Couples Match

Believe it or not, it can be done! But you must realize the Couples Match isn't easy, because now there are two people to take into account, two programs to look at, two views of the liveability/unliveability of the city, etc. And it can be especially difficult if one or both members of the couple have chosen particularly competitive specialties (Anesthesia, Urology, Orthopedics, OB/GYN and sometimes even General Surgery). If you two are not married, or are not planning any kind of committed relationship, think long and hard before going through the Couple's Match as it will require incredible commitment and a lot of compromise.

Also see Surviving the Couples Match

So you still want to go for it? OK, here goes:

The first thing to do is to seek a lot of advice from faculty and residents who interviewed in your chosen field (preferably recently) about which programs to consider. Start early (February or March) requesting information and applications on those programs you may be interested in; you may not necessarily want to take the time to thoroughly read each brochure at this point, you mainly just need to find out what the program needs to consider an application "complete". We found residents who'd interviewed at the program recently to be our best source of information. A word of advice, however, a big name school does not guarantee a good residency program. Many of these big-name programs are very research-oriented and/or use their residents for scut; you're probably better off looking at them when it comes time to do a fellowship (if you so desire). But visit one or two, because it may be what's right for you.

Next, each member of the couple should compile a list of all the programs they are interested in and compare notes. See what places have suitable programs for both of you, then begin to fill out those applications. Keep a file, neatly organized, of all the places you applied to, so your information will be ready for quick reference when it comes time to interview. If one or both members of the couple are in an "interview by invitation only" specialty, we suggest applying to about twice as many programs as you plan to interview at, a lot of work, but it will pay off in future results.

Interviewing: November, December and January are the best months to interview, and if your programs require a Dean's Letter before they will think of interviewing you, better plan to interview in December or January. Many programs will do their best to allow you both to interview on the same day, and that will save money on hotels, etc. Plan to take time off school. The Couple's Match requires a lot of interviewing and it is just too difficult to arrange time off classes and clinics. Also, you sure can miss a lot of a good rotation by interviewing in the middle of it.

During the actual interview, you will want to let the program know right away that you are a member of a couple, and be specific about who your partner is and what department they are interviewing in. Write down specifics about each program as soon as the interview is over. This will be invaluable to you later when you are trying to rank programs. Or alternatively, you can keep a running order list, adding programs in their appropriate places after the interview. We just cannot emphasize enough writing down why you feel that way to do about a particular program because 1) they all get jumbled after a while and 2) you need to have reasons to bargain with later when you are compiling the Couple's Rank Order List. Specifics to look for during the interview: 1) Contentment of the residents, 2) amount of "hands on" experience, 3) how do the programs feel about couples in medicine? Are there any other couples in the program? Will there be any problem with call schedule? and, of course 4) the quality of the educational program.

Once you have completed your interviewing, it's time for the two of you to make up individual rank order lists, just for the two of you to work with. Don't worry, there will be places you'll both like! (But will they like you both too!) Rank programs in the order you like them, not in the order of which one is more difficult to get into. Together, decide who will get priority-usually the person applying to the more competitive specialty. Read the couple's section of the NRMP thoroughly, because you can do things as a couple that you wouldn't believe! For example, if one partner likes a program well and feels he/she has a good chance of being accepted there, but the other partner isn't so sure about his/her chances in the respective program, the second partner may want to go unmatched. (This is one of the reasons you should be in a committed relationship before going through the Couple's Match). If you do decide to use some of your options as a match-unmatched combination, we suggest that you do not select as unmatched the person with the more competitive specialty. It is much better to both be unmatched and look for a spot together on No-Match Day than to have one match in a rather open specialty and very few options for the second person. Again, if you don't understand this "unmatched" stuff, read the NRMP booklet; it is well-explained there.

The main things to remember as a couple are: 1) Make sure all programs know you're a couple, 2) Don't rank any programs where one or both of you will be unhappy, who knows, you may end up there and 3) Depending on what subspecialties you've chosen don't expect to get your first choice. Remember, two independent programs are looking at two individuals, and you will probably go pretty far down your rank list before everything "clicks" - make sure your list is long enough!

Surviving the Couples Match

Probably the most important thing to remember with the couples match is that the two of you have to COMMUNICATE. Let each other know what you are thinking throughout the process. The nicest thing about matching as a couple is that you always have someone right there to bounce ideas off of.

The second most important thing to remember is that you both will need to COMPROMISE. It is much better for both partners to compromise a little bit and be satisfied than for you to get everything you want and have your partner resent you for the next 20 years.

