20 Tips for Making Your Rank List after Virtual Interviews

Ask yourself these questions about the programs you interviewed at: 

  • How much effort did this program put into recruiting applicants? Did the program host virtual meet and greet events? Or maybe a special zoom call to ask questions of the program leadership? Send you a food delivery voucher so you can eat for free during the virtual pre-interview dinner? These things are not the end-all-be-all, and a program that does some of these but not all is not bad! Just note that these actions show that the program cares about selling themselves to you, and doesn’t take it for granted that you will want to rank them highly.
  • Did the program expand information that would be available to you on their website or social media this year? Did they make a special video to help capture the vibe of their program since you can’t come in person? Send photos of their clinic spaces since you won’t be able to get a tour? They are aware that it’s going to be harder for you to get to know them this year, and it’s their job to help make that easier for you!
  • How did the program ensure that you got a chance to communicate directly with residents this year? Given that in many cases, residents will not be as heavily accessible during the interview day because of the nature of zoom, programs should be figuring out other ways for you to get a chance to ask questions of the residents, including virtual pre-interview dinners without faculty members, or giving out emails and other contact information. Hint: actually contact residents if you are given their information! The information you will gain from asking questions this year is more important than ever!
  • How did the program respond to important social issues this year? 2020 has been a crazy year, from a global pandemic to 100 straight days of world-wide Black Lives Matter protests, to an election that revealed the deepest of divides in our nation. How did this program respond? Did they take a public stance on social issues that you care about? Did they make an effort to make underrepresented minorities feel heard and supported? Did they take the time to educate faculty and staff on social issues with town-hall meetings and lectures, or did they pretend that nothing was going on? How did the program fight to make their residents feel as safe as possible while caring for COVID patients? What accommodations were made for residents who contracted COVID, or had sick family members to worry about? The answers to these questions help you understand more about the culture of a program, and the values of a program’s leadership.

Other general tips for making your rank list:

  • Go with your gut. A helpful way to stay in tune with how you are truly feeling about each place: immediately after each interview, write down your thoughts. Alternatively, make a quick video recording of yourself to capture your thoughts and feelings regarding that program. Ask yourself if you could see yourself learning from the attendings you met in the interviews, if you could see yourself working alongside the residents you met at the dinner, etc. Did the interview sit well with you? Why or why not? By the end of all your interviews, the places might all run together. These notes and videos will remind you of how you truly feel.
  • Give programs a (SLIGHT) break. Ok so I know i JUST said to go with your gut, but there is a small grain of salt to be considered. The vibes might be a tad awkward at the pre-interview dinner or during the interviews themselves. ZOOM IS AWKWARD. They are nervous too (NOT as nervous as you ofcourse, but you get it). This is a new situation for everyone.
  • Think about your priorities when ranking programs. What is your biggest priority for these next 3-7 years of your life? Is it prestige? Benefits/salary? An easy call schedule? Stacking your CV with as much research as possible so you can match into a competitive fellowship later? Is it quality of life (hours, weather, family and friends around)? Affordability of the city so you can buy a house etc? Decide what’s important to you and rank based on that! NOTE: Don’t let anyone shame you for YOUR priorities. I have heard people say things like “It doesn’t make sense to follow a partner to a city,” or “I would never be so shallow as to rank a program based on it’s prestige/name”. Do not listen to these statements if you do not agree with them! The people who make these statements are (honestly and truly) usually haters anyway. This is YOUR LIFE. Therefore, without shame, DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
  • Only rank places where you could ACTUALLY see yourself going. For some of you, “you just want to match” and would go anywhere… in that case, rank every program you interview at. For others, you would rather go unmatched than to go to certain programs or cities. Maybe you are couples matching and couldn’t bear to be away from your partner… or maybe you would just be miserable in a certain part of the country and would rather do research for a year and try again. Be true to yourself, and remember that the match is a binding agreement. You should be prepared to go to any program on your list.
  • Enter your rank order list as early as possible. If the system crashes the night before it’s due, you’ll be freaking out in the worst of ways. Just trust me on this.
  • Don’t change your rank list based on communication from a program! Some of you may get behind-the-scenes phone calls or “love letters” from programs telling you that you are “ranked highly” or that they “hope to have you next year”. These are non-binding statements that really don’t mean ANYTHING. I even know someone personally that changed his rank list based on a program telling him he was ranked to match… and he did not match there (Yes…. yes that was a match violation…NRMP Match policies allow programs and students to express interest in each other, but programs are not allowed to lie). No matter what they say to you, there are NO guarantees until Match Day. The main point is… don’t try to game the match. Rank based on your true desires, and everything will work out! 
  • And again I say… Rank according to your true desires/preferences, not according to where you think you have the best chance of matching. The way the algorithm works, it is set up to give you what you want as long as that program also ranked you to match. For this reason, you don’t gain anything by ranking where you think you did better in an interview more highly than where you truly want to go. In other words, you lose NOTHING if you rank according to your preferences, but you might lose out if you only rank places you think are “safe”. You have a great chance of matching at ANY program you interviewed at.
  • After you have thought all this through… Trust your gut. Trust your gut. TRUST YOUR GUT.

