The first time I clicked submit on PhorCAS I remember thinking “Ok, you have prepared for this for the past three and a half years. You can do it.” In all honesty, that was the absolute truth. I went into pharmacy school knowing I wanted to pursue post graduate residency training and I never wavered on my goal of becoming a clinical pharmacist. I knew once I clicked that button there was no turning back. Admittedly, my application wasn’t 5 stars. My GPA was mediocre at best, but I felt I made up for that with my heavy involvement in school and my leadership positions.
I was only invited to one interview.
At the Midyear Clinical Meeting, it was announced there would be a Phase II of the Match instead of going straight into the scramble, but this did not help me prepare in any way. No one knew what Phase II would mean for applicants or residency programs, and as one of my mentors told me, “It will be a steep learning curve for everyone.”
I was dreading Match Day. When I received the official email from NMS, I made my roommate read me the results because I knew it would not contain any good information. As she read out “We regret to inform you…” I took my phone and started texting every pharmacy preceptor, mentor, and connection I knew informing them that I would be one of the first candidates to apply to Phase II of the Match. For me, I did not see any other option. Residency was plan A, B, C, D, and the entire alphabet, and there was nothing that would stop me from achieving that goal.
The good news (and lesson learned) is that it all worked out for the best. I LOVE my residency program and my co-residents. As a participant in the inaugural Phase II of the Match, I want to share things I wish I had known when I received the NMS Match results email.
- Phase II is exactly like Phase I, but on a MUCH shorter time frame. This means that reference letters will need to be submitted again, letters of intent must be written for each program, and the big question: it will cost the same to apply to more programs in Phase II (unless you already applied to the exact program Phase I).
- Communication is key. Match result emails come out around 8 AM EST and the list of programs that did not match comes out around 12 PM EST. Once you have taken the time to mentally compose yourself and decide to pursue Phase II- reach out to your professional network. Talk to mentors, preceptors, professors, and other students. Pharmacy is a small world and you never know who may know a program that didn’t match. Additionally, these mentors, preceptors, and professors are the people who may potentially submit more reference letters for you.
- Every program will have different requirements. Do not be afraid to reach out to program directors once the list is posted to see if they will have any changes in application requirements for Phase II. in 2016, some residency programs still required supplemental questions or on-site interviews to be considered for their program. This can be a limiting factor for some and is what helped me narrow down my list of potential applications.
- Timing is everything. Even though the list is posted at 12 PM on Phase I Match Day, PhorCAS does not re-open until the next week (see 2017 Pharmacy Match Schedule). Unlike previous years when it was a single phase Match, this means applications are not going to be received until that time. In talking with candidates who successfully matched in Phase II, many stated that the turned their applications in as soon as PhorCAS re-opened. The number of applications received by residency programs in Phase II may be much higher than most in Phase I, and the programs may have rolling deadlines.
- Stay Positive and stay off social media. It is hard to hear no and it is easy to feel inadequate as friends and colleagues share good news. My best advice is this, stay away from it all. I was lucky to have other friends to navigate the Phase II waters with and we were able to keep each other afloat. Use whatever means necessary to stay positive and confident as you navigate Phase II of the Match.
- Commit. Commit to the process. It will be pricey if you apply to a lot of programs. It will be time consuming, not only in re-vamping your application, but also in potential travel to interviews or video calls for interviews. Members of the ASHP New Practitioners Forum have created a video and phone interview tips to help you navigate these types of interviews. It will be obvious to programs if you are not putting 100% effort into your applications. Take ranking seriously- this could be the difference between doing a residency somewhere outside of your comfort zone versus potentially no residency at all.
Being the first round of applicants to navigate Phase II of the Match was one of the most stressful times in my life and now there's additional resources, including a Phase II of the Match guide developed by members of the ASHP New Practitioners Forum. In the end, Phase II was also one of the best things to happen to me and I am lucky to say I ended up exactly where I belong.