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You can't really assess a match list!! Stop trying!

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by Gerota, Mar 23, 2004.

  1. Gerota

    Gerota Junior Member
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    Its very funny that people think they can evaluate how individual schools did in the match. For those who have not gone through the match process listen closely to why you really have a tough time.

    - You dont know what good training programs are, especially in specialty fields. Just because its associated with a good name doesnt means its anything special. How many of you would know that the Barrow Neurological institute in Arizona is among the best neurosurg programs>? Who would know that the harvard urology programs arent anything special and the best GU program in Boston is the lahey clinic? Would you know U of Iowa or Miami had one of the best Optho departments in the country? Just because the hospital has a good name doesnt mean jack. Maybe the chairman stepped down, maybe residents are miserable there? Maybe there are huge holes in their training program (limited experience in a certain area)

    -personal factors: these come into play all the time. for example, many students may couples match and do worse off in the match, students may want to return to their home town for training, want to be near a signigicant other, single students may choose to be in a big city rather than a rural area, students may want to buy a house and raise a family

    - Many people double apply, just because 5 people matched in something competetive like Rad Onc, that doesnt mean 30 applied and ended up matching in their backup field like medicine.

    - You dont see who did not match or how many people needed to scramble

    - You dont know how far people matched down their list

    -Schools are incestious:. Many schools take many of their own

    -class size matters- a class of 250 vs a class of 100- matching 5 in radiology is very different

    -Did people who matched take time off? Maybe these people didnt feel competitive enough after 4 yrs and take 1+ year off to strengthen their application. Maybe they or are a MD/PhD.


    To truely assess how a class did, you would have to know how YOUR medical school 4th years well. Only after speaking to your peers and assessing how they did can you make a good judgement.


    To all applicants out there who are trying to make decisions: Looking at schools lists is tough ! Just understand that doing well at any school, making AOA, and doing well on the boards is the most important thing. If you do that, you can match in any field and any program wherever you head for school.
     
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  3. irlandesa

    irlandesa Senior Member
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    true for the most part. but you can't deny that certain hospitals (e.g. BWH, MGH, HUP, UCSF) have a reputation for being strong all around, and it is easy to be swayed by this. and, I know plenty of people who didn't get AOA at my school who got great matches, and a few AOA's who were somewhat disappointed on match day last year. I do agree that it is all relative and that geography plays a huge role. Part of the reason that "2nd tier" schools like BU, Tufts, and U Mass are good at matching students at BID and even a decent # of matches at Brigham and MGH is that Mass. residents want to work in Boston and local students are popular at the Beantown hospitals.

    Totally agree with you on the Lahey Clinic, which also has a strong national rep. for GI and Cards. Hopefully I will get to do my IM Sub-I and a GI elective there next year. For anyone who is interested, Baystate Medical Center (Tufts affiliate in Springfield, Mass.) is another "sleeper" hospital that has great programs in Emergency Medicine and Ob/Gyn. there are plenty of such programs out there..
     
  4. elias514

    elias514 Senior Member
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    In regards to assessing the "strength" of match lists, I used to align myself with the OP's opinion, but now I think that it's possible with some research. There are plenty of "Top Residency Program" lists and commentaries in the residency forums.
     
  5. juddson

    juddson 3K Member
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    What's this about not matching in rads and then taking IM as a backup? Is this possible? I thought that you had to apply to only one specialty, and that was that. Can one REALLY apply to Rad or Gas, say, AND various IM programs? Isn't this looked down upon?

    Judd
     
  6. lkjh

    lkjh Junior Member

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    There are obviously certain hospitals that are more well rounded than others, but even the top ones that you've listed have departments that don't live up to their names. There are amazing hospitals, but you won't know how great the departments actually are until you've spoken to people in the field and have been there yourselves. Even the US News rankings are approximates and are often unable to reflect top training in even the Top 10.

    I'd also like to add that I think its silly that people keep using the number of Derms and Orthos as markers of success. Like Gerota said, you just can't compare. Residency is a choice. Good departments will often (but not always) motivate their students to go into their field, and there is huge variation between different classes: Our school has a strong Psych department and relatively weaker Gen Surg, we have 12 psychiatrists and 4 GS out of ~100. Last year's class of a little over 100 matched 8 Orthos and 9 Peds, this year only one person wanted to do Ortho, with 18 in Peds.

