Match Day Feels Like 'Getting Married After the First Date'

Heather Kagan


March 16, 2018

The entire interview process for "The Match" felt like a drawn-out reality TV dating show or a detailed course in speed dating. Actually, entering "The Match" sure feels like getting married after a first date. I did try to take notes, but I honestly haven't looked back at those once. Who takes notes on a first date?!

A match is based on fit, which is hard to convey on a Rhodia notebook or in an Excel spreadsheet. I tried to formulate my thoughts based on intuition and ask myself questions to investigate the factual truth behind my gut feelings: How will I feel when I open the envelope and see this hospital listed? Can I honestly see myself here? Can I see myself working with this group of people? Can I see myself living in this location? What will my life look like after "The Match?"

Preparing for Match Day

As I went through interview season, I started to develop "categories" of my feelings. I developed a highly scientific and premature ranking order: Great, Good, and Meh. Some programs straddled the borders of Great and Good or Good and Meh, but one program became a clear frontrunner, ahead of the whole pack. After deciding, it's just a matter of waiting and worrying.

A friend of mine had such a bad experience at one program that she is not ranking it at all. Interview experiences run the gamut from completely bizarre and utterly inappropriate to warm and fuzzy. One interviewer blatantly asked me if I was interviewing at another program down the street. This is poor form and also illegal. Another interviewer asked me what my parents did for a living.

My favorite interviews were with so-called "master clinicians," where we just had a normal human conversation, and I soaked up their wisdom on life like a dry sponge. The interview process was dynamic—my experiences and conversations on the interview trail refined my own goals for residency. One program emphasized that we are all internists first and specialists second. This is a philosophic outlook that completely resonated with me. As much as the trail was informative, it was transformative, teaching me about my values, my dreams, and myself.

When I finally sat down in front of my online rank order list, I started biting my nails. The weight of the commitment felt so much heavier than I thought it would. Each day that I took a hard look at that list, though, I seemed to make another decision about what to put for the next number on it. I spoke with a few advisors, who helped me piece together my thoughts on programs. The most helpful advisors were the ones who asked me why I felt a certain way about a certain program to help me tease out my own opinions and recite them back to me. Ultimately, I know that no decision will be truly "wrong" and that everything will work out as it should.

Update: I’ve Matched!




This morning, I walked into my school’s lobby. It was something I have done hundreds of times before. However, today wasn’t just business as usual. Today was Match Day.

Every day after today, I will walk into this space differently, with a different pep in my step, as a different person, with my career path actually laid out ahead of me. Just walking into the building felt electric. This bright, tall space is so special to me. It always brightened up my toughest, longest days of studying.

I once told a student just starting his education here that this building itself is one of my favorite parts of attending this school, especially the lobby and the library. When you spend so much time in a space, its mood becomes important to you. Its mood can set your mood. Today, no building, person, or statement could affect my mood. My mood was an unwavering nervous excitement.

In the hours leading up to opening that envelope today, I felt jittery. I felt loved and supported, surrounded by my family and friends who have been there throughout this crazy journey. I was nervous to find out where I would train, of course. I was also incredibly nostalgic. How many more times would the class of 2018 be gathered together in this space? The medical school phase is ending! It feels surreal. Was this really my own Match Day? It feels like just yesterday that I watched the classes ahead of me, eagerly leaning over the balconies overlooking the lobby.

I’m so proud of my classmates—correction—future colleagues! I’ll be starting my internal residency this summer at Johns Hopkins! I could not be more thrilled!

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