The match process for physicians is one of the most stressful and complicated parts of medical training. It can feel like years of hard work culminating into one email. One of our SheMD #girlbosses Amanda Ederle visits the blog today to talk about the experience of not matching into a position and how to move from there.
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“We are sorry, you did not match to any position.” I read these words over and over as my mind tried to process this email. Unmatched. SOAP. List of unfilled programs. Words and phrases that become a reality in the click of an email.
Not matching into a dermatology residency was truly heartbreaking; it quickly became one of the life-defining moments in my journey. Here, I write my story of not matching into a dermatology residency. I share my emotions, my failures, my growths, and ultimately, my lessons in moving forward from failure.
When I received my unmatched email, it felt like my world was ending. I completely froze as I stared at the computer screen. An hour after receiving the unmatched email, I attended my school’s SOAP meeting and began the accelerated application process. Through the SOAP process, I received a transitional year in my hometown where I will spend the next year.
In the days and weeks following not matching, I was hit with waves of emotion. It truly felt like I was grieving my future: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and finally, acceptance. I was not prepared for the complex emotions I would experience during this time. There was a lot of shame and embarrassment as friends and family asked where I matched. I quickly developed an answer: “I did not match into dermatology this cycle but want to reapply next year.” It was like putting that positive spin on not matching (“want to reapply next year”) allowed me to hide my shame and hurt. Ultimately, the feeling of shame is a strong motivator for me writing this post; I want students to recognize that not matching should not be something we should hide.
I am currently in the process of reworking my application in preparation for the application cycle this fall. I reached out to the schools that I had interviewed with and received feedback about ways I can improve my application. I’ve incorporated this feedback into my new personal statement. I’ve also begun to reach out to the dermatology community; I think that was one of my main deficiencies in my application, and I hope I will build more connections within this community. I write all of this to show others how I have begun to move forward. Is it the ‘right’ way? Who knows. But it is progress forward, and I think that is a very important aspect of this experience.
The most inspirational part of this journey has been the support I have received from family, friends, and even complete strangers. I have reached out to multiple unmatched dermatology applicants, and their openness and honesty with me has been striking. It warms my heart to know that there is a whole community of people who have been on this journey previously and have made it their mission to lift others up in such a challenging time.
Ultimately, not matching has been an incredibly important part of my journey through my career and, honestly, through my life. The amount of personal growth that I have experienced during this past month is exponential. I have gained strength and resilience through this failure. I have also felt rejuvenated with purpose as I take steps forward into a new application cycle. I hope to use this experience to provide an example to others that there IS a life beyond the match and that being unmatched is not shameful. I frequently remind myself that all of our life’s journeys are filled with twists and turns, and there is strength in failure.