Frequently Asked Questions:
Internship Applicants - Preparation and Submission of Rank Order Lists

Updated August 19, 2016


PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION OF RANK ORDER LISTS

  1. What is my "Rank Order List"?
  2. What considerations are important in developing my Rank Order List?
  3. What if I decide that I'm not interested in being matched to a particular internship program to which I applied?
  4. Why is it that some internship sites offer more than one "program"in the Match (and thus use more than one Program Code Number)?
  5. How do I rank a site that has several different programs and thus uses several code numbers?
  6. Are there any restrictions on communication between applicants and programs during the Match?
  7. How confidential is my Rank Order List?
  8. What should I do if an internship site pressures me to reveal my rankings?
  9. Under the Matching Program, can't people still make "under the table" deals? What should I do if an internship site wants to negotiate such a deal?
  10. Where can I get more information about ranking programs and the submission of Rank Order Lists?


PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION OF RANK ORDER LISTS


1. What is my "Rank Order List"?

To participate in Phase I or Phase II of the Match, you are required to submit a Rank Order List of internship programs no later than the Rank Order List submission deadline for that Phase of the Match. This list should consist of the internship programs to which you would like to be matched, ranked in your order of preference (e.g., first choice, second choice, etc.). The order of preference is extremely important, as the matching process uses the relative rankings of programs that you submit to determine the best possible match available for you. There is no limit on the number of programs that you may include on your Rank Order List.

You can only be matched to a program that: (a) you have included on your Rank Order List, and (b) has included you on its Rank Order List. Of course, you should only include on your Rank Order List those internship programs to which you have applied and to which you are willing to be matched.

Most people will choose to include on their Rank Order List all of the programs at which they are being considered. However, if you decide that one of these programs is no longer acceptable to you (i.e., if you cannot match to a more preferred program, you would prefer to remain unmatched rather than being matched to that program), simply leave that program off of your Rank Order List. You cannot be matched to any program that does not appear on your Rank Order List. Be aware, however, that reducing the number of programs on your Rank Order List potentially increases your chances of remaining unmatched.

2. What considerations are important in developing my Rank Order List?

IMPORTANT: There is only one correct "strategy" for developing your Rank Order List: simply list your programs based on your true preferences, without consideration for where you believe you might be ranked by them. List the program that you want most as your #1 choice, followed by your next most-preferred program, and so on.

The previous paragraph is so important that we are going to repeat it: simply list your programs based on your true preferences.

If you rank a program highly even if you believe that you have little chance of being ranked highly by the program, you do NOT reduce your chances of being matched at other programs that you ranked as less preferred on your Rank Order List. Similarly, if you believe that one of your lower-ranked programs is very interested in you and plans to rank you highly, you may safely rank other more preferred programs higher without jeopardizing your standing at this lower-ranked program if you do not match to a preferred program.

Do NOT take into consideration where you believe you are ranked by the programs. Do NOT waste your time trying to develop "strategies" to supposedly increase your chances of getting your highly-ranked programs. Do NOT engage in "making deals" with sites, or other behaviors that violate Match policies. Due to the design of the matching process, any of these behaviors will ultimately hurt you because they will reduce your chances of getting your best possible match.

The internship selection system used by our profession prior to the implementation of the Matching Program actually encouraged and rewarded strategizing and deal-making, resulting in tremendous stress for internship applicants. The Matching Program eliminates many of the incentives for this kind of behavior, and actually rewards participants for listing their true preferences by guaranteeing them the best possible match.

EXAMPLE 1: Let's assume that you have applied to five internship programs, and your true rankings are as follows:

  1. Wonderland VA
  2. Emerald City Counseling Center
  3. Atlantis Child Guidance
  4. Transylvania Mental Health Center
  5. Graceland Community Mental Health

In this example, the Wonderland VA is your top choice. Assume that Wonderland doesn't appear to be very interested in you. Should you move them down your list, given your assumption that they may not rank you highly?

The answer is NO. If the Wonderland VA is truly your top choice, the best (and only) strategy is to leave them at the top of your list. The matching process will attempt to match you to Wonderland without penalizing you and without reducing your chances of being matched with other sites if you do not match to Wonderland. Changing your rankings based solely on how you perceive a program will rank you is a poor strategy that could negatively affect your outcome.

