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Rachael Samonski
January 20, 2022

Not matching with a fellowship on your first try doesn’t signal the end to your medical career

Following the stress and long nights involved with pre-med courses, research, and clinical trials, hopeful fellows sit on edge every year in hopes of learning where the next step in their young careers may take them, wondering if they will in fact pursue their most desired field of study. Unfortunately for some, this anxiety turns to dismay, as they learn they have not matched with a fellowship program. This can leave a feeling of helplessness and disappointment.

It is important to recognize in that moment that although you may not have received what you hoped for in your first attempt, your medical career is not at a premature end. Dr. Jason Schairer found himself in this situation in 2010, after learning that he had not found a fellowship match. In an article for MedPage Today, Schairer explains how he has found continued success in the field. He has risen to positions of leadership within various national and international organizations.

“On Match Day 2010, I opened the email and saw the red text,” Schairer says. “It seemed that everything I had worked for had fallen apart. The worst part was walking around the hospital the rest of the day, seeing the sad look in the eyes of people who suffered the same fate. It was extremely hard to finish that day of work.”

Schairer outlines three steps if you have failed to match with a fellowship or in a different field:

  • Assess if you truly want to be part of that field
  • Look to scramble spots
  • Understand why you did not match on your last attempt
  1. Assess if you truly want to be part of that field

If you did not match into your desired field, take a moment to think if continuing forward is the best step for you. Your fellowship will be more difficult if you are not entirely committed to succeeding and maximizing your experience. It’s okay to feel that you may be happier in another specialty outside of your match.

  1. Look into scramble spots

If you have not matched with a residency or fellowship, act quickly. If you take too much time to sulk, you may miss out on an entirely different opportunity. recommends looking toward any open spots in emergency medicine, consider changing into a less crowded specialty with open slots, or even take a year off for travel or further research and apply the following year.

  1. Understand why you did not match on your last attempt

While it may seem easier to blame a program or group for coming up just short, it is important to understand that you may also take some of the blame. Schedule a meeting with your program director to go over your application and performance. This will help you be better prepared for the next year’s process and provide a higher chance of being accepted to your preferred location.

While you may be disappointed in the result of the process, understand that this setback doesn’t mean the end of the road for your medical career. Reevaluate your approach, speak with knowledgeable mentors such as your program director, and consider how you can better achieve your goal in the next cycle.