I once got a fortune cookie that said “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Terrible choice of fortune aside, this is a good mentality to have. Unfortunately, due to the match crisis, no one is guaranteed an internship. Every year hundreds of perfectly qualified, wonderful candidates just don’t match. After the interviews and hard work, the final phase of getting an internship comes down to luck. APPIC publishes more general statistics on how your number of rankings correlate with your odds of matching, but I know people who matched with one ranking, and I know people who had nine or more rankings who didn’t.
For all four match days that I waited anxiously for that notification email, I had two plans in place: One for good news, and one for bad news. I wrote myself a congratulatory and a consolation letter, and I had both at the ready on the morning of the match. The congratulatory letter was accompanied by a bottle of champagne that I bought before I started applying, which I had reserved for the day I got an internship. (Little did I know that I would be sitting on that bottle for about three years before I could open it.) The other letter came with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a nip-sized bottle of whisky.
You know yourself better than anyone, but you won’t know for sure how you will react on Match Day until it happens. On my first match, I was convinced I would be an inconsolable wreck if I didn’t get an internship. When the email came, I said “OK, I can work with this.” I kept waiting for the tears that never came – it just did not bother me as much as I thought it would. One year later, I assumed I would react similarly, and I ended up having a full-scale meltdown.
The day that I finally matched for internship, I was on a flight home from Spring Break with my partner. We played chess on the plane to keep my mind off of the knowledge that there was probably an email waiting for me when we landed. (I do not recommend this. My preference is to create a safe space for whatever news you receive and whatever reaction you will have. However, after two years I was feeling pretty hopeless, and it got increasingly difficult to rearrange my life around those dates.) I pulled up my email on an iPhone the second we got the okay from the flight attendant to use mobile devices.
When I saw the good news on the screen, I had to re-read it five times. I handed the phone to my partner and said, “Does this say what I think it says?” Then I started cheering. The other passengers gave me strange looks. I kept repeating “They’re going to let me graduate. I can’t believe they’re finally going to let me graduate.”
Next week I will talk about managing Phase II, then the Post-Match Vacancy Service, re-applying, and moving. For now I am in a clinical trial because this blog does not pay very well. Happy Independence Day to my American readers.