    Also, when I was interviewing for a "competitive surgical subspecialty" at the "top programs in the country," I found that the applicants were from all over the country, from schools that are household names to ones that most don't even know exist, I didn't find that the big med schools were grossly overrepresented. Basically, its about individuals, a guy at the top of his or her small med school with tons of publications, top scores/grades, and killer letters definitely has a leg up on a mediocre candidate from a big school. (Although you can't do much about nepotism, nor can you blame them for preferring the safety and comfort of familiarity) Also, never discount the importance of a winning personality...once you get to your interview, most of the stats that got you there become irrelevant because everyone looks good on paper.

    juddson, it is possible to apply to multiples, you just have to have separate letters, personal statements, and separate spiels for interviews. (and to not let programs know that you are fencing it) Its just expensive and painful to apply and interview, but often necessary for those concerned about not matching in one of the fields.
     
  7. RedBlanket

    RedBlanket Hi everybody!
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    To the poster who thinks they have a decent sense now of the field, I suspect that you are more deluded than you think. Having just matched, I still don't think that if we pulled a group of highly competitive 4th years for a particular specialty together we could ever come close to agreeing on, say a "top 20" list. I'm sure there would be certain common schools (again, not necessarily the obvious ones), but even academic attendings give radically different ranks.

    It seems to me that most chatter about competitiveness of various specialties is biased and pretty off-base half the time. So, it seems unlikely that most pre-meds are going to get much useful information out of the match lists. I'd agree that there are a few big guns (UCSF, Harvard (complicated further by 3 hospitals), and JHU) which seem strong throughout, however the inter-specialty variability is generally enormous.
     
  8. exmike

    exmike NOR * CAL
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    I dont think you give enough credit to people looking at the match lists. For example, I am interested in optho, so I know which programs are strong, and thus I can make an informed judgement about the relative strength of a given match list.
     
  9. Fermi

    Fermi Senior Member
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    The OP's point is that it's not even about knowing specialty-specific program rankings and comparing them to match lists. The point is that you can never make an assessment of how a school performed based solely on the programs/specialties represented.

    True, if a school matches large numbers of students at very good programs, you can make a positive assessment. But you can't make a negative assessment for a school that matches only a few people in to top specialties/programs. What if only those few people applied to the top programs, and they all matched at their #1? What if many students were ranked highly by competitive programs, but stayed at "home" instead? Some schools have much more of this culture than others, and it doesn't mean that they are unsuccessful in the match.
     
  10. RedBlanket

    RedBlanket Hi everybody!
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    I don't want to sound like a cynical jerk, but I wouldn't get too tied up on your pre-med school career choice. It is VERY common for even the most dedicated students to change career trajectories during 3rd year of medical school. Two of the top 5 students in my class (AOA, killed the boards) came in super gung-ho about one specialty, busted their butt to align themselves for that field and changed in 3rd year (Ortho->Anesthesia, EM->Ortho). Many, many students pulled similar switches. I know you won't believe it until you see it, so it's a waste of breath, but it's more common than you think. If optho remains your passion, congratulations, but I'd give it 50/50 odds at best at this point (optho is a cool field).

    On a tangent, if you are positive you want to do optho, think long and hard about Drew... Maybe you know something about optho at Drew I don't, but it's academic rep is questionable, especially if you're shooting for one of the most competitive specialties out there.

    And of course Fermi's point about choice is a big factor also. 75% of my class matched in Cali, not all to big programs, but a large percentage got their #1 or at least top 3 choice. Geography is a huge issue for some students. And of course, specialty choice for many is based on more than the lifestyle/money issues that make for the most competitive specialties.
     
  11. exmike

    exmike NOR * CAL
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    I said i was "interested" in ophtho. The don quixote in me still wants to be a FP. Thanks for your input on Drew. I'm fully aware of the problem at King/Drew and its because of that that I am leaning heavily towards Case. I do look forward to my clinical years so I can see what else I may be interested in. And you're also right that location matters. I would take a lower ranking program in any specialty to go back to CA when I match four years from now.
     
  12. Good informative post about the match...but just curious, what angered you enough to finally register and post regarding this issue?

