Planning 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. And 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, we’ve divided the process into four separate categories: program research and application preparation, applying to residency, CaRMS interviews, and finally, match day.


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Article Contents
10 min read

Program Research and Application Prep (July-September) Applying to Residency (September-December) Interview Prep and Ranking Period (January-February) Match Day (March/April) FAQs

CaRMS Timeline: Program Research and Application Prep (July-September) 

I started preparing ~2 months in advance. It is important to start well in advance so that you have ample time to edit your personal statements and residency application. This can be difficult, especially since you have a lot of clinical commitments during your senior years of medical school. This, combined with the stress of matching and residency applications, can be overwhelming. This is why it is even more important to start early and pace yourself. By dedicating a few hours each day to your residency application, you can ensure timely completion and high-quality work while avoiding last-minute hiccups." – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD, University of Saskatchewan, Diagnostic Radiology


Step 1: Research Residency Programs

First, create a personalized 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.

Visit the CaRMS website to get the deadlines for your specific application year.


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. It’s 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.

Take 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.

“Applying for residency is quite similar to med school applications. Both the planning and preparation are the same ... You should apply to whichever programs you imagine yourself working in for the next 2-6 years (or more). It is important to write down what is important to you and select the programs to apply to based on those criteria … For me, having a good support system was paramount to remain in the right mental space for the next 5 years. My strategy was simple – I ranked all programs based on proximity to home (location) first and foremost.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


The Canadian Federation of Medical Students provides a Match Book that can help you decide if a program could be suitable for you. 

Not sure how many residency programs you should be applying to? This infographic has some helpful advice:

Step 2: Secure Your CaRMS References

Decide who is going to be writing your CaRMS reference letters. We recommend having a variety of recommendation letters from different faculty members, such as professors, attendings, volunteer supervisors, and so on. 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.

“Students should highlight why [someone] would make a good referee and provide tangible examples where they went above and beyond in a patient’s care that would warrant a LOR. An approach that would sour me is if a student asks for a LOR despite putting an average or below-average performance during the rotation, if they feel entitled to a LOR, and if the student asks for a LOR after having worked only a few shifts with them.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.

 

These letters need to be strong and compelling. Make sure you ask reliable referees who have 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.

Step 3: Polish Your Residency CV

Make sure your residency CV 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. 

"Your medical school often gives you a guide of what to include on your residency CV. As well, if some programs have a specific requirement, then they often make it clear on their website (about what to write on the CV). You definitely do want to include elements from medical school." – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


Step 4: Write Your Residency Personal Statement

Another critical component of your CaRMS application is your residency personal statement, or CaRMS personal letter. We recommend writing a different letter for each of the specialties that you will apply to and tailoring each letter to that field of medicine. Think about why you got interested in your chosen medical specialty and what makes you the perfect candidate for it. This includes your skills, experiences, and extracurricular activities. 

“Writing the personal statements [is] particularly hard because there is so much you can talk about, and … making the statements convincing while meeting the word limit and addressing the question at hand can be difficult. It is advisable to start as early as possible (possibly months from due date) so that you can extensively revise the statements, have others review it and provide feedback.

“Demonstrating preparedness for your specialty is key to convincing the application committee and ultimately securing your top residency program. To do so, you want to highlight specific personal experiences where you have demonstrated key skills required for your specialty. For instance, collaboration, communication, and independent problem solving are essential to the job of a radiologist. I made sure to give specific (and ideally different) examples to demonstrate how I have developed each of these skills throughout medical school.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


Review some residency personal statement samples, jot down ideas, and if necessary, seek help from a residency consultant 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. 

Step 5: Send Your MSPR

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 medical school to see if they can influence this evaluation. 

Looking for residency personal statement examples? This video has 3 that can help you find inspiration:

CaRMS Timeline: Applying to Residency (September-December)

The CaRMS online portal opens in September. Even though the deadline to apply for residency is in early December, you do not want to wait that long. There are some documents, such as your references and transcripts, that must be submitted by different deadlines in October and November.

In early November, you can start selecting which residency programs you want to apply to and assigning specific documents to these programs.

We recommend submitting your complete application as soon as the CaRMS portal opens or as close to the final deadline 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 earlier in the timeline.

