Match Day!

Since today is Match Day, I couldn’t resist posting something about residency applications and the Match.


Residency is the period of training after medical school.  So these students have already done high school, college (4 years), medical school (4 years), and then they are going for even more training.  The length of time depends on the specialty.  For example, I am going into Internal Medicine which has a 3 year residency program while my best friend matching today is going into General Surgery which is a 5 year program.


Fourth year medical students first apply to a bunch of residency programs (some specialties are more competitive so students apply more broadly) in the middle of September of their fourth year.  Then they receive interview offers and may accept or decline.   As far as I know, you need to interview at a program in order to be ranked by the program, so you go to places you would consider going for residency.  Interview season runs from Nov-Jan (occasionally longer).

The Rank Lists

After interviews, students have until mid-February to submit their Rank List.  This is where they put all the programs they interviewed at and want to be considered for a position on a numbered list.  The program in spot number 1 is their first choice and so on.

The residency programs do something similar with the applicants they interviewed.  They rank students for the positions they have available.  So let’s say there’s a very small program with only 5 spots, and perhaps they rank a total of 30 students (just in case they don’t fill the first 5 positions with their top pick).


The Match

So let’s say we have 5 applicants and there are 2 programs to make our lives easier.

Applicants: A, B, C, D, E

Programs: 1, 2

Program 1 has 1 spot and Program 2 has 2 spots

Each applicant will make their rank list, and let’s say it looks something like this

A: 1, 2    B: 2, 1  C: 1, 2  D: 1  E: 2

Programs will make their rank list:

Program 1: E, C, B   Program 2: D, B, A, C, E

Now it we start off with the applicants in order, Applicant “A” will get tentatively matched at program 2 but not at program one, but then when we move on to applicant B, C, D, and E they all start to occupy their respective spots on the lists.

Program 1:  *, C, B    Program 2: *, B, A, C, E

Since applicants D and E only ranked 1 program, D did not make it only Program 1’s rank list and is therefore out of luck while applicant E did not rank program 1 and therefore is only one Program 2’s match list.

Programs 1 and 2 only have a limited number of spots, so it goes according to applicant preference.  Since applicant C ranked Program 1 higher than Program 2, then he/she will be matched into Program 1 since no other applicants are in the spot higher than him/her.

Program 1: C (only has one spot)

Moving on to Program 1, Applicant’s B and A ranked this program and are the next two in line to be accepted.  Since Applicant D did not want to go to Program 2, then B and A are now matched.  Unfortunately, C, D, and E did not match.

I know that’s a little confusing in text form, so take a look at this video to see it explained in a different way.


The Wait (how long does it really take to do this??)

This year, rank lists were submitted on February 25th and we (are still) waiting until March 20th at 1 pm EST to get the results.  Does it really take that long??

Well, this guy did a pretty cool experiment:

“I set up my testing environment on an Amazon EC2 cloud server with the following specs: Intel Xeon E5–2670 v2 (Ivy Bridge) processor with a clock speed of 2.5 Ghz, 2 vCPUs, 15 GiB of RAM and a 32 GB SSD running Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS. This is a pretty “run-of-the-mill” server — actually not much more powerful than the Macbook Pro I’m using to write this article, and at a cost of $4.20 per day to use, it isn’t a particularly expensive system, either. After running the algorithm 100 times, I found that it took an average of 17 seconds to process all 34,270 applicants, including loading the dataset, calculating the stable matches, and saving the results to a database.”

17 seconds!!!! 


Of course, I’m sure there’s a bit more to it than that, but I was really surprised how fast it could be done.  Now I’ll just have to wait a few more hours until I get my results.  Wish me luck!


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