Why Didn’t I Match? 14 Reasons You Could Have Failed to Match

The Match Week® is now over. At this point, those who Matched are celebrating and preparing to enter their respective residency positions, and those who didn’t Match are left wondering, “Why didn’t I Match?”

Of course, the ultimate reason residency candidates do not Match is the sheer number of applicants compared to the number of positions. In the 2016 Match, there was a total of 59,607 candidates competing for 30,750 positions (and only 29,572 positions were actually filled). With such a competitive year, it’s understandable that so many applicants went Unmatched.

However, not Matching into a residency position could have been caused by any number of factors and now is a time for serious self reflection with regards to your professional background and application materials. Some potential weaknesses that may have occurred during your application season are:

  1. Poorly written Personal Statement – Many residency applicants are surprised to hear that the Personal Statement has the power to make or break their chances with program interview selection committees. The Personal Statement is a place for candidates to show they are more than a medical robot. But, there are many mistakes candidates can make such as being too negative, not being specialty specific, having poor grammar, or sounding too stiff which can turn the Personal Statement from a help to a hinderance in your application.  
  2. The wrong Letters of Recommendation (LoRs) – The strongest LoRs are recent, specialty specific and from US clinical experience. If your LoRs were lacking any of these aspects, or were weak in content, these LoRs could have cost you potential interviews.
  3. Not enough US Clinical Experience (USCE) – USCE is the bane of all IMG’s existence. It is tricky to obtain and often expensive. Yet, no other variable gives your application the biggest boost like USCE. USCE not only gives you the opportunity to get strong LoRs, but also assures programs you can be comfortable in a US medical environment without getting overwhelmed and homesick. A lack of USCE gives programs room to doubt your abilities, even if you’ve been practicing medicine for many years in your home country.
  4. Mistakes on the MyERAS Application – USMLE scores may get your foot in the door, but the rest of your application materials matter for getting you to an interview or position. Leaving any part of the MyERAS Application incomplete or incorrect reflects poorly on you as an applicant. For example, ignoring the Hobbies section is an error many candidates make as they fill out the application.
  5. USMLE Exam scores and attempts – An unfortunate truth is that exam scores do matter when applying to residency programs. Programs often have initial filters for minimum USMLE scores before they review other application materials. Attempts also play a role to some degree. While not all programs require passage on the first attempt, there are more strict programs out there that have requirements for exam attempts which can most definitely hurt your amount of program options.
  6. Incompatible Program Choices – Whether you are applying for the Main Residency Match or the Post-Match SOAP, all programs have basic requirements they expect of their applicants such as USMLE scores, or Time Since Graduation. If you are an IMG, you also have additional aspects for programs to look at like IMG friendliness, visas, and US clinical experience. If you did not research each program thoroughly, you could have wasted time and money that could have been used for a program that would consider you.
  7. Incompatible Specialty and Back Up Specialty – Just like programs can be incompatible, whole specialties can be incompatible as well. Some specialties have basic expectations for their applicants with regards to their qualifications. For example, Emergency Medicine requires a specific, special Letter of Recommendation from an Emergency Medicine doctor. Surgery specialties require high USMLE scores and for their applicants to be in their 20s. If you applied to a difficult specialty without doing your research first, you may have lost out. One way to offset the effects of applying to a tough specialty is to be prepared for a secondary or even tertiary specialty that is more realistic for your professional background.
  8. Applying on Time – Residency applicants should be prepared to apply between the time when the application season opens to when the MSPEs are released. The first wave of interviews often happens in September, with a secondary wave in late October. With so many residency candidates, interview slots fill up fast. Applying late means you might have missed out on many interview opportunities.
  9. Applying to Enough Programs – The suggested amount of programs to apply to is a minimum of 100 programs per specialty (if the specialty is big enough). Applicants who did not apply to enough programs denied themselves the chance of being considered by the many programs they overlooked.
  10. Missing Parts of the Application – Parts of the application may not seem very important, like the MSPE, but programs notice when these materials are missing. If your application was not complete when you applied to programs, this may have discounted you as a good candidate to invite for an interview due to lack of information.  
  11. Following Up with Programs – After an amount of time after applying to a program, if you haven’t heard back, it is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to send a follow up communication to your favorite programs. Sometimes, programs need a reminder you exist, even if many other candidates are sending similar reminders. It’s better to leave no stone unturned than to leave it be.
  12. Bad Interviews – Simply securing a few interviews is not a guarantee programs will rank you and you will subsequently Match. If you did not prepare enough for interviews and gave off the wrong impression, programs may have decided not to rank you.  
  13. Not Ranking Enough Programs/Ranking Badly – This option mostly depends on how many interviews you had. If you had less than 10 interviews, unless you absolutely disliked the program, you should have put all the programs on your list. Candidates also make the mistake of ranking programs higher than they should because of the words of a Program Director– remember, take Program Director post-interview praise with a grain of salt. You never know how many other candidates were told the exact same words.
  14. Misunderstanding the application process – By having a mentor, you can avoid making mistakes like those above. Feel free to contact Match A Resident’s application expert team for free coaching and consultation by calling 760-904-5484 opt. 2, or emailing support@matcharesident.com

By taking a hard, and sincere look at your application season, you can identify potential holes to fix up and improve for the upcoming Match season. To help you improve your application for next season, the following blog post will provide guidance for what you can do now to better prepare your application.

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