Tips regarding post-interview communication: 

Let’s be clear… in most cases, nothing you send to a program after the interview will make much of a difference. According to one study, only 5% of program directors say that thank you notes could lead to moving an applicant up on their rank order list. To be honest, your thank you notes and emails probably won’t even get read, but won’t hurt (ehhhhh unless you address them to the wrong program. AWKWARDDD). But if you really want to speak to programs after the interview and before the match, be mindful of the following tips.

  • Do not send the “I’m going to rank you highly” email. This is literally telling a program you are NOT going to rank them first. This type of “letter of intent” is not worth the communication.
  • Only send a “You’re my number one” email to ONE PROGRAM. Programs talk. Don’t play yourself. Also, make sure your wording is PRECISE. Don’t say something flimsy like “I PLAN to rank your program number one.” What does this mean? Is it a plan that can change? Is it kinda like when you PLAN to eat salads every day this week? Or PLAN to go to the gym? Just say what you mean, that this is the place you want to go, and you WILL be ranking it number one. Even more powerful is a statement such as “I have certified my rank list, and I ranked your program number one.” Just don’t get the idea that this is going to be the make or break move for you. Many programs create their rank list right after the interview, and others pick a date for ranking that you will have NO idea about. In many cases, by the time you send this email, the lists have been created for weeks. Although it won’t hurt to send one of these emails and MAY help in some rare cases, just note that it’s unlikely your email makes any difference in your ranking at that program.
  • DO NOT ask a program to tell you where they are ranking you on their list. If you even considered doing this, you are the type of person I would suggest running ALL of your email communication with a trusted mentor before sending. 
  • If you think your email sounds cringy… IT’S CRINGY. Don’t send it without getting some feedback.   
  • DO communicate the following things to programs after interviews: Let programs know about significant new achievements like Step Scores or new publications (one study showed that this kind of communication puts students at an advantage).
  • Enter the email address LAST, after you finish writing the email. This allows you to PROOF READDDDDDDD before you hit send! Incomplete emails, emails addressed to the wrong programs, or emails with major spelling or grammatical errors are net NEGATIVE for you. If you put the email address in last, you are less likely to accidentally send an email that wasn’t readyyyyyyyy (Kevin Hart voice).
  • Don’t take it personally if no one responds to your emails. People are getting tons of emails (probably more this year than ever since everything is virtual). Responding to your email may not be a priority for them. It doesn’t mean they aren’t ranking you highly, or don’t like you, or anything else your anxiety might suggest to you. It just means it’s a busy time. Don’t waste your worrying, and just try to forget about it!
  • Relax! You’ve done all you can, you killed the game at your interviews (especially with THESE TIPS). Now is time to wait… and rest. You’ve earned it.

I hope these tips are helpful! YOU GOT THIS!

Until next time,

Dr. Oye