The Most Important Envelope of Your Life

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Match Day envelope

It was undoubtedly the tensest brunch ever.  Each of the 110 Johns Hopkins medical students had an envelope with their future inside. And they weren’t allowed to open it until noon. Until then, they drank champagne and stared at a breakfast they were too nervous to eat.

There’s nothing else quite like Match Day, the moment when all the nation’s medical students find out — at the exact same time! — where they’ll be doing their residencies, and in what specialty. Months before the big day, students rank their preferred programs, judging each by various criteria:  do they want to live in California? Do they want to work at a top-notch hospital? Where is the best endocrinology program in the country, anyway? After an anxious series of interviews, each program also ranks students. Then a mysteriously omniscient computer algorithm sorts it all out, placing students in programs that they asked for, but that also want them… thus determining a huge chunk of their future.

Each school has its own tradition for the big day. While Hopkins opted for champagne and a big 1-2-3-OPEN! moment, the University of Maryland had students parade across the stage in random order to receive their much-anticipated envelope. (Feeling sorry for the last person? Don’t. Each med student put a couple dollars in a special container that goes to the last-called person. You should feel sorry for the second-to-last person.)

At Johns Hopkins, the big news was the shift away from internal medicine residencies — only 13 students applied for these spots this year, less than half as many as last year (27) and the year before that (33). This year saw more applications for pediatrics (15, compared to last year’s 10).



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