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Coping With Not Matching for Residency

Match Day is a wonderful reward that makes the years of hard work in medical school worth it. It can be a very emotional day- some people match their dream specialty in their dream location, some people match lower on their list than anticipated, and some people don’t match at all. That was me. Not matching was incredibly disappointing. I was so happy for all my friends and classmates who matched but within my closest circle of friends, nobody was in the same situation, and I felt a little lost. I immediately turned to the internet and Google to look for stories of those who didn’t match, how they coped with it, and what they did to move forward. These stories were inspirational for me to read. They made me feel less alone and gave me hope, which is why I’d like to share my story as well. I share my Match Day disappointment with the hopes that someone will read it someday and know that it’s okay to not match, it’s okay to be disappointed, and it is possible to move on.
My story starts with a late interest in a competitive specialty. I was a little late to decide my specialty, and while I had a fear of not matching, I really couldn’t bring myself to imagine that scenario. Therefore, I had not really thought of a backup plan. When I got that email saying that I did not match, I was shocked, disappointed and at a loss for what to do. Immediately I entered the SOAP process, applied to open preliminary programs, and received calls from programs across the country. In the days after not matching, I had to put on a happy face for interviews that hundreds of unmatched applicants around the country were applying for.
What surprised me about the SOAP process was how kind and encouraging all the program directors were. It was wonderful to feel supported during such a vulnerable time and ultimately, my situation worked out for the best. I ended up in a fantastic year-long program where I have gained endless experience and made many close friends. I also bonded with some unmatched classmates of mine who I hadn’t really spoken to during medical school during this time of uncertainty- one good that came out of it! I encourage you to be open, to reach out to others, to your school, your friends, your family, other unmatched classmates. It can be tempting to just hide or be embarrassed, but there is no shame in taking an unconventional path to your ultimate goal.
Ultimately, all my unmatched classmates and I ended up in different situations. Unmatched surgery applicants entered preliminary surgery years, others entered internal medicine preliminary years and transitional years, and others SOAPed into entirely different specialties.
That immediate time of not matching is scary and stressful, but l want to emphasize that THINGS WORK OUT FOR THE BEST. Exactly the way they are meant to. Life moves on. You move forward and have new experiences and new opportunities to learn and grow. One day does not define you, your worth or your future. I can promise that. I am so grateful for where I ended up, as are my former classmates.
I reapplied a second time, this cycle actually. And as the interview season drew to a close and Match Day approached, I felt relaxed. Because I knew. I know that somehow, someday, I will end up where I am meant to be. And that if I do not match yet again, there are options to move forward. I will continue to grow and learn and push myself. I want every unmatched applicant who is reading this to know: you are not alone. And when you reflect on how far you have come the following year or sometime in the future, you will be proud of yourself for turning a disappointing situation into a positive one. As you should be.
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