    Yup, you can apply to as many different residencies as you want. For rads, many people will apply to one program for their prelim/transitional year, and then hope to also match into a rads program for the remainder of their residency. However, I've known people to try applying to both a difficult (e.g. plastics or ER) and not-so-difficult (e.g. IM or FP) field at the same time.
     
  13. maugham

    maugham Member
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    Yeah, I think comparing match lists is pretty fruitless. Of course the top ten schools or so have stellar matches: these schools are filled with extraordinary high achievers to begin with and the fact that they match well is due more to individual merit than to the school's perceived value. Also, apart from a handful of schools, most match lists look the same to me--1/5 of students going to well-known prestigious programs, 1/2 going to respectable university programs with the remainder going to local programs without a national profile.

    I agree with the poster who commented that it is hard to know the inside scoop on all the different specialty programs, making comparisons pretty bogus. I'm interested in psych and was initially interested in the Harvard South Shore program until
    discovering that the program is notoriously lame. This is only one example, but there must be others in which prestigous name does not equal good program.
     
  14. yaah

    yaah Boring
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    I just wanted to say that I think the original post in this thread should be required reading for anyone before they are allowed to post something like, "Wow, Elitist University has a great match list this year," or "I'm trying to decide between A and B, can someone post their match lists?"

    Read it again, all of you! Take it from someone who just went through the match (at a public school) and got their #1 choice for residency along with most of my class.
     
  15. shelly46

    shelly46 Junior Member
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    I want to thank Gerota for what is arguably one of the best and most thoughtful posts I have ever read on this Forum. The best match is the match you wanted to get. All else is irrelevant. And to all the others, thank you for your input as it is just great to exchange points of view.
     
  16. edmadison

    edmadison 1K Member
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    OMG, I wish I had had the guts to start this thread. I totally agree. I doubt anyone would look at my school's match list and say that it is "great", but it is. I would estimate that 90% got their first choice. But it doesn't look great, why? Well, a number of our top people were very specific about where they wanted to go. We could have matched 5-6 into top pediatrics programs (CHOP, BCH), but three wanted to stay home and the rest wanted to go west. Another one of our top people decided to do rural FP. You get the picture. The plain truth is everyone got to go pretty much where they wanted to -- including the couple do couples match in ORTHO/ORTHO!!!!

    Ed
     
  17. samsoccer7

    samsoccer7 Senior Member
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    I agree that match lists are kinda bogus to look at. However, at the same time, coming from a "no-name" school in the midwest and interested in rads, I like to see where these harvard, penn, wash u, yale folks are matching. It's nice to see that the ones that don't match at "powerhouses" are also not matching at some of the smaller university/good community programs in the midwest. Even if it's for geographical reasons, it's nice to see bottom-feeder harvard grads aren't taking my potential spots. That's all I use it for. None of that "Wow, Yale had a SWEET match this year!" I'm sure it's that way EVERY year.
     
  18. Gleevec

    Gleevec Peter, those are Cheerios
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    So the one true defining statistic would be "who got into their top X choice for residency" where X varies based on the competitiveness of the field?

    Then again, there is no way in hell med schools are giving up their avg USMLEs either. But if they did, the match stat would be another great one.

    Or, it would just encourage ranking-***** schools to advise students downwards in their match expectations as to increase that percentage.
     
  19. Weil-Felix

    Weil-Felix Super Flying Squirrel
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    I would just like to thank the original poster for being such a beacon of wisdom. I can't for the life of me understand how the number of matches derm/optho/rads/whatever could possibly be traslated into useful information to anyone. It is soooo dependent upon individual class variation. No one in my class applied to derm. Therefore no one matched in it. Does it mean anything about the competitiveness of the class? I really doubt it. Nobody felt like doing it. So what? There were an almost disproportionate number of people who matched in radiology and anesthesia. Does that mean my school is a radiology or anesthesia "powerhouse"? I think not. There just happened to be a lot of people who were interested in those fields. Who cares? As far as matches at big name institutions, there were some of those, too. But there were also a ton of people (including myself) who had very compelling reasons to go to smaller or less well known institutions, like family or spouses in a particular part of the country. Perhaps many of these people would have matched at "big names" if they had been so inclined, but they found other aspects of their lives to be more important. It comes down to the fact that it's all dependent on many, many factors.

