252 people matched this year (246 did not match). Of those who matched, the majority get their #1 choice. Only 15 people got their 4th or higher choice - 6% of those matched. I am one of those 15. I am very lucky to have matched, I feel like I barely got in.Match Results by Rank on Applicants List Rank Number - Number Matched
1 - 179
2 - 38
3 - 20
4 - 8
5 - 2
6 or higher - 5
Most know this was my third time trying. I graduated from dental school in 2004 with a 93 Part 1 and 10/90 rank. I have serious research, multiple publications, serious commitment to activities & leadership, etc. I was one of those people who had so much that I had to pare it down when I made the 2-page resume for PASS. Senior year in my class, 6/7 people matched into ortho. From the outside looking in, 6/7 sounds like a great match stat, but few ever wonder what happens to the 1/7 that didn't match.
Those who apply as seniors in dental schools - my reapplicant buddies (yay Florida fellows!) & I called them "newbies." I was once a newbie too. When you are a newbie, you figure you will match. The people who don't match must be like social ******s or something. They probably don't have 90+ board scores. They probably don't interview well. There has to be a reason they don't match. Well here is my conclusion - there is no reason, I believe it is either politics or luck. Those who don't match are just as qualified as those who do. This isn't like dental school admissions where the 4.0 GPA/25 DAT gets in over the 2.8 GPA/18 DAT. Almost everyone who enters match had competitive stats to earn interviews.
Over the course of 3 years, the six schools I never applied to were: Alabama, UT-Memphis, Georgia, and the 3 OEC programs. I applied to every other ortho program in the coutry at least once, some twice, and I applied to almost all programs in the Northeast 3 times. I went on 19 interviews over 3 years; only 2 programs interviewed me twice. I never turned down an interview and I luckily never had a conflict either.
As a senior, I applied to 27 programs, got 4 interviews. I wanted to be in a metropolitan area in the Northeast, and my interviews weren't fitting that criteria; I almost didn't rank 2 places b/c of location. I had also applied to GPRs as "backup" so when match didn't happen, I got into a GPR in NYC. While interviewing for ortho I met all kinds of residents who had matched: those who only applied to programs in their regions, those who only had 1 interview, those who said they had lots of interviews but only ranked one or two places, those who told me they turned down interviews because of so and so reasons (not b/c of a conflict). Therefore, I figured for the second round, I was going to be more selective about where I apply.
I am from the Northeast and there are lots of ortho programs around here, so for the second round, I applied to 17, got 7 interviews. Wow! I had heard about the magic 7 - "7 interviews and you are pretty much set to match" so I figured this is my year! When I didn't match again, I thought I was having de ja vu. I struggled for a while about what my backup plan (debated doing a year 2 GPR, looked around at some fellowships) but ultimately decided to just stay in NYC and do private practice.
That's when I sat down to think about "What is it about those who match?" Obviously I have the stats/resume if I am getting some interviews, but I must be lacking something if I can't actually match. I figured for me, it was that I am too nice. Over the first 2 years I met lots of applicants, residents, and orthodontists and often found myself feeling there was an "arrogance" quality to alot of people I met. I can't explain it, but these are the same people who automatically assume there must be something wrong with me if I can't match two times in a row because most of them were newbies when they matched so they dont know much about the group who doesn't match.
This third time, I went out full force. I had a support group of reapplicants - very nice & qualified people who didn't get in our first or second tries but we were determined. I got over the notion of location and I applied to 40+ programs all over the country (I don't even know what the final total was), I got 8 interviews. I worked part-time in private practice so I could use the other time to do applications and go on interviews. I couldn't afford to be picky. If I had said "I am only applying to 2 year programs" - I would have had 1 interview, no match. If I had said "I am only reapplying in the Northeast" - then I would have had 4 interviews, no match. I applied to those 40+ schools because I believe it is very unpredictable as to which schools are going to invite you to interview.
I read books about interviewing and I read lots of the "Dental School Interview Feedback" section here on SDN. I sat down on my computer with a list of like 60 possible questions I could get asked and crafted nice little "storybook" responses to them. Then I memorized them. I was constantly reviewing my notes at the interviews. It was like studying for a dental school exam. I went out and bought one of those black leather folders everyone carries around. In past cycles I had believed residents when they said "Oh, the interview is a chance for us to get to know you. Just be yourself." No way - I tried being "myself" two years in a row and it didn't work. I had to try something else.
During my interviews this year, I had 2 interviews that I feel went very badly, 4 that were ho-hum, and 2 that I got "good vibes" from. Those 2 with the good vibes were my #1 choice school and Vanderbilt. But I have also learned that a "good vibe" means nothing so I wasn't trusting anything. I never got asked how much I know about ortho or any OEC questions. I made up my list but in the end I didn't even care what the order was, all I wanted when I opened the email on match day was to say "Congratulations." I got so excited when I saw that, I didn't even bother to scroll down and see which program I matched. I was just relieved that someone wanted me!
Tentative back up plans I considered included jumping ship and doing Pedo (the politics & arrogance in ortho I can do without, I think Pedo is an overall nicer field - both fields work on kids) or taking some time off and retaking Part 1 boards. Maybe I would have thought more about OEC, I dunno - the 7 year contract is really what kills me about them. I have worked in a corporate dental places and it is very very restrictive compared to non-corporate practice. It sounds so sad that I even had to consider trying to raise a 93 part I. But look at who gets in - 67% of the matched candidates are seniors in dental school. Programs sweat seeing a 98 board score more than they do a graduated dentist with experience. I don't know why b/c I was a much better and mature candidate having had the GPR & private practice experience than when I was a senior. I have actually practiced enough GP in lots of settings (clinic, high end, insurance mill, etc) to know what I hate about it and I REALLY REALLY wanted ortho. During work, when I was getting frustrated with the things in GP I don't like, I would pray in my head all the time before match day "Please God, let me match." But most programs don't really care; there are a few places that favor those with experience.
Getting into ortho is not as easy as newbies make it out to be. There is no magic formula, IMO your best shot is probably to kiss butt at your own program and hope they take you. I mean look at the other thread - 4/6 Baylor people in Baylor, 4/6 UNC people in UNC. I said on some other thread that if I had to do dental school all over again knowing that i wanted ortho, I would have gone to Harvard, maybe UConn (small schools with really good part 1 board averages. I think Harvard tends to match everyone and if you don't match the name seems to be a big deal to some places). I think that to get the interview, it's all about how high your board score is to get noticed; if you have a class rank, it can hurt you if it's not high enough. The rest of the resume is IMO of very minor importance. If you can have some "big names" write letters for you, believe me - it can help more than how many publications you have. There are also lots of legacies and political crap that goes on. All it meant to me was that a program with 4 spots interviewing 20 people may already know exactly who those 4 spots are going to; the other 16 candidates are really just there for entertainment value, they don't even have a real chance but you don't know that until after match. Also, you may interview at a program and think your interviews went well; what you don't know is that the residents at that place may have veto power and for whatever reason, if you are not "cool enough" you might get the axe. For this reason, I also believe that the social events are just as mandatory as the interviews. You don't know how much power the residents have at that particular program and it can really hurt you if you don't go b/c it is a BIG popularity contest. (There are programs where the residents have zero say.)
That is my ortho rant. Phew! Now that I'm in, I am very tired, broke, sick of all the interview games, and even bitter about what I went through to get this spot. Of course I am very happy to have succeeded and I think Vanderbilt is fabulous for believing in me. Congrats to those of you who matched. To those who didn't, you can't give up if this is what you want, but I think you always have to be realistic and entertain the idea that ortho may not happen and try to find something else in dentistry you like for a career.