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What if I Don’t Match?

By OnlineMedEd March 12, 2020

Not matching into residency isn’t the end of your medical career. Here’s what to do next.

After all the late-night study sessions, tough exams, and giving up your social life, med students want to know it wasn’t all for nothing. That’s why not matching into your top choice for residency can feel like the end of your career before it even began. And in some cases, you may not match at all!

Don’t give up—there’s still hope. Let’s look at some things you can do to continue advancing your education and achieving your dreams of becoming a physician.


Take Advantage of the Break

Not matching into residency is a critical turning point in your career. Use this time to get specific about your goals for a medical career. Sort out your finances, catch up on sleep, and take care of yourself. With a clear mind and fresh perspective, you’ll be better able to figure out your next steps.

This is also the time to ask yourself what you really want and why. Tap into yourself and dig deep. What are your reasons for becoming a doctor? What does it mean to you? Make 100% sure that you genuinely want to continue along this path, and if you do, continue to give it your all!


Participate in SOAP

If you didn’t match into the program of your choice (or didn’t match at all), the next best step is to apply to a program through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) that can connect you with leftover residency programs. You can access a list of programs to apply for and select those you’re interested in.


Tap Into Your Network

A network of colorful game pieces

Ideally, you’ll have built a network of senior residents, physicians, or fellows that may be able to make a phone call or ask around on your behalf. Use your existing network to help you discover other opportunities to keep moving forward.

And think back, you never know if that one person you met years ago might be the one to help out. Opportunities can come from anyone, anywhere.


Take the USMLE Step 3 Exam

Passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam can give you a competitive edge over other applicants in the next round. Residents who are ready to start their intern year must pass the exam, so proving you can pass it before you need to can make you appear favorable to program directors.


Seek the Guidance of a Mentor

b. Handshake

When med students don’t match, it’s common to shy away from family and friends and lose touch with your school. Many students feel embarrassed that all their hard work didn’t pay off, and they don’t want the stress of saving face. 

But you should actually do the opposite—surround yourself with support from your loved ones. Keep in touch with the dean and others at your med school to see if they can offer guidance. They may be able to help you find a research project or connect you with a mentor in your field.


Keep Your Clinical Skills Current

 Case X

If you didn’t match into a program, and it’s your goal to enter a program one day, it’s important to keep your clinical skills fresh. OnlineMedEd’s Case X presents you with real-world patient vignettes and can help keep your skills current and stay prepared for when you do match.

You can also find a job in a clinical setting where you can stay within the medical field. Some states, like Missouri, allow unmatched med school grads to serve as assistant physicians in needed areas. The experience and connections may allow you to match into a program later. 

Keep your head up, and don’t panic. Your medical career is still within your reach.


Deep dives into real issues impacting medical education, brought to you by OnlineMedEd.



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