Most of the new match positions were probably not newly created, said Mona Signer, executive director of the National Resident Matching Program. Many programs previously kept some spots out of the match, so that if they found a candidate they really liked, they could immediately offer him or her one of those positions. But fewer positions are being kept out of the match each year, she said.
Still, there were 113 fewer Match Day applicants (-0.6%) from U.S. allopathic schools than there were in 2013.
“That was a surprise to us,” Signer said. After registration closed late last month, she called several schools that had at least 10 fewer applicants to find out why. Answers included a “correction” for over-enrollment the previous year; more students staying in school longer to complete multiple advanced degrees simultaneously (such as an M.D. and a Ph.D.); and more students struggling academically.
“One year doesn't make a trend,” Signer said, adding that she's calling this year's development a “blip.”
On Friday, medical students across the U.S. learned what programs they matched with, many of them in simultaneous letter-opening ceremonies with their classmates. Competition was stiffest for residency positions in neurological surgery, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, plastic surgery and radiation-oncology.
The matching program reported that 16,399 allopathic medical school seniors found matches among 26,678 open first-year positions. Other students in the mix who matched with a program included 2,127 osteopathic students, 2,722 U.S. citizens attending international medical schools, and 3,633 non-U.S. citizens attending international schools.
Also, included in this year's match were 2,719 second-year positions. Of these, 2,592 were filled with 1,876 (72.4%) going to students from U.S. medical schools.
Prior to Match Day, students submit their ranking of the training programs they prefer, and programs provide a similar list of their preferred student candidates. Medical students found out Monday whether they had matched at all, while programs found out how many unfilled positions they had. On Wednesday and Thursday, programs offered their unfilled positions to unmatched students who then had two hours to make a decision—a process called the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program. This year, 1,075 of the 1,181 unmatched positions were filled this way.
Meanwhile, more medical schools are opening and national enrollment continues to climb. There were 20,055 new students enrolled last fall which represented a 2.8% increase from 2012.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks