want to train in.

Choose Many Programs:

As per the NRMP, successful candidates are those who rank approx. 10 programs, while some sources claim that for IMGs (international medical graduates), the average is 7 programs. However, keep in mind that you can rank a maximum of 20 unique programs before you will be charged an extra fee.

As mentioned previously, don't just rank any program. In this regard, you should rank according to your personal preferences instead of where you think you stand the best chance. You won't lose anything for ranking according to your liking, but you will definitely lose something if you rank just the safe programs. For instance, if you prefer ranking a safe program higher instead of the program you want to be in, and you Match to both programs, you will lose your chance to join the program that you were truly passionate about.

Impressions Cannot Help Much:

It is a misconception that a program is guaranteed to rank you based on a promise from someone from the faculty. They may like you but don't forget that programs generally interview far more candidates than they rank. So, you won't have any idea who they interviewed after you. You may include a program's supposed impression of you in your considerations, but it shouldn't be the only reason to rank a program higher than the others.

Be Cautious with Letters of Intent:

According to NRMP, programs aren't allowed to ask for information about who or how you are ranking. You can express genuine interest in some programs, but you cannot pressure them to respond. Also, don't force the program to violate NRMP's policies regarding confidentiality.

Bottom Line:

The main factors to consider when ranking programs is how much you liked a particular program, how you did in the interview, and your own competitiveness as a residency candidate. Such as you should consider USMLE scores, medical education gap(s), visa status, the program or specialty's competitiveness, personal preferences, geographic location, further career opportunities such as research or fellowship, program's prestige, and benefits like hours, salary or sick time, and the current faculty and residents' happiness.