Were You Supposed to Match

As a residency match coach, one of the questions I get asked the most by reapplicants is “were you supposed to match?” This question often arises when a medical student graduate has not matched in their desired specialty during their first or even second attempt. It’s essential to address this question and provide guidance to help reapplicants increase their chances of matching in the future.

Understanding the Match Process

Before diving into the question of whether a reapplicant was supposed to match, it’s crucial to understand the match process. The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) uses an algorithm to match applicants with residency programs based on their preferences and the programs’ rankings. This process is designed to ensure that both applicants and programs get their top choices.

However, the match process is highly competitive, and not everyone will match, especially in more popular specialties. According to the NRMP, in 2021, 93.2% of U.S. seniors matched, leaving 6.8% of applicants unmatched.

Reasons for Not Matching

There are several reasons why a medical student graduate may not match in their desired specialty. These reasons include:

  1. Low USMLE/COMLEX scores: Standardized exam scores are a significant factor in the residency match process. Low scores can make it challenging to compete with other applicants.
  2. Lack of clinical experience: Clinical experience is essential to demonstrate a reapplicant’s readiness for residency training. A lack of clinical experience can make it difficult to stand out among other applicants.
  3. Weak personal statement or letters of recommendation: A weak personal statement or letters of recommendation can negatively impact an applicant’s chances of matching.
  4. Limited number of spots in the desired specialty: Some specialties have a limited number of residency spots, making it more challenging to match.

Assessing Your Application

To determine if you were supposed to match, it’s essential to assess your application and identify areas for improvement. Consider the following questions:

  1. Did you meet the minimum qualifications for your desired specialty? Each specialty has specific requirements, such as USMLE/COMLEX scores, clinical experience, and research. Ensure you meet these minimum qualifications.
  2. Did you apply to a sufficient number of programs? It’s essential to apply to a diverse range of programs to increase your chances of matching.
  3. Did you tailor your application to each program? Each program has unique characteristics, and it’s essential to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for each one.
  4. Did you seek feedback after the match? After the match, it’s essential to seek feedback from programs that interviewed you but did not rank you. This feedback can help you identify areas for improvement.

Three Things to Do

If you determine that you were not supposed to match, don’t despair. Here are three things you can do to increase your chances of matching in the future:

  1. Improve your application: Consider retaking standardized exams, gaining additional clinical experience, or seeking out research opportunities to strengthen your application.
  2. Expand your options: Consider alternative specialties or geographic locations to increase your chances of matching.
  3. Seek guidance: Consider working with a residency match coach or mentor to help you navigate the application process and identify areas for improvement.


Being unmatched can be a challenging experience, but it’s essential to assess your application and identify areas for improvement. By improving your application, expanding your options, and seeking guidance, you can increase your chances of matching in the future. Remember, the match process is competitive, but with hard work and dedication, you can achieve your goals. ?