Match day is an exciting culmination of hard work and months of preparation for dental students across the country. As a GPR and AEGD applicant, I was excited to see which program on my list ranked me. The time came, I opened my email and, to my shock, I saw the dreaded, “We regret to inform you…”
It was sobering, but now the real battle began as I entered the post-match process. I didn’t know anybody who had to work through the post-match, so I had no experience to refer to. It was a hectic day, but one filled with opportunity, as I found a second chance to find the right program for me. By the end of the day, I had received an acceptance before I even had time to process what happened. Here are some tips I learned that may help you prepare yourself to make the most of post-match.
- Have a plan going in. Decide what your priorities are for a back-up plan. Is location important? States such as Arizona, Florida or New York often have post-match openings for GPRs or AEGDs due to sheer quantity of programs. If there are no post-match spots in the specialty you applied for, would you consider a GPR or AEGD, a different specialty, or would you prefer to work? Would you consider attending a program that you may not have time to learn much about? Some specialties such as OMFS may not have many unmatched positions, but offer internship programs that can improve your chance at acceptance next year. No matter how certain you are that you will match, always have a back-up plan for if you do not. Also, take match day off from clinic and class if you can. Regardless of what happens, you won’t want to have to worry about other responsibilities that day.
- Check the list on match. If you do not match, you will receive an email before noon (often around 8-8:30 a.m.). It’s a difficult time, but it’s OK because you’re prepared for this! You’ll have to wait until noon to log onto your national match account to see the list. Go take a walk, do some yoga, brew some coffee, charge your computer and phone, and start preparing your materials to send out. This means making sure you have a copy of your personal statement (one that isn’t too school or region specific, if possible), CV or resume, and a downloaded version of your PASS application. Prepare a quick script/email template for when you call and email programs if you are nervous (just make sure to triple check what you wrote before sending; I accidentally spelled a program director’s name wrong in the rush to send emails).
- Only contact programs that you would go to. It seems obvious, but in the chaos of the post-match, it’s tempting to apply to more programs to improve your chances of acceptance. However, programs are also desperate at this point and will reach out to you quickly and more aggressively than in the regular match. You may receive an offer the same day that you contact the program, and they will want an answer as soon as possible. Do not waste that time and energy on a program that you would not like.
- Not all programs implement their post-match the same way. Programs through NYU Langone have a separate post-match application that will not open until later that day, giving you time to prepare and decide on programs. However, any other program has its own way of doing post-match. Often, programs will provide contact information to directly reach their program director. They might request just a CV or ask for contact information for your recommendation letters. They may ask for an interview or make a decision on the spot. Stay courteous, professional and flexible.
- Ask questions. Again, this may seem obvious, but the post-match can happen so fast that it’s easy to forget to ask questions about a program. Like in the match, you need to ask questions to program directors and, if you can, current or former residents. You likely already have a list of questions that you used for match, but if not, general questions can give you an idea of whether the program is a good fit. These questions include: What does an average day look like for a resident? What do you see as strengths and weaknesses of the program? What is your goal for residents?
- Be careful with social media. Your friends and classmates will post mostly positive results from their respective matches (fewer people post when they do not match). If you are not prepared to see those results, then avoid social media for a few days.
- Most importantly, stay positive. The match algorithm can leave qualified applicants unmatched. It feels awful to not match, but the algorithm doesn’t match people based on quality of applicant or quality of program. You may even find one of your top choice programs on the post-match list (which happened to me).
~David Alpert, Tufts ’21, ASDA Contributing Editor