Should I tell residency programs they are my number one choice?
You’ve had an interview. It went great. You love them, and they love you. The program has reached out to you saying that they would be delighted to have you in their program.
Now comes the big question:
Should I tell the residency program that I will rank them as my number one choice?
To answer this question, just keep a few things in mind. First, it is against the policies of the NRMP for programs to request information from applicants about how they are going to rank.
Taken from the NRMP (http://www.nrmp.org/faq-sections/policy-applicants/):
“You may volunteer information about where you have applied and how you plan to rank programs, but programs CANNOT ask you to disclose the information. Any program that asks an applicant to disclose names, specialties, geographic location, or other identifying information about programs to which an applicant has or may apply is in violation of NRMP policy.”
Now, about volunteering that information.
Our advice is as follows. You CAN tell a program that they are your number one choice. However, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
First, and most importantly, we highly discourage anyone from making this claim to multiple programs. Why? Well, because the number one virtue for residency applicants is honesty. Get caught in a lie and your residency chances go up in flames.
Next, consider this.
A program may be your number one choice at the time. However, maybe you land an interview at an even more idyllic program and you’ve already made the number one claim to a program who in reality, is now number two. Again, honesty is a virtue.
As an additional note, it is very important that you do NOT rank programs you do not plan to attend, as entering into the Match is a binding agreement with those programs on your Rank List.
Finally, if you do choose to disclose such information to a program, wording it as “number one choice” may be preferable to “ranking as number one.” We say this because at the end of the day, your rank list may not end up exactly how you project it to be.
Again, although a program will not know how you actually did rank them, being as honest as possible is a practice we cannot emphasize enough.
As an alternative approach, you can always use the blanket statement (when applicable) – “I plan to rank you highly.” This way, there are no false promises or expectations, but you are still giving programs confidence to rank you highly as well.