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Everything You Need to Know About the Optometry Residency Match

Posted by Amanda Dexter on January 13, 2020 at 9:35 AM
Amanda Dexter
Dr. Amanda K. Dexter received her optometric training at Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California, where she was Class of 2010 Valedictorian. She also completed a residency in Primary Care and Ocular Disease at the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in San Diego, California. Dr. Dexter is the Manager and Program Coordinator for OptoPrep, the premiere online study resource for the NBEO Part I & II.

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You’ve spent the past few months applying for residency programs, sending in all of your supporting documentation, traveling for interviews, and now comes the HARDEST part of the entire process: submitting your ORMatch Rank Order List!

This part of the process can be extremely stressful as it determines the next pathway that you will take in your optometric career. Where you end up for your residency year is a huge stepping stone that will help you determine where you want to practice, what type of setting you will practice in, and which specialty you will focus on within the profession.

I vividly remember the feelings that I experienced leading up to submitting my residency rank order list. I had interviewed at four different residency sites, two of them being VA Hospitals, and two of them were part of a large HMO group. There was one program that I decided after my interview would not be a great fit for me, so I opted to withdraw my application and not rank them in my list. Ranking the remaining three sites was very difficult. Each program had its pros and cons and after I thought I took all of the most important items into consideration, I decided how I wanted to rank each program and submitted and certified my rankings a couple of days early.

I originally thought that I was really confident in my decisions; however, I started to second guess myself.  On the very LAST day of the deadline, I went back into the system and re-ranked my list! Call me crazy, but it worked out for the best. I had a great residency year, learned a ton, met a lot of amazing doctors, networked in the area, and ended up continuing my career in the same location.

Moral of the story here is to follow your gut! Don’t choose a residency site that your friends or family think is best for you. Don’t rank the sites based purely on location. And don’t rank a site solely based on other people’s experiences. Rank your top choices based on what is best for YOU and YOUR career! And remember, you DO NOT have to rank all of the programs that you applied for and interviewed. 

Not only can the rank be stressful because of the tough decisions that you will need to make, but it is also stressful because the process itself can be hard to understand. Below we will break down the steps you will need to take in order to confidently submit and certify your ORMatch Rank Order List. 

Important Dates

Match participants may begin to submit Rank Order Lists for the ORMatch on February 18th, 2020. The final deadline for submission of Rank Order Lists is March 6th, 2020. 

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Results of the ORMatch are released to applicants and program coordinators on March 16th, 2020.  Check out all the important dates here.

Rank Programs in Order of Your True Preference

Your Rank Order List should accurately portray your true desirability to become a resident at that location, regardless of how you think the programs will rank you. Some people will try to tell you to rank programs a certain way if you feel as though a residency site may rank you higher or lower, but don’t try to overthink this! If there is a site that you love and really want to be at, rank it first on your list! And be confident in your decision! 

Rank as Many Programs as You Wish

In most years, there are generally more applicants than residency positions available. By submitting a longer ranking list, this may increase your likelihood of becoming matched with a program. Ranking more sites will not change your chances of matching with your top choices. You should submit a Rank Order List for all programs in which you are prepared to accept a position if matched. 

Do Not Rank Programs You Consider Unacceptable

Remember to only rank programs that you would be OK with being a resident at. You do not have to rank all of the programs to which you applied or interviewed with. It is ok to contact a residency program and withdraw your application if you know for sure that you won’t be ranking them. There is a chance that you will be matched with your very last choice, so just be sure that you would still be OK if you ended up at that location. Remember, you MUST accept the site that you are Matched with. 

You Can Edit Your Rank Order List 

If you are having second thoughts like I did, know that it is OK to go back into the ORMatch website and edit your Rank Order List up until the deadline, even if you have already certified your information. Just make sure that any time you change your rankings, you re-certify your list in order for it to be used in the ORMatch. 

You Can Withdraw Completely from the ORMatch

If you decide after all of your interviews that a residency is not the next best step for you, you will be able to withdraw yourself from the ORMatch prior to the Rank Order List deadline. On the other hand, if you previously withdrew from the ORMatch and would like to be reinstated, that is possible as well. 

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You May Participate in the ORMatch as a Couple

Applicants may indicate their desire to participate in the ORMatch as a member of a couple. This is for applicants who wish to coordinate their matches with another individual so that they may try to obtain programs within the same geographic location.

Participation in the ORMatch as a couple has no impact on applications to programs, and the residency sites will not know this information. Identifying yourself as part of a couple only affects the rankings of the programs submitted for the Match and how those rankings are processed in the Match.

Matching Algorithm

The matching algorithm is run with a goal of placing each applicant with the most preferred program on the applicant’s Rank Order List that ranks the applicant and does not fill all its positions with more preferred applications. Similarly, each program is matched with the most preferred applicants on its list, up to the number of positions available, who rank the program and do not receive positions at programs they prefer more.

If You are Matched with a Program You Must Accept

As noted in the Applicant Protocols on the ORMatch website, the results of the ORMatch constitute an obligation between you and the program. If you are matched to a residency program, you must accept your ORMatch result and attend that site.

Don’t Worry if You Don’t Match! 

Every year, there are programs that don’t fill all positions, and applicants who don’t match with a program. When the results of the ORMatch are released (March 16, 2020), information regarding unfulfilled positions will be provided to those who did not match, and the same goes for residency programs that have openings. Unmatched applicants and programs are free to contact each other and negotiate directly (independently of ORMatch) to fill the available positions.

Check out the ORMatch website https://natmatch.com/ormatch/ for more detailed information. We wish you the best of luck!

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Topics: Residency, Optometry Residency, ORMatch, Optometry Residency Match

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