Match Day Survival

Hello all! I sure do hope this isn’t the last time I write here. As mentioned, I wanted to revitalize my blog in case I match into a program this year. I sure am hoping that I can continue down the road to genetic counseling, but we shall see! If not, know that I’m happy for all of you who do become genetic counselors, and that I hope to find the place for me in some career that will make me happy and have me helping and supporting others!

I haven’t been feeling too great since last Friday. In my three cycles, there have basically been two main periods of time that are especially challenging. The first is the first half of February, when interview offers and rejections hit their full swing and I start to lose the dream of programs I’d really hoped for. The other is this week– the last week before Match Day. The good news is, at least for me, it’s never gotten worse after not matching.

The build up is absolutely anxiety-riddled. Every year I lie awake at night imagining what it would be like to actually get good news from a match email, only to be surrounded with the feeling that that will never be attainable for me. I remember when I got into my first choice university for undergrad and how I squealed and scooped up my parent’s dog and had a little dance party to the music of a promotional DVD that the university had sent me.

I’m a little jealous of 17-year-old me’s confidence in being able to get in. I mean, I had a sticker and a t shirt ready and everything. Right now, I have exactly 2 pens I could take pictures with, lol.

And I can’t help but think that such a moment will never happen again. And I think it’s that thought of what could be, and the sinking feeling that it won’t be, that really hurts around this time of year.

But I wanted to share that, as someone who has been through two unmatched emails, it is totally survivable. Match Day itself feels anticlimactic compared to the year of build up. It’s just an email, for better or for worse. As I’ve let on, this will be my last Match Day, either way. That makes it a lot scarier, but as an experienced reject, I hope that I can face that finality with a brave face.

Here’s a few tips for surviving the final day of this long, exciting, and exhausting admissions cycle.

1: Take It Easy

Finally stay at home orders come in handy. I know some people prefer to have big plans with friends to celebrate or grieve on Match Day. I have done it both ways, and I really prefer just being with my SO and doing something we love together. That’s typically been Disneyland, but due to the closure, this year it’ll be doordashing my favorite food, cuddling up together, watching Disney+, and playing Animal Crossing.

I think that enjoying simple pleasures, rather than a big productive of an activity, can be really useful on Match Day. No matter the news, The Match can’t take away your loved ones, your favorite foods and entertainment, or Disneyland annual passes! Not every bit of your happiness rides on a match result. So remind yourself of this by enjoying the simple joys throughout your quarantined Match Day.

2: Let Onlookers Know on Your Terms

If you’ve let people in your life know about your upcoming Match Day, I’d recommend letting them know that you will inform them of your result when you are ready. I personally told my parents and in laws to assume that I didn’t match, and I will tell them if that changes. Seems negative, but it does save me the grief of them hounding me for an answer.

An alternative is to use a codeword; I did this my first cycle, since I knew I’d get my match result while queuing up for my graduation, while separated from my loved ones. I told Zach that the bad news codeword was “raisin” and if I texted him that, he could just let everyone know it didn’t work out. That way, I didn’t have to compose words at a time that I was feeling so sad. Last year, I just had Zach look over my shoulder while I opened it. Then I didn’t have to say anything, which was nice!

3: You DO NOT Have to Have a Plan Immediately

This strategy helped A LOT last year. After my match result I spent the next few days at Disney, and I did not allow myself to google other options, sign up for various app improvements, send feedback requests, open applications to other programs, or anything of the sort. I know a lot of us are Type A planners and need to have a course set in place. But trust me, you’re doing just fine where you’re at.

Let the back up planning and/or app improvements wait until Monday. If you don’t match, you have plenty of time to figure out what’s next. Even if you don’t plan to apply again, like me on my third try here, you don’t have to know right away what your next career move will be. Give it time, let some ideas float around, and then figure it out after grieving a bit. You really never know what opportunities might arise as you look for them over time, and snap decisions in a moment of pain will only limit those options.

4: Know That It Takes Time

Whatever your result, adjusting will take time. There’s a pretty interesting phenomenon on my Instagram around this time last year. Since I was at Disney, of course I was posting like every day! On the 26th, last Match Day, I posted some pictures where I’m smiling but I have some bags under my eyes and you can probably tell I’m on and off crying. 😅

The I post on the 27th and I look recovered, maybe still a bit tired, but enjoying myself.

On the 28th, I take a picture with Chip and Dale and for the first time it looks like I’ve forgotten for a moment that I didn’t match.

And then I come home, a few weeks pass, and come my birthday in late spring, I’m happily enjoying daily life and the plans I have for my future.

And there you have it folks, living proof that it does get better! My therapist actually noted that I seemed happier after not matching than I did while awaiting my result. And I agree. We tend to make things out to be worse than they really will be. That may mean that we will match when we didn’t think we would, but it also could mean that we don’t match, but then over time realize that it wasn’t the end of the world.

There are still good things ahead. You have other dreams and aspirations, and there are even a myriad of careers that you could pursue if you don’t try for GC again. Degree creep tends to have us thinking that a professional school degree is the only way to survive in today’s world, but that isn’t always true. You all are smart, driven, ambitious, and college graduates. There is a world of opportunity out there, whether you use it to build your app for next time, or to find your own career of compassion ™️.

A final thought:

Do I think I’ll match this year?

I’m an evidence-based person, so I’m honestly struggling to find the hope that I will. The precedent thus far has been no, I won’t. But of course, if the precedent was any different, I wouldn’t be writing this right now! So the answer is truly, I have no idea.

And I think that’s a fine place to be. We don’t have a lot of evidence to go off of in this situation. The reason this process is so challenging is that any evidence we do have is insufficient to draw any conclusion. Last cycle and this cycle I’ve gotten encouraging words from interviewers, a la “I hope you get in” or “we really enjoyed you”. It’s important to remember that these interviewers may be absolutely telling the truth, and it still may not work out. These programs simply run out of space very quickly.

And you can also hear absolutely nothing from a program post-interview, and match with them. Again, we don’t have a lot of solid evidence to work off of here!

So I believe it’s best to come at Match Day with no particular expectations, but a few thoughts.

  1. You did your best.
  2. If a program faculty member said something nice to you, they still meant it.
  3. So much of this result will come down to minuscule differences and dumb luck.
  4. This result cannot take away the other good things in your life.
  5. This grueling process is finally coming to an end.

I know I wrote it, but I may well mentally review that list before opening my match result, because I forget these things too.

Well, I hope to see y’all here next week! I’ll probably write a brief post even if I don’t match, for closure’s sake. But I will put out all of the positive energy I can muster to hope that just maybe I’ll be writing this blog for years to come. 😊

-Laura Cooper-Hastings

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