EXAMPLE 2: Let's again assume that you have applied to five programs, and that the sample Rank Order List above reflects your true preferences. Furthermore, let's assume that the Graceland Community Mental Health internship has expressed very strong interest in you. In fact, they have violated the Match rules and have told you that you will be ranked #1 on their list. However, even with their strong interest in you, they still remain your fifth choice. Should you move them up your Rank Order list, given their strong interest in you?

The answer again is NO. If Graceland is truly your fifth choice, then leave them ranked fifth. The matching process will attempt to match you to your higher-ranked choices. If it is unable to do so, and if Graceland has truly ranked you as their #1 choice, then you will be matched to Graceland. Thus, in this example, you have been able to rank Graceland according to your true preferences, without being penalized if your higher-ranked programs don't work out for you.

3. What if I decide that I'm not interested in being matched to a particular internship program to which I applied?

Simply exclude that program from the Rank Order List that you provide to NMS. You will never be matched with any program that is not included on your Rank Order List.

4. Why is it that some internship sites offer more than one "program" in the Match (and thus use more than one Program Code Number)?

Many internship sites in the APPIC Match are offering positions in more than one "program" in the Match, with each program represented by a unique six-digit Program Code Number. A site may choose to do this because they want to differentiate among several different rotations or training tracks, designate both funded and unfunded positions, identify certain positions as "captive" or limited to certain types of applicants, offer training at different locations, or for other reasons. By offering different programs in the Match, the sites provide applicants with the opportunity to specify their preferences for the specific tracks or type of training offered by the site.

Matches are made between applicants and programs (not sites). For a match to be made between an applicant and a program: (a) the applicant must include THAT PROGRAM'S code number on his/her Rank Order List, and (b) the internship site must include the applicant's code number on the Rank Order List FOR THAT PARTICULAR PROGRAM. If a site ranks the applicant only on the list for Program A, but the applicant only ranks Program B for that site, NO match will be made.

If an internship site offers more than one program in the Match, sites and applicants should discuss which program(s) each applicant is interested in, as well as which program(s) the site is prepared to consider the applicant for. While specific rankings should NOT be communicated, it is NECESSARY that both sides are clear as to which program(s) each applicant is considering and is being considered for. A site may then rank an applicant for none, some, or all of the program(s) in which the applicant is interested. Similarly, an applicant may rank none, some, or all of the program(s) offered by the site.

It is recommended that, prior to submitting their rankings, applicants check the NMS web site for the latest list of participating programs and code numbers.

5. How do I rank a site that has several different programs and thus uses several code numbers?

You may rank any or all of a site's programs simply by including the proper code number for the program(s) on your Rank Order List. If you applied to ten sites, each with five separate programs, your Rank Order List could contain as many as 50 (10 x 5) different code numbers. Of course, your list would be shorter if you decided not to rank every single program at all ten sites.

For example, let's say you apply to three sites, some with two programs (sample code numbers are listed in parentheses):

Site A has two programs:
          Gerontology (999901)
          Neuropsychology (999902)

Site B has two programs:
          Inpatient Rotation (888801)
          Outpatient Rotation (888802)

Site C has only a single program:
          Psychology Internship (777701)


If you are interested in all five of these programs, then you would rank all five code numbers, for example:

  1. 888801 Site B - Inpatient Rotation
  2. 999901 Site A - Gerontology
  3. 777701 Site C - Psychology Internship
  4. 999902 Site A - Neuropsychology
  5. 888802 Site B - Outpatient Rotation

Of course, you could list these programs in any order you wish. The Matching Program attempts to match you to the programs in the order that you specified. In this example, the inpation rotation at Site B is your most-preferred choice, while the outpatient rotation at the same site is your least-preferred choice.

If you did not wish to match to the outpatient rotation at Site B under any circumstances, then you would simply omit code 888802 from your Rank Order List. If you did not want to match to the neuropsychology program at Site A, you would omit code 999902 from your List.