    So many folks on these forums are arguing that people at Harvard/Hopkins/Yale/etc are consistently matching in competitive specialties at competitive places, therefore they must be great schools. Well, DUUHH! If someone doesn't already know that these are good schools, then they really need to get out more. You don't need a match list to tell you that. But looking at an isolated match year from "University of Wherever" and concluding that it is better than "Anywhere U." because it had a larger # of people match in derm/rads/etc. is totally asinine.
     
  20. Paws

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    What would you guys think of a school that doesn't list where their students place for residency? It is kind of buggin me and I was wondering what other people think?
     
  21. lkjh

    lkjh Junior Member

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    In response to Blade28's question: I recently went thru the match with Gerota and I think I can speak for the both of us that our first posts were not because we were angry about anything on the board but b/c: 1) We just got here (checking lists to see where people we met on interviews matched) and 2) we don't want other med students to be misled into thinking that those other posts are the be-all end all of what its really like to match. We were in the same position with the same anxiety and uncertainty less than a year ago, wishing that someone would give us some real info. If I had seen some of those threads, I would have had serious doubts about my own qualifications to match in the specialty I chose, when what I really wanted was for someone to tell me that I had a shot at doing what I wanted to do. Basically, everyone has a shot, some better than others, thats why you hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

    In response to Paws: Its a right to privacy, where people match is really a concern of the students, their families, and the programs involved. I may not want the internet to know where I matched just as I many not want people to know whether or not I am AOA, or what my Boards scores were. Also posting a list not only gives information about who matched, but the absence of names or unexpected fields suggest people who did not match, and I don't think people like that kind of thing broadcasted. Just my personal feeling though.
     
  22. Paws

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    Thanks for the response, I was just wondering if it made the school look good or not so good. I mean, the schools that post their students' success make me feel inspired. But to have a school NOT share their list makes me nervous. I have to choose between two such schools ... the match list at school #1 is awesome, but I can't judge the second school. :confused:
     
  23. lkjh

    lkjh Junior Member

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    Many of the lists posted are not from schools, they are from students of schools, many of whom are proud of the lists. There is also the chance that no students from a particular program actually visits this site. Also, you can't gather how many did not match. I know one prominent school had about 4 people match to a competitive specialty, you wouldn't know that actually about 8 applied. Also, if your 2 med schools are so similar that you can't distinguish them based on reputation alone, then I'd recommend going to visit them and to talk to their students. You can learn more about specifics, you might like the location or people at one place much better.
     
  24. ThyroidAblation

    ThyroidAblation Junior Member
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    I think there's definitely information you can derive from examining a school's match list. For instance, if you look at where people matched from my school (top-20) and compare it to Harvard/UCSF/Stanford/etc, it is clear that students at the top schools tend to match at more recognized programs, more frequently, and across the board (i.e. regardless of specialty). I agree that there are a lot of strong applicants from my school that decided to stay nearby for one reason or another. On the other hand, it would be naive to think that everyone could have gone wherever he/she wanted.

    There is no question that coming from a well-regarded medical school affects how you are ranked, all else being equal. (This is mentioned specifically in Isserson's too.) Thus, being an above-average student from Harvard might give you the same consideration as an AOA from a lesser-known school, all else being equal.

    I agree with everyone who believes that it's not useful to look merely at the number of ppl matching into competitive specialties. On the other hand, if you look at how students matched from your school in a given specialty over previous years (especially to programs outside the area), it allows you to make predictions of how your class will match in that specialty. For instance, if historically, 50% of students at your school match at "top-10" programs in IM, and you happen to be "one of the top applicants" from your school, you probably have a good shot at a top-10 program. On the other hand, if in years past, only 0-1 students end up at a "top-10" program, your chances are probably quite a bit lower.

    Like all data sources, there are limitations as to what conclusions you can possibly infer...and I agree that the magnitude of confounding variables makes looking at these match lists non-straightforward. However, that being said, I would go as far as to say that "you really can't assess a match list" -- you can...just within reason.

    Thyroid Ablation
     
  25. shelly46

    shelly46 Junior Member
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    Thyroid state:
    There is no question that coming from a well-regarded medical school affects how you are ranked, all else being equal. (This is mentioned specifically in Isserson's too.) Thus, being an above-average student from Harvard might give you the same consideration as an AOA from a lesser-known school, all else being equal.


