It is often said that life is made of moments, but very few moments come prescribed with a time, date, and location quite like your Match Day. In the longevity of a medical career, Match Day is a moment that has the potential to change the trajectory of your professional life or so they say. Given this climate of finality, it can be hard to walk into Match Day without a sense of anxiousness. Questions of “what if I don’t end up where I want to be?” or “what if I made the wrong decision in my rank list?” are sure to abound. These were questions that kept popping into my mind leading up to my own Match Day. But now looking back on this day while being knee-deep in residency, here are the things I wish I knew prior my own Match.
It Is Not as Final as You Think
The primary goal of a medical school is to get their students matched into a residency spot. Thus, Match Day carries a weight heavier than medical school graduation itself. Being in this milieu, it is hard not to take Match Day with a certain level of absoluteness. However, it’s important to recognize that life happens, people evolve, and priorities change. Even in the three short years since my own match, several of my medical school classmates have either changed specialty, changed residency program, or dropped out to pursue other interests. Of course, it is not the majority of my classmates; however, it highlights the reality that life is not as prescribed as we are often taught to believe. Careers are malleable. So if you end up matching at a place that does not work out, know that you have other options.
Who You Match With Is More Important Than Where You Match
Happiness has less to do with what you get in life and more to do with who you share your life with, and during residency you share your life with your co-residents more than anyone else. Sadly, you have no control over who your co-residents are, but pay equal attention to who you matched with as you do to where you matched. Residency abounds with terrible lows truncated with momentary ups. No one will be able to understand the reality of your own experience quite like the people who go on this journey alongside you. Matching with people who care deeply about your well-being as much as they do about their own is a gift worth more than where you train.
Prepare Yourself to Be Present
Match Day is a unique experience that only people in medicine get to experience. Those who get their first choice match will be clearly elated and count it to be among their best days. But if you end up disappointed with your match, it is important to allow yourself to experience those emotions. This will undoubtedly be difficult as there will be societal pressure to put on a smile. But being honest with your emotions will be liberating. At my own Match Day, I appreciated the space to be both excited for those who ended up with a spectacular match and to be there for those who were trying to figure out how to make the best of their disappointing match. Ultimately, the capacity for both happiness and disappointment to coexist in a single room is what makes Match Day a rather unique experience. Go into it ready to experience whatever emotion you feel when you open that envelope.
Dr. Jerome Chelliah is a resident physician in Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.