Let’s Stay Together: The Couples Match
If you’re thinking about participating in the Couples Match, this article is for you! Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know from who is eligible for the Couples Match to creating your Rank Order List. Let’s start from the beginning.
The Couples Match
Any two residency applicants can choose to participate in the NRMP Match as a couple. You do not have to be married. You might be dating, engaged, or just friends who want to continue their residency journey together. The main component of the Couples Match is linking your Rank Order List with someone else’s with the goal of Matching into the same program, hospital, or geographic location.
In the Couples Match, the individual Matching algorithm is adapted to form PAIRS of program choices, based on each individual’s Rank Order List, and a couple will Match to the most preferred pair of programs where each partner has been offered a position.
Do Programs Know You Are Part of a Couple?
A common question asked early in the application season is whether or not programs know you’re participating in the Couples Match – the answer is – not unless you tell them. If you know you’re going to be part of a couple when you complete your ERAS application, there is a place to indicate this. If you decide later on, you’ll want to let programs know your plans during interviews. For example, if you receive an interview at a program or hospital your partner also applied to, telling the program that you’re participating in the Couples Match and advocating for your partner to receive an interview is a smart idea. Generally speaking, programs are supportive of couple’s efforts to Match together.
Creating Your Rank Order List as a Couple
Later in the season, after both partners have completed interviews, you’ll need to create your Rank Order List. First, let’s talk about how it works.
When Matching individually, you create a list that starts with your most desired program. Then, you list subsequent programs from most desirable to less desirable. You’ll do the same as part of the Couples Match (each person will create an individual Rank Order List). But, instead of thinking about your top choice as an individual, you’ll want to structure your list so the top program choices reflect both parties’ interests.
A good strategy for developing your Rank Order Lists is for each person to create a spreadsheet ranking their choices in order. Then, share spreadsheets to see where they align and compare preferences. It’s likely both parties will need to compromise as you begin to pair and rank programs.
Keep in mind that you set the upper limit in terms of distance based on the programs you pair. It’s easier for couples to Match into a pair of programs in a large metropolitan area than smaller towns. This is because there are a greater number of programs and positions in cities.
When developing your Rank Order List, there are several key points to keep in mind:
You can list a program more than once, for example:
Florida Program 1 Florida Program 1
Florida Program 1 Florida Program 2
Florida Program 1 Florida Program 3
In this example, applicant A would have three opportunities to match at Florida Program 1 as the algorithm works its way down the list. If applicant B doesn’t match into Florida Program 1, applicant A still could if applicant B matches into Florida program 2 or 3.
This is a good strategy for couples who are not equally competitive.
Here are a few additional things to keep in mind:
- Partners must have the SAME NUMBER of ranks on their respective Rank Order Lists.
- Each partner can submit NO MORE THAN 300 ranks on their respective Rank Order Lists.
- A Match is established only if both partners Match at a pair of ranked programs (there is an exception to this rule, which we’ll explain!).
- Partners are treated by the Matching algorithm solely as a couple. If applicants do not obtain a Match as a couple, the algorithm does NOT process their Rank Order Lists separately to find a possible Match for each individual.
- Couples have the option to rank a “No Match” code. Only one partner enters The No Match code. It means that if the other partner can be Matched at that rank the partner ranking the No Match code will not Match. Pairs of ranks using the No Match code should be placed at the bottom of the Rank Order Lists so that both partners have the best chance of Matching to programs.
What Happens if One Person Matches and the Other Doesn’t?
Now, let’s go over your options if one partner Matches and the other doesn’t. This is a scenario that the No Match code makes possible.
If this happens, the unmatched partner will be eligible for the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). If one partner Matches by Monday of Match Week, the unmatched partner contacts the NRMP. They find out the location of the Matched partner’s program to guide their SOAP efforts.
For Couples Applying to Advanced Programs:
- If either partner ranks an Advanced Program on a Primary Rank Order List, a supplemental Rank Order List of preliminary programs can attach to the Advanced Program to obtain a full course of training; however, the Matching algorithm does NOT process supplemental Rank Order Lists as a unit. The Matching algorithm considers Supplemental Lists individually ONLY after a Match establishes a pair of programs on the partners’ Primary Rank Order Lists.
- Applicants who list the same Advanced Program more than once on the Primary Rank Order List must have:
- the same supplemental list or
- no supplemental list attached to each instance of the advanced program
- See the NRMP’s page on Match fees for more information.
Thanks for reading our blog about the Couples Match! We hope it answered all your questions. If not, you can email us at email@example.com.