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Mentoring Learners Through the Match
Rebecca Grandy, PharmD, BCACP, CPP

March 13 will be a day of mixed emotions. Students will be celebrating successful residency matches or trying to figure out next steps if they do not match. As preceptors, it’s important to be aware of the current residency landscape and statistics. In 2019, 3,826 residency positions were available, but 5,585 applicants entered the Match. After Phase I, 305 positions were available with 2,055 candidates unmatched.1 Preceptors are in a prime position to mentor students who do not match. Next steps could include entering Phase II or searching for jobs. Either way, here are tips to help your students move forward:

  • If you have students on rotation, think proactively about Friday, March 13. Typically, students will receive an email with their match results in the morning and unmatched programs are posted that afternoon. If your student doesn’t match, is there flexibility in your rotation schedule to give them the afternoon off to work on next steps?
  • Encourage your students to reach out to mentors, including yourself, to strategically think through the list of unmatched programs. Help them think through the following questions:
    • Are they able to expand their geographic criteria and consider programs in other states?
    • Will the available programs help them meet their career goals?
    • Do their mentors have contacts at those programs, and would they be willing to reach out?
  • Offer to review the student’s CV and letters of intent. Given the highly competitive nature of residency programs, often a simple spelling mistake or grammatical error can prevent an applicant from getting a chance to interview. Make sure the student is tailoring their letters of intent to specific programs to help them stand out and show genuine interest.

It may feel like the end of the world to a student who doesn’t match, but as preceptors we can help them reframe their perspective as they shift to looking for jobs. These tips can also be helpful for those not seeking post-graduate training opportunities.

  • Remind them that jobs can give them experience to help reach their goals, whether that’s a residency or preferred career. First jobs are unlikely to be their last. Think about the job’s potential. Does it allow for growth?
  • Advise students to schedule the NAPLEX and MPJE as soon as possible. Having a license sooner will make them more competitive when looking for jobs.
  • If their plan is to work for a year then reapply for residency programs, they need to be proactive about staying competitive for the next application cycle. Encourage them to seek out opportunities for research, service, leadership, and clinical skills outside of their routine job. Be honest with your student about their areas for improvement, so they can work toward gaining the necessary experience.
  • Encourage students to use their networks to inquire about jobs through mentors and colleagues they have met during pharmacy practice experiences, co-curricular activities, and internships.
  • Accepting a per diem or part-time job is a great way to learn skills. An employer then may consider this person when more hours become available.

Post-graduate training and job searches can be stressful for our students, and if things don’t go as planned we can help them navigate next steps. At the very least, empathy and a listening ear go a long way.


  1. ASHP Match Statistics. National Matching Services Inc. Available at: Accessed February 2020.
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