The end of "match week" is approaching for about 34,000 fourth-year medical students applying to U.S. institutions for their residencies.

Friday at noon, they will open an envelope to find out where they will serve out their residencies and spend the next three to seven years of their careers.

The countdown is on and the anxiety is high for University of Pennsylvania students Isabelle Rostain and Natalie Spaccarelli, who, like many fourth-years, crisscrossed the country to interview for about 40 different residency programs between the two of them.

"The way I'm thinking about Friday is that it's sort of, for me, been like 10 years in the making, which is completely melodramatic, but also entirely accurate," said Rostain.

"Your fate is kind of sealed in that envelope," Spaccarelli added. "You open it up in front of your classmates, in front of your friends and your family, and that's where you're going."

Many doctors end up spending their careers where they are residents, adding more significance to the moment, Spaccarelli said.

Rostain has been working night shifts in the emergency room this week, trying to keep her mind off it all.

"I know my heart is going to be pounding. I've already told Natalie I'm grabbing my envelope and running away, to open it by myself," Rostain said.

Rostain and Spaccarelli are actually the lucky ones. They opened emails Monday saying they'd been matched somewhere. Many others didn't get that good news.

Unmatched applicants face snap decisions

 

"The 9,000 applicants who don't match, along with another 4,000 who don't submit rank-order lists of programs, spend 'match week' trying to obtain one of the unfilled positions that are available," said Mona Signer, head of the National Resident Matching Program.

Unmatched students this week quickly applied to remaining open slots, interviewed, and --if they were fortunate enough to get an offer of one of the approximately 1,000 remaining spots -- even more quickly had to make a decision.

"The offers are valid for two hours," Signer said. "And then, if no action is taken by the applicant, the offer expires."

Rostain is hoping for UCLA, but no matter what happens, she is ready for an end to the angst.

"I'm either going to be laughing or crying, but I'm going to want to have that Champagne either way," Rostain said.