Familiarizing yourself with the ideal CaRMS timeline is crucial to landing your dream match for your residency. The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) process can be pretty overwhelming and time-consuming. A typical CaRMS timeline will tell you on what date in October the portal opens and the deadline to submit your references in January. The thing is, there is a lot to do before those dates and even more to do afterward. There is an official CaRMS timeline that changes with every application cycle. Please take the time to review it and make sure you put those deadlines in your calendar. That said, you should also keep in mind that this process involves a lot more than submission deadlines. That’s why we’ve put together this timeline to help you formulate a game plan and give you a realistic chance of landing your dream match.
To help you keep track of things, we’ve divided the process into four separate categories: program research and application preparation, applying to residency, CaRMS Interview Prep & Interviews, and finally, match day.
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Program Research and Application Preparation (July – September)
Let’s face it, there are quite a few things that need to go into a CaRMS application, and you want to start putting it all together as early as possible. You do not want to apply with a residency personal statement full of typos because you did not have time to proofread it. Or have to send in a reference written by a referee who has nothing to do with your chosen medical specialty. Give yourself ample time to collect all the necessary supporting documents, triple-check everything, seek professional help if necessary, and implement the feedback that they give you.
We recommend starting with the following:
1. Create an official CaRMS timeline for yourself by mapping out what you need to do and when you need to do it. You can do this by creating a spreadsheet with a list of all the documents that you will need and when you need to secure them. Alternatively, you can create a to-do list with specific tasks and when they are due. For example: Secure references by August 1st or Finalize Residency CV by August 15th. Visit the CaRMS website to get the deadlines for your specific application year and combine that information with this outline to make a plan.
Make a list of all of the programs you are interested in and start narrowing it down. You should look at the programs that interest you, of course, but don’t forget to think strategically, as well. Applying to the wrong program is a common mistake that you can easily avoid. Simply by taking the time to research correctly and considering all relevant factors, such as your goals, the opportunities offered by each program, and how competitive you are as an applicant. You need to be honest with yourself about what you want, what will fit into your lifestyle and your qualifications. The Canadian Federation of Medical Students provides a Match Book that can help you decide if a program could be suitable for you.
You can’t put all your eggs in one basket, but you also don’t want to apply to every program that sounds even remotely interesting. This is why it is important to learn how many residency programs to apply to in order to have a high chance of matching. Most applicants will need to apply to 30-35 programs.
Not sure how many residency programs you should be applying to? This infographic has some helpful advice:
2. It is also time to secure your references. Decide who is going to be writing your recommendation letters. We recommend having a variety of recommendation letters from different faculty members, such as professors, attendings, volunteer supervisors, and so on. CaRMS lets you send different letters to various programs, so plan to take advantage of that. For example, suppose you plan on applying to a few internal medicine programs and a few surgical programs. In that case, you should have one letter supporting your internal medicine candidacy and another one supporting your surgical candidacy. These letters need to be strong and compelling. Make sure you ask reliable who has openly supported your candidacy and who knows you well enough to talk about your strong qualities instead of writing a generic letter.
Once you’ve decided on your referees, ask them for the letter of recommendation as soon as possible. Don’t forget to tell them when and how they can send the recommendation letters. You want to give them ample time to write a solid letter. If you ask someone for a reference two days before the due date, they could say no, altogether. Or even worse, they might write a brief letter that doesn’t do your skills or experience justice.
3. You also want to use this time to start polishing your residency CV. Make sure it is up to date, contains relevant information, and look for ways to make it stand out. Your residency CV does not need to include all of your academic and extracurricular achievements. You want to focus on the ones relevant to the programs you are applying to. For instance, you may have volunteered for a local clinic for a year and played on the volleyball team for one semester during college. Unless your experience on the volleyball team is pertinent to your choice of program, you do not need to include it on your residency CV.
4. Another critical component of your CaRMS application is your personal statement. We recommend writing a different letter for each of the specialties that you will apply to and tailoring each letter to that particular field of medicine. Think about why you got interested in your chosen specialty and what makes you the perfect candidate for it. This includes your skills, experiences, and extracurricular activities.
Review sample residency personal statements, jot down ideas, and if necessary, seek professional feedback to help you craft your statement. Most CaRMS programs have a one-page limit for the personal statement, so make sure that your letter is concise and straight to the point.
Looking for residency personal statement examples? This video has 3 that can help you find inspiration:
5. Last but certainly not least, your medical school sends your transcripts and Medical School Performance Record (MSPR) directly to CaRMS. The deadline to submit these records is in January, but in Canada, the MSPR is automated by your medical school in October or November. If you are eager to submit a great application, we recommend checking with your dean or faculty. Ask them if you're able to provide any notes or feedback about this specific application component. Maybe you want them to include information on a particular rotation that you did or on an elective that you chose to pursue. You can also check with your specific medical school to see if they can influence this evaluation.
Applying to Residency (October – January)
The CaRMS online portal opens in October. The CaRMS online portal opens in October. Even though the deadline to apply for residency is in January, you do not want to wait that long. We recommend submitting your application as soon as the portal opens or as close to that date as possible. By this time, you should have most of your application documents ready to submit, and you should know which programs you are applying to, as you did most of the program research from July to September of your CaRMS timeline.
