Let’s chat about computer matching and ranking.
This is a humbling subject for me because for YEARS, I was telling people the wrong information about how it worked. I actually thought it mattered way more, and your chances decreased the lower you ranked a program. NOT TRUE! GASP!
While my slight misinterpretation of computer matching didn’t really negatively impact people (thank goodness!), it is still important that I share the actual way that it works.
First, to summarize computer matching, you rank your programs and programs rank their applicants. Then this fancy program matches an applicant with a program in a way that is most “ideal”. “Ideal” means it’s matching the highest possible ranked program with the highest possible ranked applicant. The perfect “match” is when Sally ranks ABC DI #1 and ABC DI ranks Sally #1. True DI love!
Second, this video explains the computer matching algorithm pretty perfectly:
COMPUTER MATCHING VIDEO
Third, know that your ranking of programs is only responsible for deciding where you get matched if you are eligible to match to MULTIPLE programs. That’s it.
And what makes you eligible to match? Ranking as high as possible on the director’s ranking list. In other words, getting good grades, having experience, and creating an outstanding application!
This is literally all that you need to know about computer matching. Rank your programs in the order you actually want them. There is no strategy beyond this!
How many programs should you apply to?
Technically you could apply to 100 programs and get matched to your 98th ranked choice. This is possible, but not advised, as it sounds like my worst nightmare. I think it is realistic to apply to 3-6 programs especially if you are already busy and are not willing to invest in the application fees.
If you feel like you have the time and financial resources to apply to more, and you are SURE that the quality of your applications will not suffer as a result, then yes you could apply to 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 programs and your chances of getting in to any of them would be the same regardless of your ranking. I, personally, would not put myself under that type of burden and rather optimize my energy towards 3-4 putting in as much time as possible to reach out to programs, do research, and make the applications as perfect as possible.
The take home message here is that the goal is to get ranked as high as possible on the program’s list. This means creating super-competitive application materials like the personal statement, resume, and entire DICAS application. You don’t have to stress about the ranking or number you apply to. Just rank programs you are qualified for, and rank them in the order you would want should you get matched to all of them.
For the record, I would rank all of you #1.