6. Are there any restrictions on communication between applicants and programs during the Match?

Yes. The APPIC Match Policies state that both applicants and programs may not communicate, solicit, accept, or use any ranking-related information pertaining to either Phase of the Match prior to the release of the results for Phase II of the Match. Furthermore, the Policies state that programs and applicants may never solicit information regarding applicants' and programs' rankings at any time, either during the Match or after the Match results are released.

7. How confidential is my Rank Order List?

National Matching Services is committed to maintaining the confidentiality of both applicants' and programs' Rank Order Lists. This policy allows all participants to provide their true rankings without concern that this information may be disclosed to other parties.

Many students have expressed a desire to learn, upon conclusion of the Match, where they were ranked by the internship programs to which they applied. While we certainly understand how this information could be interesting and useful to applicants, all participants' rankings must remain strictly confidential. In order to preserve participants' ability to construct their rankings without undue pressure, it is vitally important for all participants to know that they can develop and submit their rankings without worrying about future disclosure.

Under certain circumstances, an applicant's Rank Order List may be disclosed to her/his Director of Clinical Training (DCT) when requested by the DCT.

8. What should I do if an internship site pressures me to reveal my rankings?

First of all, the sharing of ranking information is strictly governed by the APPIC Match Policies. Be sure to read these policies carefully and early in the process.

If you experience pressure from an internship site to reveal your rankings, remember that the Match rules explicitly allow you to change your mind at any time prior to submitting your Rank Order List for the Match. Thus, any ranking information that you share with anyone prior to that time is non-binding and subject to change. Similarly, any ranking information that sites share with you is similarly non-binding.

9. Under the Matching Program, can't people still make "under the table" deals? What should I do if an internship site wants to negotiate such a deal?

It is possible for a site and an applicant to violate APPIC Match Policies by negotiating a "deal." However, this behavior will often penalize the person(s) attempting to make such a deal instead of providing them with an advantage. Thus, those who engage in such "under the table" deals will only end up hurting themselves.

For example, let's suppose a Training Director, Susan, has one internship position available. She has ranked an applicant, Frank, as number five on her Rank Order List. Frank has ranked Susan's site as third on his own Rank Order List. However, several days before the deadline for list submission, Susan calls Frank and offers him a deal: "I'll rank you number one if you rank me number one" (this is, of course, a clear violation of APPIC policies). Frank agrees to this arrangement. In this example, two results are then possible:

  1. Susan and Frank both keep to their agreement listing each other as their number one choice, and are thus matched to each other. However, while both may feel that they've been successful, they've both actually lost out on better opportunities. Susan has lost the opportunity to obtain the first four candidates on her list, and Frank has given up the opportunity to obtain his top two internship sites.

    If Susan hadn't attempted this "deal", listing Frank as her fifth choice would not have reduced her chances of being matched with Frank. The matching process would simply have tried to obtain her top four applicants before attempting to match her with Frank. Similarly, Frank would have been better served by listing Susan as third, as it wouldn't reduce his chances of being matched with Susan in the event that his top two choices did not come through.

  2. One party keeps to the agreement by ranking the other party as their top choice, but the other party decides to back out of the "deal" and not change his/her rankings (under the Matching Program rules, verbal commitments or "deals" are non-binding). In this scenario, the party who changed their rankings has hurt themselves, while the party who does not change their rankings has gained a potential advantage.

As can be seen from this example, changing your rankings to anything but your "true" preferences is never advantageous. Thus, the only way that you can profit from an "under-the-table deal" is to be doubly-dishonest by (1) agreeing to make the deal in the first place (a violation of APPIC policies), and (2) reneging on your part of the deal, thus inducing the other party to change their rankings without changing your own.

This example points out one of the basic tenets of the Matching Program: the best "strategy" in constructing Rank Order Lists is to provide your true preferences, without regard to the likelihood of obtaining a particular program or applicant. As can be seen from this example, using any other strategy only hurts you. Where can I get more information about ranking programs and the submission of Rank Order Lists?


10. Where can I get more information about ranking programs and the submission of Rank Order Lists?

By December 31 of each year, the National Matching Services web site provides important information and detailed instructions concerning the preparation and submission of Rank Order Lists. All applicants should review that information before preparing and submitting their Rank Order Lists.