Submitting your Rank List & Post interview communication – a few tips for peace of mind!

After all the interviews, spreadsheets, back and forth late night thoughts- the Rank List has opened and it’s time to think about submitting. Here are a few tips to help you set your list – and forget about it until match day! 

 

Stay true to yourself. 

You’ve spent months going over and over the different program options: Academic or community? Small or large-sized program? Clinical experiencial learning or more focus on didactics for education? Big city or smaller? How much does geography matter? Do you want to do research – which programs encourage this? You probably have a preference for each of these. You know which answers are important to you. Now time to try and line that up with the programs you’ve seen. It’s not easy, but if you absolutely hate didactic learning, you probably shouldn’t list a program that does this daily in your top three – no matter how great the interview was. Even if a program has an amazing research reputation – it shouldn’t matter highly if you aren’t interested in doing research. Stay true to what you know really matters to you as you fill out the list! 



Ask friends and family for advice – but be prepared to ignore it. 

Advice from those close to you I can be very helpful, especially family and longterm friends. Many of those know us know us well enough to help sort through the stress of the match process and decided what is important to us. Can we be happy in a smaller community if we’ve always loved the city?  Should I rank stay closer to home? Family and friends can be great second opinions for many of these hard choices. But like the first piece of advice above, at the end of the day you have to stay true to what you know is important for your goals and education. 

 

Ask significant others for advice – and be prepared to accept it.

For those of you in serious relationships or married, the match can be exceedingly stressful. These education goals must also be balanced with relationship goals – no easy task. At the end of the day, if the relationship is serious enough – the significant other should get a say in how the next 3-5 years of their life could go. And if it’s serious enough to ask, you need to be prepared to accept their answers for preferences on geography, cities, or significant other job prospects. 

 

Don’t rank somewhere you absolutely would not want to go. 

If you were like me, you probably interviewed at a program or two that you feel you’d rather not end up at. If you feel that strongly, I would highly suggest not ranking that program at all. Yes, you are essentially saying I would rather NOT match (and have to scramble/SOAP) than go here, but sometimes that’s not actually the end of the world. To elaborate, a story of a friend of mine: He was slightly  below average anesthesia candidate and didn’t get many interviews. In fact – because he was very picky about where he’d want to go – he only ranked 3 places, despite having several other options at programs he simply found undesirable. He stated at the time, he’d rather scramble and compete for the unfilled spots if it came to that, than go someplace he KNEW he wouldn’t be happy. So match day comes and the result? He scrambles into an excellent program (one I personally applied to but was not even offered an interview) that is arguably better than any of the programs he originally interviewed with (again, including my own) and definitely better than the few others he turned down ranking. Now not every example of this will work out so well, but I still think my original point is true: don’t rank places you simply do not want to go! 

 

Do NOT consider how you think programs will rank you in making your list. Ignore post-interview communication. 

Yes, you will have hints that you are more competitive at some programs versus others. Some programs even come out and fairly aggressively let their top choices know they are planning on ranking them highly. Other programs will send out generic emails prior to match rank lists to everyone, regardless of how they plan to rank them. I personally, had variations of all three, with some strongly suggesting I was among their top choices, while others were more generic. One program I sent an “intent to rank highly” email sent me back essentially a “thanks, but good luck” email that immediately gave me the impression it was a “no” from them. I appreciated the positive emails, and honestly the less enthusiastic ones stung a bit. But I kept my list true to what I wanted, and did not increase or decrease a program’s position based on the feeling I got from any post-interview communication. Even the one I essentially felt was a no – I ranked #3 as I had always planned. If you were granted an interview, you are likely on the programs rank list – where there is always a chance. Don’t make the mistake of downgrading a program you like just because you think your chances aren’t as strong. The match first comes off YOUR side of the list, so it should be a true reflection of your intention to match and nothing else considered. 

I said “I love you”… this program said “Best Wishes”.. but I still ranked them the same.

 

And that is the botton line – your rank list should stick to an order of what you want, and other than very serious significant other input – be true to your residency program desires.  Now go set your list and get it off your mind until Match day! Best of luck to you all!!


A few extra thoughts on post-interivew communication:

I’ve made it pretty clear I’m a believer in thank you notes, preferably directly following your interview. However, in the month around the rank list being finalized for both programs and applicants – there will be opportunities for more communication. Some programs do this more than others. Some programs send very generic “thank you for interviewing, let us know if you have any other questions” emails, while others will fairly openly share your (positive) position on their ranking board. Some send no communication at all. 

img_0706
This program said “I love you,” but I ended up replying “Best Wishes.” 

 

My understanding of the rules is that is that it is fair game and ok for you or a program to share that one is ranking the other highly – as long as either do not ask for this in return or try and pressure the other to change their rank (see picture below). Using this rule, I did email my top 3 programs and let them know I would be ranking them very highly. I would not recommend telling more than one program they are your “number 1,” as it’s still a small world and program directors talk. I also would not tell more than your top 3 or so that you are ranking them “very highly.”

img_0704
One program explains the rules in a pre-Rank List communication email… 

As for programs themselves, I had several email me that I was ranked well on their list. Some I was excited about, others not as much. Again, DO NOT allow this to change your ranking order. It doesn’t matter if you know you will definitely match at program X – if you rank another program higher and don’t get it  – YOU WILL STILL MATCH at program X just as if you’d ranked it #1.  


What other pieces of advice have I missed or could be added? Any other questions for submitting a rank list? Add your thoughts/questions in the comments section! 


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