CaRMS Interview Prep and Interviews (February – March)
Once the application has been sent, it is time for your CaRMS interview prep. Application reviews start at the end of January, and by mid-February, official interview invitations will start going out to applicants. If your application was submitted before the deadline of January 31st, then you have more time to research and prepare.
Check out this infographic for some helpful tips on CaRMS interview prep:
Match Day (April)
Matchday is in April. The exact date will change depending on the specific CaRMS timeline of your application cycle, but around this time, you should be finding out if you matched and with which program. On the date of the match, you’ll need to log into the CaRMS portal and check your profile.
If you got a match, congratulations. Now, it is time to transition to residency and continue on your journey to becoming a doctor. If you didn’t get a match this time around, don’t worry, it’s not over yet. There are usually two rounds in one residency application cycle, so you might need to wait for the second matchday to come around. If you do not match this year, you should reflect on how to improve your residency application after going unmatched and ramp up your interview prep for the next application cycle.
Interested in seeing a video on how to make your CaRMS application stand out? Take a look at this one:
We understand that choosing a program for residency and applying for it can be overwhelming. We’ve helped thousands of students at different stages of their professional journey, so we understand the pressure that you are under. One thing we can say for sure: being prepared makes a huge difference. When you give yourself time to put all your ducks in a row and use the resources at your disposal, you are far more likely to submit a great application on time and get the right match for you. We recommend starting to brainstorm your personal statement as early as July. You should also start lining up your references, polishing your residency CV, and researching the programs that you want to apply to around that same time. In October, when the CaRMS portal opens, you should have all the documents that you need ready to submit. Make sure you keep an eye on the deadlines through the CaRMS website.
Most of the interviews take place between late February and late March, so make sure you start preparing for those early and that you make room for them on your schedule. BeMo is here to give you strategies and tools that will help you put your best foot forward every step of the way.
Remember, the key is to have a winning CaRMS timeline that gives you enough time to use all the resources at your disposal to create the right application for your ideal match.
1. How exactly does the CaRMS match work?
The process of residency matching is facilitated by the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), an independent non-profit organization. Basically, if you are eligible, you enter all of your information on their online portal, and different residency programs will do the same. Once your application is on the website, they will review it to see if they are interested in you as a candidate. If they are, they will reach out to you and request an interview. This is your chance to see if you are a good fit for each other.
After the interviews, both you and the program must submit a Rank Order List. You rank the programs you are interested in, and they rank the candidates they are interested in. In order for a match to happen, you both have to rank each other.
2. When should I register for the CaRMS match?
Good news: you do not have to. If you are a current-year Canadian medical graduate, your medical school will send your information to CaRMS, and you will receive an email in the fall with login credentials. If you have participated in the CaRMS match in the past, then you should still be able to log in with the same credentials.
If you are a Canadian student graduating from an international medical school, you are considered an international Medical Graduate. You will need to make sure that you meet both the Medical Council of Canada (MCC)’s and provincial requirements to apply for residency. You will need to register on the CaRMS portal by the deadline, which is typically in July.
3. What documents are required for the match?
You will need the following documents:
- A residency curriculum vitae (CV) that highlights your academic and extracurricular achievements.
- Your medical school transcript &Medical Student Performance Report (MSPR), Strong and compelling letters of recommendation. Ideally, one of them should be written by a professional who knows you well and who also works in the specialty you are applying to.
- A concise and impactful personal statement (PS).
4. How many residency programs should I rank?
We recommend ranking at least ten programs but remember that they need to be programs you actually want to go to. Residency is an important time in your medical journey so think long and hard about where you want to do it. Consider the residency program, your professional goals, the location, your lifestyle, proximity to family and friends. Basically, consider all relevant factors.
5. What happens if I don’t get a match?
There are two match days in one CaRMS application cycle. If you don’t get a match in the first round, you will need to wait for the second one. If you don’t get matched in second round, we know that it can cause a lot of anxiety but it is definitely not the end of your professional journey. There are many resources available to help you navigate this. You just have to take the right steps to make sure you are matched during the next cycle. BeMo is here to help you every step of the way.
6. When should I start preparing for the Match?
Start as soon as you can! The application deadline is typically in January, but we recommend starting the prep work in July and submitting your application as soon as the portal opens in October. Residency programs are very competitive, and there are parts of your application that need to be modified for each of the specialties you will be applying to. That takes time and effort. We recommend starting as early as possible so that you have ample time to create an application that stands out.
7. When will I know if I got a match?
The date of the match will be made available to you in the fall. Save that date on your calendar so that you can log into the CaRMS portal and check to see if you got a match. Because there are two rounds, if you do not get a match in the first round, check for the second date on the CaRMS website and log back in on that day.
8. Can I change the program that I am matched with?
The match is a legally binding agreement, so the answer is no! This is why it’s very important to research the programs you are applying to, ask questions during the interview, and only rank the residency programs that you actually want match with. Once the CaRMS match has taken place, both you and the residency program are legally bound to each other.
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