The Match: Getting into a Residency Program

What is The Match?

The Match process is a uniform system by which residency candidates and residency programs simultaneously “match” to fill first-year and second-year post-graduate training positions accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) instituted and maintains The Match system.

The Match provides a uniform process in that all the steps of the process are completed in the same fashion and at the same time by all applicants and participating institutions.

Almost all first-year positions in ACGME-accredited training programs participate in The Match. Candidates for residency positions in some subspecialty programs will participate in other matches. However, these candidates must also participate in the NRMP in order to secure a preliminary position for each of those specialties.

Strolling Through the Match residency guide


COVID-19 Impacts to 2020 - 2021 Match

We know the global COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges to the Match process, and we’re here to support you. 



How It Works: The Match Process At-A-Glance

Matching to a residency program is a very involved process that lasts nearly a year.

MAY: Students finalize their specialty choice and begin to research residency programs.JULY:

Students create a personal profile in the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS®) system.


Residency programs create a profile in ERAS.

SEPTEMBER: Students submit an application to residency programs of interest to them.SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER:

Residency programs receive student applications and select candidates for interview.


Onsite interviews are conducted.


Students rank their preferred programs in ERAS.


Residency programs indicate how many residency positions they will fill for the next academic year.


Match Day (3rd Friday in March)


Students "match" to residency programs as they receive invitations from residency programs via ERAS.

Who should enroll in The Match?

All students seeking a residency position should enroll in The Match. Once enrolled, you are bound to abide by the terms of the NRMP process. However, if you are offered a position by an institution not participating in The Match (such as an osteopathic position or an unaccredited position) your dean of student affairs can withdraw the you before The Match deadline for changes.

Keep in mind that if at least one of the institution’s residency programs participates in The Match, all programs in that institution must offer positions to U.S. allopathic medical school seniors only through the NRMP or another national matching program.

Where do I begin?

Now is the time to begin learning about the details of The Match, the tasks you'll need to complete, and how to make the most out of this milestone in your career. The AAFP has helpful information available for each step in the process, as well as a complete guidebook to the process, called Strolling Through the Match(99 page PDF).

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Match Dos & Don'ts

  • DO rank the programs that you really want -- whether or not you think you have a chance of matching to it. A program may not get its top 10 student choices, and you might be number 11 on it's list. Ranking desired programs higher will not negatively influence your chances of matching to less-competitive programs lower on your list. Programs will not know where you ranked them on your list.
  • DO remember that the order in which you rank programs is crucial to the Match process. The Match computer is fair, but it is also indifferent to anything other than the rank order list you provide. If you rank one program above another, it will put you in the first program if it can according to the priority you indicated.
  • DON'T make your list too short. Although you may think you will match at your top choice, you increase your chance of not matching if you list only one program. Additionally, on average, unmatched students’ lists were shorter than matched students’ lists. Students selecting highly competitive specialties are advised to make longer lists.
  • DON'T list programs that you do not want. You may end up at a program that you really did not want because you placed it on your list. Decide whether it is better to be unmatched than to be matched to a program that you don’t want.

What if I don't match to a residency program?

On Monday of Match week, you'll learn if you matched and to which program(s). If you didn't match immediately, there's still an opportunity to match to a program through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program® (SOAP®).

The SOAP is an NRMP-run program that takes place during Match week to match any unfilled residency positions with unmatched applicants.There are eight rounds of offers in the SOAP from Monday through Thursday of Match week. SOAP matches are announced along with applicants who matched in the Main Residency Match on Friday. Positions fill quickly in the SOAP, and accepted offers create a binding commitment. If you participate in the SOAP, be honest, thorough, and critical in your assessment of programs and their offers before accepting.

Not everyone will match to a position, and it is not true that only “bad” programs do not fill. A program may not fill if its rank list is at odds with the applicants who ranked it, or if it is too short. There will likely be several programs with unfilled positions that you would find desirable. In some cases, it may mean accepting a position in another specialty that you were considering as a second choice or were considering as preparation for the next year’s Match. Your dean’s office is prepared to counsel students who do not match.

Learn more about the SOAP process on the NRMP website.(