How To Make Your Rank Order List

One of the most difficult things to do during the residency match process is making a rank order list. A rank order list as most of you probably know is simply ranking all the programs you interviewed at from 1 through n. 1 being your top choice. Programs rank candidates the same way and these two inputs determine where you match. You can read more about this at

After the interview season had come to an end on the USMLE forums I often saw candidates asking others for advice on how to make their rank order lists. In my opinion no one knows better on how to make your rank order list than you. Different people have different factors of varying priorities in their lives. You need to decide what your factors are and which are the most important to you – no one can make that determination for you!

For me personally job opportunities for my spouse, potential for fellowships after residency, salary to cost of living ratio were the most important to us. Firstly we organized our list based on preference of specialty. We further organized the programs within each specialty based on fellowship opportunities – we ranked the university based programs higher than community based programs. University based programs will obviously give you a higher chance at in-house and fellowship opportunities at other programs than community based programs.

We then arranged our list based on the salary to cost of living ratio. Salaries for the various programs ranged from $50k to $60k and the cost of living (primarily rent) varied a lot across cities. We researched the average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment by looking at Craigslist listing for the various cities. We logged all this information in an Excel spreadsheet. Aside from rent we also took into account whether we would need a second vehicle based on the available public transportation in each city. We used Google Maps to determine public transportation availability.

Each candidates priorities can range widely based on whether they are single, married, have kids, financial situation, or other obligations in their personal lives. So my best piece of advice on rank order lists is to write down a list of factors and their priority for you and based on your unique set of circumstance make your own rank order list!

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