    I am just wondering how you know that. What some of you are also missing is that someone on your faculty may have attended a program at a place you are applying to and his reference may be more highly regarded than an application from a so called better school. Also, we all know that some schools get by on their reputation while the really interesting work is being done by young and highly motivated "junior" faculty who are moving to leadership positions and may be working at "lesser" schools. Just look at the background info of faculty at Harvard or UCSF and you will see that they come from all over except if they were home grown which would certainly give them an advantage. finally, we all mature at different rates. Some folks who are gunners and get into the top schools rest on their laaurels while others blossom in the so called "lesser' schools.
    Gerota was right and his comments were insightful: you can never know!
     
  26. ThyroidAblation

    ThyroidAblation Junior Member
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    Well as I mentioned, Isserson's references a couple of published surveys in which program directors in various specialties cite the criteria they use to consider applicants - and "reputation of school" is always a consideration.

    If you think about it, it also makes sense...I mean, how else can you compare grades from two different applicants who went to different medical schools? Is a B-average at Harvard the same as an B-average from a bottom-tier school? Probably not. Residency directors probably know that all else being equal, the Harvard B-average probably represents a greater accomplishment.

    There are numerous other reasons as well. Highly-regarded medical schools tend to have strong residency programs. Everybody knows that home-students tend to have an advantage when applying to their own programs because the selection committee's a) like taking their own, b) probably know many of the applicant's letter writers personally, c) can receive personal phone calls, d) know that students from their own school have done well in the past, etc. (this is also easily verified by looking at match lists from other schools...another example of information you can derive from looking at these things)



    I definitely agree that letters of recommendation from faculty who are well-known to a program make you more competitive. However, the fact of the matter is, strong faculty tend to gravitate towards well-regarded programs, which tend to be attached to well-regarded medschools. Think about it - if you were a well-published, well-recognized professor, would you like to be associated with Harvard or some unknown/obscure program!? Thus, big-name schools tend to have more of these prominent professors who can write letters and make phone calls for you...another advantage of being from a well-regarded medschool that extends beyond "reputation alone."

    I totally agree that Gerota's comments were insightful, and I'm willing to bet that people try to extract more conclusions from match lists than is appropriate. However, I have no reason to believe that coming from a well-regarded medical school does NOT give you an advantage in the match. It's been published several times, cited specifically by Isseron's, and there are numerous reasons why this should be true...and if you recall it was the same way with medschool admissions too - your GPA was considered in the context of what undergrad university you attended. That being said, top students from just about any medical school should have no problem landing whatever residency program they want.

    Thyroid Ablation
     
  27. lkjh

    lkjh Junior Member

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    I think that the point of the thread has gotten confused. We all know that students at top med schools have the edge based on reputation, resources, and history of personal achievement. However, the posts are meant to say that you can't compare two comparable med schools and say that one is better than the other. There were all these posts saying that Yale had the "most impressive" match list b/c 12 people matched in Derm. You can't infer that Yale is a better school than say, Stanford. There is at least one poster who has specified that he is trying to use these lists to decide what school to choose, if he can't do it based on reputation of the schools alone, he certainly shouldn't be making such a big decision based on confounding match lists.

    Also, its true that an above average student at a well-known school can interview and match as well as a top student at a smaller program, but someone who is a star at a small school is definitely a better candidate than somone who struggles to pass at a famous one. Things like AOA and Boards scores are huge screening tools for programs, and those are things you can have without going to a top school. My home department automatically interviews all people in the metropolitan area who are AOA, regardless of which school they come from (they only interview 25 people a year). They said there were so many this year that if you didn't do an away rotation or were not AOA, then there was no interview. Someone I know matched in combined plastics said that at her interview they said that everyone in the room had >250 on Step I. So if you got a 249 from Harvard, no interview. Most specialties are not nearly so stringent, but its certainly an incentive to bust your butt to keep the ones that do go by such criteria open as career options. Few people are able ride name alone.

    Reputations tend to have much more pull at middle-level programs. Top programs interview only the best of all schools, everyone is AOA, Honors, ridiculous boards, publications (having something really extraordinary about you can bypass some of this). If you are from a smaller school and want good recs: do an away rotation and get one there. Also, famous people don't necessarily write good letters, enthusiastic ones do.
     

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