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.
Unless they have specifically enrolled in the Military Match, which occurs in December, all graduating medical students and medical school graduates seeking a residency position should enroll in the Match.
Matching can be broken down into six major steps. Each applicant’s Match task list will include a number of plans and assignments within these six categories.
1 Build professional and academic experience.
2 Research residency programs in your chosen medical specialty.
3 Apply to residency programs.
4 Interview with residency programs.
5 Rank residency programs.
6 Learn where you matched on Match Day, the third Friday in March.
Applicants sometimes go through an additional step on the path to matching: entering the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program. Through this program, the week before Match day, applicants who did not match and residency programs that did not fill all of their positions have the opportunity to connect and receive and make offers.
Ready to begin your journey to residency? The Match may be a complex process, but making it work for you doesn't have to be. The AAFP has articles, tools, videos, and events to support Match applicants every step of the way. It's free to join the AAFP for complete access to everything, and you can add your membership status to your ERAS application.
Navigating the last leg of your medical school journey toward a career-defining destination — Match — brings both excitement and stress. It’s not an easy process. As some of tomorrow’s family physicians can tell you, though, Match ultimately gives you even more than you put into it.
Morgan Weiler, MD
Matched: Via Christi-Wichita Family Medicine
Kate (Jiayu) Tian, MD
Matched: University of Vermont Family Medicine
Dakarai Moton, DO
Matched: Saint Louis University
Securing your residency takes more than just exams and grades. You’ll need to demonstrate professional development and present your intangible qualities, too. The sooner you determine your goals and how you’ll meet them, the better. Creating a checklist can help. You can find a checklist for each year of medical school in the Strolling Through the Match guidebook.
"Create a to-do list! Marking items off feels great and it is also a great way to see what you have left to do! I wrote my personal statement in the summer, and I am glad I did so. When you ask for letters of recommendation, many will ask for an updated CV and personal statement! Having those ready will be important." - Morgan Weiler, MD
Add rotations and electives to your checklist and make sure they help you diversify your family medicine experiences. This shows recruiters that you’re committed to the specialty. In the 2021 NRMP Program Director Survey, more than 95% of family medicine residency directors said that perceptible commitment was central to their interview choices.
“The best advice I received was to sign up for rotations that are the most challenging to you. My weakest subject is nephrology and electrolyte management. I did a 2-week rotation with a nephrologist, and it was extremely helpful! Challenging, yes, but worth it!” – Morgan Weiler, MD
Deciding on a specialty is both challenging and exciting. Put the specialties that interest you on your checklist, take every opportunity to shadow or rotate through them, then think about what you’ve experienced and how it aligns with your professional goals.
"First step is to identify a few specialties of interest if possible and reach out to mentors, both physicians or senior medical students. Understanding why others choose a certain specialty is very helpful, especially if you resonate with someone’s story. Since everyone’s path is unique, talking to multiple mentors can help clearing up if one specialty might be a good fit. Additionally, going to conferences is a great way to identify mentors as participants tend to have strong interests in teaching and mentoring." - Kate Tian, MD
With more than 700 family medicine residency programs, how do you figure out which program is right for you? Once you’ve considered location, practice settings, and other basics, concentrate your research on the programs that appeal to your unique, subjective interests. Are there away rotations or conference opportunities? Have you talked with alumni or current residents and been moved by what they’ve told you?
"I created my own excel spreadsheet with prioritized information from FREIDA and AAMC and began to highlight the spreadsheet with highs, lows, and negotiable components to make the overall best decision. Stay organized!" - Dakarai Moton, DO
The interview isn’t just to help the program. It’s also your chance to determine if a program is right for you. Prepare your own questions as you also consider how to convey to the interviewer that you’d be a welcome addition.
"I read through the section 'Interviewing at Residency Programs' in Strolling and had prepared answers to commonly asked questions beforehand. Before each interview day, I reviewed my notes about the program and all the documents emailed to me and on the program website. I also drafted questions to ask during resident dinner and during each interview based on the 'Suggested Interview Questions' in Strolling." - Kate Tian, MD
This guide to matching has helped thousands of applicants find their way into the right family medicine residency program. Strolling Through the Match is updated each year with the most current guidance and data.
Download or order your free copy of Strolling Through the Match.
Have questions about the Match? A panel of experts discuss the entire process from applications and interviews to ranking programs. Their personal stories and experiences can help you find your perfect match.
Residency interviews play a major factor in family medicine residency ranking decisions. Are you prepared to answer tough questions? Two experts offer tips on navigating this crucial step in the Match process.