The phrase “love letters” may lead you to think about Valentine’s Day, poetry, and romantic gestures. But for fourth year medical students, the term love letter refers to the notes from residency program directors saying how much they like you and hope that you’ll rank their program highly.
On the one hand, these letters are exciting because they are reassurances that there are programs who appreciated you and they give you a degree of confidence that you will match somewhere nice. On the other hand, we’ve all been told not to put much faith in the letters because they don’t always mean what they say. Everyone has heard the horror stories. An applicant receives a love letter from a program they’re interested in saying that the program will rank the applicant highly, or “rank them to match.” The student ranks that program number one and then on Match Day is shocked to find that they did not match to their top choice. Clearly the program did not mean what they said. Perhaps “ranked to match” meant that last year the program needed to run to number 30 on the list to fill their ten positions, and the applicant was ranked in the top 30. But this year, the program might only run through the top 20 before filling their ten positions, leaving the applicant in the cold.
Then there’s the question of whether a program sends love letters at all. Does the fact that I haven’t received a letter mean the program isn’t that interested in me? Or does it mean they simply do not believe in writing love letters? The whole process is confusing and emotionally fraught.
Having received seven love letters from my 19 programs, I feel confident that I will secure a Match position somewhere! But I’m trying not to pin my hopes on matching at a particular program because I know that love letters (or the lack thereof) don’t mean everything. Less than a month until Match Day!