Are all the documents that are in your power to submit ready? If any documents are not ready for submission, it’s time to finalize them. You should log onto the CaRMS portal and upload all of the documents you need for the programs you are applying to. Contact your referees and remind them of the deadline for submitting the letters. Check-in with your medical school to ensure your medical school transcripts and MSPR have been made available to CaRMS. In other words, follow up on everything that is not in your control and make sure it will be submitted on time. 

Interested in seeing a video on how to make your CaRMS application stand out? Take a look at this one:

CaRMS Timeline: Interview Prep and Ranking Period (January-February)

Interview Prep and CaRMS Interview Period

Once the application has been sent, it is time for your CaRMS interview prep. Application reviews start in December, and by early January, official interview invitations will start going out to applicants. The national interview period for graduates of Canadian medical schools typically takes place from mid-January to mid-February.

Do not wait to be called for an interview before you start planning. If your application was submitted before the CaRMS application deadline, then you have more time to research and prepare for this step. After submitting your residency application, you can practice for different interview formats and start preparing answers to different kinds of residency interview questions.

During the interviews, remember that you are both trying to see if you are a good fit for each other. Make sure you've read about the programs you are interviewing for ahead of the interview and write down a few questions to ask residency programs. Don't be afraid to ask specific questions about the program to ensure that it's the right residency match for you.  

“To prepare for my residency interviews, I did lots of practice for a few hours every day … It is important to seek feedback from others as to what you can improve on, where you are going wrong, etc., and at the same time, spend time reflecting on your experiences and how they have aptly shaped you to excel in the specialty you are applying for.

“It is good practice to prepare by … coming up with a personal example for each of the CanMEDS roles (i.e., physician competencies), and building a strategy to approach different types of questions (personal, behavioral, clinical).” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.


Reflecting on your interview and sending a thank you letter can help set you apart from the other candidates. It is also a great way to remind your preferred residency programs that you are serious about attending them. After your interview, it's also a good idea to follow up with your top-choice residency program by sending a strong residency letter of intent

Ranking Period

Shortly after the interview period, your Rank Order List (ROL) will be due at the end of February. The match is a legally binding agreement. This means that you can't just change your mind about a program once you match. So don't include programs that you do not want to attend, even as a backup. 

“First and foremost, I ranked the programs based on location. In the case where both programs were equally far, factors such as quality of education and social culture (including resident wellness) were driving factors.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.


If you are wondering how to create your residency rank order list and don't know where to begin, you might want to reach out to a residency consultant who can help you with this difficult decision.  

After you've submitted your ROL, you will need to be patient. We know the wait can be nerve-wracking but remember, you've done your part. Now, the CaRMS algorithm will take over and complete the match. 

Check out this infographic for some helpful tips on CaRMS interview prep:

CaRMS Timeline: Match Day (March/April)

Match Day is usually in mid- to late-March. 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 match day to come around.

"Mental reassurance is the biggest thing ahead of Match Day. You want to be mentally prepared for going unmatched, but I had applied to two different specialties (both which I equally liked) so I knew I was not going to go unmatched. Had I gone unmatched during the first iteration, I would have simply applied during the second iteration." – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD.


First iteration CaRMS applicants who did not match can participate in the second iteration of the Match, after Match Day has passed. The second CaRMS Match Day is usually in late April.

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.

FAQs

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. Both applicants and residency programs review each other’s information, conduct interviews and submit rank order lists based on their preferences. From there, the Match algorithm sees if there are possible matches between you and your chosen programs.

2. When should I register for the CaRMS match?

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 your medical school transcripts and MSPR, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and a residency CV.

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 attend as the match is a binding contract. Consider the residency program, your professional goals, the location, your lifestyle, proximity to family and friends.

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 iteration of the match. If you don’t get matched in second round, you may need to wait and reapply next year. 

6. When should I start preparing for the Match?

Start as soon as you can! The application deadline is typically in December, but we recommend starting the prep work in July and submitting your application as soon as the portal opens in September so that you have ample time to create an application that stands out. 

7. When will I know if I got a match?

On Match Day, 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 to match with. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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1 Comments

Lilian Kerubo

What about international applicants wishing to apply for a fellowship program?

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BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Lilian! Thanks for your question! The application timeline for IMGs is the same, except for the interview timeline. There is no set interview period for IMGs, so make sure to keep your schedule open after you submit the application.

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