  1. Each of you make a separate list of the qualities that are most important to you in a program (location, call schedule, academic vs. community, available fellowships, etc.)
  2. Discuss your list of qualities with each other and try to get an idea of which are most important and which you can compromise on.
  3. Apply to programs that are either in the same hospital or are within 50 miles of each other.
  4. Try to schedule interviews together so you will be in the same area at the same time. Saves on hotel expenses.
  5. After every interview, before you talk to your partner, take 10 minutes to write down notes about the program – what you liked, what you didn't like, what you felt about the program and the interview day. Could you work well with these people? Could you be happy in this program for the next (3-7) years?
  6. Discuss the interview with your partner & see what they thought of the program/hospital/area/people and what their interview was like.
  7. After your last interview, each of you sit down separately with your own notes and make a rank list.
    1. Don't rank a program that you don't want to go to just because you're afraid of not matching. It would be better to get a preliminary year spot and go through the match again than to match at a program where you will be miserable. You'll make the rest of the people in that residency miserable. You'll make your partner miserable. You'll get a divorce. You'll turn to alcohol & drugs. Bad.
    2. Don't be cocky and rank too few programs. A few years ago, a couple went through the match – he went for Ortho, she did FP. He was the "stronger" of the two applicants and was convinced he'd get his first choice. She matched, he didn't. Do you think there was any bitterness?
  8. Together, make a list of all the possible pair combinations (programs in the same geographical area) from both of your rank lists.
  9. Make a pair rank list.
    1. I assigned numbers to each of our programs based on our individual rank lists. The difference between the two numbers in a pair was indicative of how similarly satisfied each of us would be. For example, a possible pair of my number 1 choice and her number 8 choice would have a difference of 7 – she would have been extremely unhappy and I would have been extremely happy… for a while. A possible pair of my number 3 choice and her number 3 choice would have a difference of 0 – we would be similarly satisfied. Ok, so my OCD ran rampant… sue me.
    2. Do this far enough in advance of the submission date that if you have a disagreement over the list, you can set it aside for a few days and come back to discuss it later.
  10. Input the list on NRMP's website.
    1. This is a royal pain in the ass.
    2. Both of you should have the other person's NRMP number and pass code in case there is a problem with the list that needs to be fixed at the last minute.
    3. Follow the instructions on the website for registering as a couple.
    4. Each partner must input their half of the pair rank list into the computer separately under their own NRMP number.
    5. Both of you MUST have the same number of programs listed. It will not let you certify either list if they are unequal.
    6. Look up each program's NRMP number and have the entire pair rank list printed out ahead of time. It is much easier & quicker to just input the program's NRMP numbers in the order they appear on your rank list.
    7. For programs that require a prelim year, list prelim programs in the supplemental list.
    8. Each supplemental list should only contain programs from a certain geographical area. Otherwise, you both may match near each other for your categorical program, but be on opposite sides of the country for that intern year.
    9. You can make as many supplemental lists as you want, so make them. You can go so far as to only list one program in each supplemental list.
    10. Remember that for each different supplemental list, you must have an additional ranked pair. Confused? See the attached "pair rol."
  11. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR LIST BEFORE YOU REGISTER IT! Have your mom, your dog, your great uncle Stan check your list just to make sure there is no possible way that the two of you could end up on opposite sides of the country.
  12. That's it. Done. Now just wait for Match Day and hope for the best.

Good Luck!

Joe and Jean

Joe's Rank Order List

  1. Boston A
  2. New York A
  3. Los Angeles A
  4. New York B
  5. Los Angeles B
  6. Cleveland
  7. Boston B
  8. New York C

Jean's Rank Order List

  1. Boston A
  2. New York B
  3. Los Angeles A
  4. Los Angeles B
  5. Cleveland
  6. New York A
  7. New York D
  8. Boston B
  9. Providence
  10. New York C

