A Message to the Unmatched

First, Congratulations to all of you that matched this year!!!

I wanted to post this to let everyone that did not match this year to know, you still have lots of hope!!!   I was in this same situation last year, and I am not ashamed to share my journey.

I am a graduate of 2016 from an international medical school. I had always been a straight A student, like any other one of us that made it to medical school. But because of family issues, I struggled a bit during my second year in med school. The result was that I had a semester where I barely passed all course with C’s, which greatly dropped my GPA, took off a couple months to fly to my family’s country resulting in a half year gap, and I got a step 1 score of about 200 (at that time, the passing score was 188). I was shocked when I received the score, doubting life and doubting myself if I made a correct choice with a career in medicine. Thanks to my very supportive family and friends, I realized that if I just work hard enough, I still have a shot.

I returned to school with the right mindset this time, making sure to do all my studies and work on time. Making sure I work and study hard for every single rotation,  getting mostly A's  with an occasional B+ and sometimes also getting great comments,  Trying hard for step 2 CK (got ~240), volunteering and making connections, passing Step 2 CS on the first attempt, and getting good LORs from attending’s I worked with.

I applied for the 2016 Match, and failed miserably.      I was too stressed on interviews I believe, and did not make the best impression. I was in the middle of a tough rotation and could not take days off, I did not make the best travel plan, and missed interviews because of flight delays. I was so anxious, I probably also asked questions I shouldn’t have asked.   Result: I spent $15,000+ USD in application, travel expenses, hotels, flights, and so forth; received 7 interviews (2 of which were from rotation connections).   I did not match.    Of course, SOAP is always a disaster for any IMG, especially non-US IMG’s.

I was shocked and depressed; I was sad and worried. Thanks to supportive family and friends again, and like my personality, I will not be defeated. I stood back up again, analyzed my “case” and application, identified my weaknesses, found many ways of improving them. For example, I obtained several LORs from Chief Attending’s, both from Rotations and from School. I asked for many advises from lots of people with more experience than me. I followed tips and advises from others, I signed up to do a Post-Graduate course which will eventually lead to a Master’s degree for me. I applied for research positons, I sat for step 3 and received a 230-ish score, and when application came, I carefully researched each program, made an excel spreadsheet, wrote down each program’s details, called all the coordinators for every program multiple times, wrote down date and details of conversation for calling for next time, and marked and sent letters to the nice ones.

I received, in the end, over 30+ interview invites for the 2017 Match. As a non-US IMG, with several red flags and a step 1 of 200... That is not bad at all. Scheduled for as many as I could go, treated each interview as my only one, despite what I think was good or not good program. Carefully researched every person that I might see, read their published articles, marked down important things that I should cover, dressed nice and got there early. Worked very well this year, received many, many positive feedback interviews. Emailed and mailed Professional Thank You Letters (on watermarked, professional paper and envelope), mailed out thank you cards, and mailed out interest letters at time of ranking.

All hard-work has not been wasted! I matched this time! MATCH of 2017!    To one of my top choices in internal medicine. Thank you so much, my supportive family who has been paying for all my expenses, thank you so much for all my friends who have stood by me when I needed most. Thank you all for letting me know that I CAN DO IT!!!
And if I can, so CAN YOU!!! You have made it thus far, suffered through the hardest exams and the most tiresome rotations. You are a Medical Doctor, and you should be able to reap the fruit of your hard work. I know the hard, the bitter, and the pain that we have been through.  I know YOU can DO IT!!!

S. Z.  March 2017




Did you need a visa?

I did need a visa the first year that I appied, in the process between the first and second match, I receive my green card, although it's still a conditional card. I am pretty sure it probably helped me as well.


Did you only apply to IM?

I applied to both internal medicine and family medicine both last year and this year.

Applied to a total of 250 programs each year.

About half and half between family and internal programs.


OK.... we really want to know.... when you said "I probably asked questions I shouldn’t have asked." …. what questions did you ask on the interview that you probably shouldn't have?

A couple questions I shouldn't have asked the first year around were mostly stupid questions because I was really stressed about my low step one score. For example, I have a feeling one of my interviews the first year was going really well, with the PD. So at the end, when he asked me if you have any questions, I asked  "how would my low step one score affect my ranking in your program."   After I saw his expression, I thought.... I probably just bought myself a ticket to the do not rank list.


I wasn't asking very specific questions about the program, the first year around. I asked questions that I pulled off the Internet just for the sake of asking that. When the second year, I realized that you get very different response/affect from the interviewer have you asked a really good question about this program specifically.


There were a couple programs this year that I actually told me they really liked me after the interview. It did not seem like a generic letter. However, I'm not sure how much faith I should have in it still. Since I match in my number six program, and four of the top five that I ranked said they really like me, and one of them even wrote it on paper that they will rent me very high during interview and showed it to me.


What do you think was the most important factor in matching where you finally matched?

I can only presume why I'm matched at the current program. I believe small things does matter. I did not do too well in the interview of my matched program, because on the only interview I had with one of the attending/assistant PD there were lots of medical questions. I did not answer everything correctly, at least half the stuff I knew when I study for step three, but forgot at the spot. On my thank you letter, I had a extra sheet inserted with all the correct answers for the questions he asked during the interview. "And basically told him, I know it probably wouldn't matter now, but I did research on the correct answers. Thank you for teaching me." I got a very positive response from this action, I believe this may be a reason for what landed me a position this match.


Thank you so much Dr. Barone! And I totally missed the part where you say "you rock". That was your favorite quote for me from your lectures. It's people like you that keeps us going! Thank you, and please keep it up! We need you!


#2 Damien 2017-06-22 01:55
Thanks for your testimony.
Do you think your master helped in the process?
I am contemplating studying for the GRE in order to apply for a MPH, instead of studying for step 3, do you have any advice? Thanks
#1 Melany D 2017-03-23 02:13
Always very helpful! Thank you, Doc!
Category: Success

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