From Username: aProgDirector -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I have seen this process from both ends. I've had to scramble a few slots in my program, and I've helped med students (and PG-1 interns trying to re-match in a new field) in the scramble. It's ugly on both ends, and it really brings into focus how well the match works. Several pieces of advice: Just to clarify the timeline: Monday March 12 at noon all applicants who are unmatched are notified, either through their Dean's office or through the NRMP website (or email, I guess) Tuesday March 13 at 11:30 AM, programs with unfilled slots are notified. Tuesday March 13 at 12 Noon, the list of unfilled programs is released to all unmatched candidates, and the scramble begins. If you are unmatched, you have 24 hours to figure out what you want to do. You should seriously consider all of the above advice. The golden rule is this: Do not accept a position in a field you are not interested in. You will likely be very sorry if you do. To scramble as best as possible, you need the following: a quiet room that is out of the way. Do not scramble in the middle of the Student Affairs office. a helper, preferably a faculty mentor who knows you and what you are interested in, and who knows something about the programs you are interested in. If your med school is associated with a residency in your field, someone from the residency program is a great choice. TWO land/cell phone lines for outgoing calls -- get several disposable cells if needed and charge them up with minutes. One land/cell phone line for incoming calls (that you know will not be busy) OR a pager for returning calls OR both. You can use the main number for your student affairs office (or similar) for this purpose. a computer from which to run ERAS (better if you have 2) a dedicated FAX machine for YOUR USE ONLY (if possible). I kid you not -- go buy one at WalMart if needed - cheap is fine, it needs to last for 24 hours. Don't forget that you will need a phone line for your fax machine, and you can't easily plug a FAX into a cell. paper copies of all of your application materials. The good slots in the scramble fill VERY quickly. I would like to think that I run a quality program -- the few years where I have had an open categorical or prelim slot, I have almost always filled it within the first 20minutes of the scramble. Due to #4, you must prioritize your calls to programs. Be careful "overshooting", you may simply be wasting time while other, less competitive slots fill. Remember that the scramble is first come, first served! Once the list of unfilled programs is posted, you and your mentor should quickly scan the entire list to find those spots that you are most interested. You must make these decisions very quickly. If you have a significant other who would like some say in where you go, they need to be present. Many programs use ERAS in the scramble. You should forward your application to ALL programs on your list immediately. An additional helper (friend) can do this for you while you are on the phone. Choose the top two slots on your list. Your mentor calls #1 while you call #2 on your two phone lines. Expect busy signals, make sure your phone has a redial button. If you have choices #3-5, cycle through the phone numbers until you get through. Having a faculty member call on your behalf, especially if it's a Dean or an Assoc Dean, is a very good idea. Those calls usually get routed from the program assistants to the Prog Director, and that's usually in your favor. If you get through and they say they will "get back to you", you should assume you are not getting a spot there and plan accordingly (this is not always true, but sitting and waiting for a call back is a bad idea). Leave them a number you know will not be busy, or a pager number to page you. Blindly faxing materials to programs without calling is a gigantic waste of time, IMHO. As far as a Prelim year vs Research vs Something Else, my advice is: If you are applying to a very competitive field (Rads, Derm, Ortho, etc), then research with someone who is well known in the field is probably the best option if you remain dedicated to training in that field. Be prepared to work very hard, as you have to have something to show for your research by application time (Nov 1st). 3-4 months of prelim experience seem unlikely to impress a Rads PD. If you are applying to a less competitive field (i.e. Gen Surg, Medicine, OB etc), then some clinical experience in a prelim year may be of some benefit. This is especially true for IMG's with no US experience. I would suggest asking your PD to front-load your schedule with inpatient rotations (so that you can generate some letters) and schedule a rotation that can handle leave for interviews in Dec or Jan. Your best shot for a categorical spot will be at your prelim program.