Joe

Sup

R

Jean

Sup

R

D

Boston A

-

1

Boston A

-

1

0

New York A

B

2

New York B

B

2

0

New York A

A

2

New York B

A

2

0

New York A

C

2

New York B

C

2

0

Los Angeles A

B

3

Los Angeles A

B

3

0

Los Angeles A

A

3

Los Angeles A

A

3

0

Los Angeles A

B

3

Los Angeles B

B

4

1

Los Angeles A

A

3

Los Angeles B

A

4

1

Los Angeles B

B

5

Los Angeles B

B

4

1

Los Angeles B

A

5

Los Angeles B

A

4

1

Cleveland

-

6

Cleveland

-

5

1

New York B

B

4

New York B

B

2

2

New York B

A

4

New York B

A

2

2

New York B

C

4

New York B

C

2

2

New York B

B

4

New York A

B

6

2

New York B

A

4

New York A

A

6

2

New York B

C

4

New York A

C

6

2

New York C

-

8

New York A

A

6

2

Los Angeles B

B

5

Los Angeles A

B

3

2

Los Angeles B

A

5

Los Angeles A

A

3

2

Boston B

-

7

Boston B

-

8

1

New York C

-

8

New York D

-

7

1

Boston B

-

7

Providence

A

9

2

Boston B

-

7

Providence

B

9

2

New York C

-

8

New York C

-

10

2

New York B

A

4

New York D

-

7

3

New York A

B

2

New York A

B

6

4

New York A

A

2

New York A

A

6

4

New York A

C

2

New York A

C

6

4

New York A

A

2

New York D

-

7

5

New York B

A

4

New York C

-

10

6

New York C

-

8

New York B

A

2

6

Boston B

-

7

Boston A

-

1

6

Boston A

-

1

Boston B

-

8

7

New York A

A

2

New York C

-

10

8

Boston A

-

1

Providence

A

9

8

Boston A

-

1

Providence

B

9

8

Unmatched Boston A

-

1

Boston A

-

1

Unmatched
Unmatched New York B

B

2

Unmatched New York B

A

2

New York A

A

2

Unmatched
New York A

C

2

Unmatched
Unmatched Los Angeles A

B

3

Los Angeles A

B

3

Unmatched
Unmatched Los Angeles B

B

4

New York B

A

4

Unmatched
New York B

C

4

Unmatched
Unmatched Cleveland

-

5

Los Angeles B

B

5

Unmatched
Unmatched New York A

B

6

Unmatched New York A

A

6

Cleveland

-

6

Unmatched
Unmatched New York D

-

7

Boston B

-

7

Unmatched
Unmatched Boston B

-

8

New York C

-

8

Unmatched
Unmatched Providence

B

9

Unmatched New York C

-

10

 

Supplemental lists:

A – New York programs
B – California programs
C – Pennsylvania programs

Geographically near programs:

  1. Highland – Oakland, CA9
  2. Stanford – Palo Alto, CA8
  • UCLA/Olive View 8
  • USC 18
  • Harbor/UCLA13
  • ? mi

  • UCI 6
  • ? mi

  • Loma Linda 10
  • Northwestern 7
  • Univ Illinois 12
  • Univ Chicago/Lutheran 12
  • Cook County 18
  • Christ – Oak Lawn 9
  • Resurrection 12
  • Univ. of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI 11
  • Wayne State/Detroit Med – Detroit, MI12
  • Wayne State/Grace Hosp – Detroit, MI 8
  • Henry Ford – Detroit, MI 13
  • St. John Hosp – Detroit, MI 8
  • Wm. Beaumont Hosp – Royal Oak, MI10
  • Summa/Akron City – Akron, OH 8
  • Case Western/MetroHealth – Cleveland10
  • Allegheny Gen Hosp – Pittsburgh, PA8
  • Univ of Pittsburgh 12
  • York Hosp/Penn State – York, PA 10
  • 34 mi

  • Univ. of Maryland – Baltimore, MD10
  • Johns Hopkins – Baltimore, MD 12
  • 20 mi

  • George Washington Univ – Wash, DC 8
  • Howard Univ – Wash, DC 10
  • Christiana Care – Newark, DE 12
  • 49 mi

  • UMDNJ/Rbt Wood Johnson – Camden, NJ 6
  • Albert Einstein – Philadelphia, PA 12
  • Temple – Philadelphia, PA 8
  • Univ of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA 6
  • Jacobi – Bronx 17
  • NYU Bellevue – NY 13
  • Long Island Jewish – New Hyde Park9
  • Lincoln – Bronx 12
  • Mt. Sinai – NY 10
  • SUNY – Brooklyn 13
  • Brooklyn Hosp. – Brooklyn 6
  • NY Methodist – Brooklyn 8
  • NYMC Metropolitan – Brooklyn
  • SUNY – Stony Brook7
  • Morristown – NJ(35mi from NY)6
  • Baystate Med – Springfield, MA 7
  • 26 mi

  • U.Conn – Hartford/Farmington, CN 10
  • 40 mi

  • Yale – New Haven, CN 7
  • Boston City – Boston 10
  • Harvard – Cambridge 12
  • Brown – Providence, RI 12
  • UMass – Worcester 12

Single outlying programs of interest:

  • Emory – Atlanta, GA 16
  • UT Southwestern – Dallas, TX 16
  • Univ. Florida – Jacksonville, FL13
  • Univ. Arizona – Tucson, AZ10
  • Davis – Sacramento, CA 9
  • Transitional programs:

    1. Arrowhead – San Bernadino,CA
    2. Highland – Oakland, CA
    3. Mercy – San Diego, CA
    4. Santa Clara – San Jose, CA
    5. Maimonides – Brooklyn, NY
    6. NYMC (Sound Shore) – New Rochelle, NY
    7. NYMC @ St. Vincent's – NY, NY
    8. Cambridge – Cambridge, MA

    Preliminary Programs:

    1. Santa Barbara Cottage – Santa Barbara, CA
    2. Santa Clara – San Jose, CA
    3. St. Mary – Long Beach, CA
    4. UCLA – LA, CA
    5. UCLA San Fernando – Sepulveda, CA
    6. White Mem. – LA, CA
    7. Cook County – Chicago, IL
    8. U. Illinois/Michael Reese – Chicago, IL
    9. George Washington – Washington, DC
    10. Long Island Jewish – NY
    11. Beth Israel – NY
    12. Bronx/Lebanon – Bronx, NY
    13. Brookdale – Brooklyn, NY
    14. NYMC (Our Lady of Mercy) – Bronx, NY

Last modified: Aug 13, 2012
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