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What is Match Day?

Match Day is one of the most important events in the medical student experience. On the third Friday of March each year, fourth-year medical students learn where they will complete their next stage of medical training. Match Day ceremonies are an exciting affair at many U.S. medical schools, during which students typically open envelopes that contain their official National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) placement results. By participating in a national matching plan, applicants contractually agree to attend the residency, internship or fellowship programs to which they match.

Below are answers to common questions from family and friends about the matching process.

A medical degree is wonderful. However, before MDs can treat patients on their own, they must complete additional training to become a practicing physician in their chosen medical specialty. This specialty-specific training is called a residency. The first year of a residency is called the intern year, or internship.

Medical students complete interviews during their fourth year of medical school, and rank programs they wish to attend, based on the medical speciality they hope to pursue. Then the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) uses a computerized algorithm to align the preferences of applicants with the preferences of program directors in order to produce the best possible outcome for filling training positions available at U.S. teaching hospitals.

The letter to the student is very simple. It includes the name of the teaching hospital and the specialty program where the student matched.

After the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) finishes the matching process, medical schools download a confidential list of where students matched. The school then prints a letter for each student, and each letter goes into a sealed envelope that cannot be opened until noon on Match Day.

After Indiana University School of Medicine students open their red envelopes, they have the option to go up on stage in front of all their classmates, professors and loved ones to announce where they matched.

Medical students throughout the U.S. (and worldwide for international medical students who hope to attend residency training in the U.S.) open their envelopes at the same time on Match Day. Tens of thousands of young doctors find out their fate at the same time.

As soon as students figure out where they’re going, they start planning where they will spend the next three to seven years of their lives. Some go to a new city; some stay close to where they completed medical school. Residency positions typically start in June or July, so planning is crucial for young doctors. However, residency programs guide their new residents through the whole process.

Residency life after Match Day.

Depending on what specialty students choose, it could be three to seven years before they are finished with training and can start to practice medicine independently as a physician. Some specialties can take longer.

Unique Types of Matches

Couples Match

Couples matching allows any two people to be matched with residency programs in the same geographic area. Any two people or couple can apply through a couple’s match as long as they are in the same graduating class—even if they attend different medical schools.

Military Match

Military match shares many characteristics with the civilian match. There are some important differences depending on which branch of the military students wish to go into and their chosen medical specialty. Military match takes place in December, before the civilian match in March.

Enrollment and Orientation

New residents and fellows at IU School of Medicine must complete the enrollment process, which begins each year at the end of March. A welcome email from the residency or fellowship program coordinator guides new residents through the process with important information about hire requirements, access to the Enrollment Portal and answers to frequently asked questions.