The current applicants for the Pitt Genetic Counseling Program are approaching the end of interview season and thinking about how they will rank their schools for the NMS Match Program. As members of the first class to participate in the new Match system as applicants, some of our first years share advice for finalizing their choices.
Keep busy and try not to think too much about interview(s) or the Match, easier said than done, I know. Pick up a new hobby. Try something you’ve always wanted to try. Reread your favorite books- whatever makes you happy and keeps you busy. If there are people you see or talk to on a regular basis, let them know when Match Day is so you don’t have people asking every day if you’ve heard back yet. (You’ll still get people asking.) The night before Match, go do something fun and engaging. For me, it was dinner with friends where we all agreed we were not allowed to discuss the Match or anything related to grad school. I shut off my email when we went to dinner and didn’t allow myself to turn it back on until a couple of hours before emails were supposed to come out the next morning. Think about where you want to be when you find out. The first year I applied (before the Match system), I took the day off of work because I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate and didn’t want to be at work if the news wasn’t what I wanted. Then plan something fun for after the Match that you can do regardless of what that email says!
When ranking your schools, don’t “play the game”. Try not to think about the “what ifs” or figure out what the schools are thinking. Trying to trick the system won’t work out for you- just rank your schools from your favorite to your least favorite. Take a minute and think through how you would react to the following situations: getting into your first choice, getting into a school that’s not your first choice, and not matching anywhere. Where do you want to be and who do you want to be with in each of these situations when the results of the Match are made available? If you are anything like me, you may have trouble deciding between 2 or 3 schools. One great thing about the Match is that you can edit your rankings until they are due. Try going to bed one night with “Option A” as your first choice and see how it feels. The next day, try it again with “Option B”. Just don’t forget to finalize your rank by the due date. After you submit your ranks, let it go. You’re done! It’s out of your hands now. Good luck!
You’ve finished your interviews; congrats! My biggest piece of advice, which you’ve probably heard many times, is not to rank schools based on how you think they will rank you; think about where you most want to be and go from there. Rank all possible options, unless there’s an option that you would turn down if offered (remember that the Match is binding!) I went back through my paperwork from all my schools to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently left out any options; one of the schools I interviewed at had six tracks and I didn’t want to miss any opportunities! Try to make plans the night before Match Day if you can, because you will be anxious. Anything that can take your mind off the anxiety will be helpful. Finally, think about where you want to be when you get the email with the results. Many of my classmates took the day off work, but I preferred to be around my supportive co-workers and keep myself busy, instead of alone in my apartment with nothing to distract me. Several of my classmates and I also went through this process with the old system, and we unanimously prefer the Match system; anxiety will always be a part of applications, but know that the system has greatly improved!
First of all, congrats for making it this far! That is a serious achievement and you should be proud of yourself. I know that if you’re thinking about the match right now, it can be hard to keep that in mind. As for how to approach rankings, my advice is to be thorough, be honest with yourself, and don’t be afraid to change your mind. Make sure that you know all the possible tracks you can rank (remember, there can be multiple different tracks depending on financial aid). It’s also okay if you choose not to rank a school, even if you got an interview from them. The Match is binding and you do not want to be committed to going somewhere you never wanted to end up in the first place. Finally, don’t be surprised if your preferences have changed since the start of the application process. Give yourself the time and mental space to look over your list and rearrange it. As for what to actually do on Match Day, every person is different. Consider what you have done in the past in days in which you have had to deal with great anticipation and stress. Would you prefer to be around people or to take the news in private? Are you okay with friends and family reaching out to you, or would you want to ask people to wait until you’ve contacted them first? How can you practice self-care during this period? I know that it’s a lot to think about, but I think it boils down to being kind to yourself. Good luck!
My best advice for you is to relax and rank the schools in a way that feels right to you. I know how crazy the past months have been leading up to this and how much work and stress was involved. Take a minute to appreciate how far you’ve come in this process and be proud of yourself! The hardest parts are over, so relax and focus on ranking the schools in the way you feel most comfortable with. My advice on doing that is to look back at any notes you may have written after your interviews with the programs and look over all the materials the schools gave you during your interviews to help you make your decisions. After you have submitted your final decision to Match, I know how difficult it can be to not think about Match Day too much and how frustrating the wait can be. Unfortunately, there is not too much we can say to make the wait better, but my advice would be to try to relax, stay busy, and be happy with all that you’ve accomplished during this process. Congrats on your interviews and good luck!