Participating in an NRMP Match as a couple allows two applicants to link their rank order lists, usually for purposes of obtaining positions in the same geographic location. When applicants participate in a Match as a couple, their rank order lists form pairs of program choices that are considered by the matching algorithm. A couple will match to the most preferred pair of programs on their rank order lists where each partner has been offered a position.
Here are the top 10 tips that will guide you as you embark on the residency process specifically regarding couples match.
1. Don’t be overwhelmed
Couples match is obviously undertaken by a ton of couples every single year going through the match process and it is totally doable. Just know that this process or the whole idea of couples matching is really for your benefit.
A lot of people worry that the couples match process will hurt them but actually because of the way that the algorithm is set up couples match actually helps you as a couple as opposed to hurting you as a couple.
It is a benefit to be couples matching because you’ll have more advocacy from two different specialties and from different programs at a particular institution.
2. Be honest with your partner
The next tip would be to have a very honest conversation with your partner. This is really important as there are stories of people who have couples matched and unfortunately things didn’t work out. In other words, as uncomfortable as it is, it is important to have the talk in terms of what’s going to happen with the relationship, where do both of you see the future being, not just emotionally but also geographically speaking.
This also means being very honest about what your priorities are depending on geographical location or a particular institution, Sometimes it may be that one partner will be a lot more excited and the other just has to be okay with not getting their top choice.
3. Make it obvious you are couples matching
There are some very simple ways to do this, one of which is to put your partner’s ERAS ID into your personal statement. In addition to putting in your partner’s ERAS ID, the other thing is to actually not be shy about mentioning it during your interviews.
It is helpful to say just wanted to let you know my girlfriend, boyfriend, partner or whatever is also interviewing for their program at the institution, or maybe you might even say just wanted to let you know I love this program but my partner hasn’t gotten an interview yet is there anything that you could look into for me.
It is totally fine to do that, people do it all the time. Do not feel like you’re crossing any lines by doing that because ultimately programs know that for you as a resident to be happy they want to make sure that you feel supported and that includes supporting your personal life in your relationships.
4. Advocate for your partner
It is not uncommon that we have applicants who are couples matching bringing it up during the interview process. Do not be shy about shooting them an email letting them know you love their program and would love to consider it as a top option however your partner hadn’t heard back from their respective residency program. Do not worry about contacting programs to talk about it.
Those conversations don’t have to stay within the institution. A lot of program leaders know each other across a particular geographical area so it is okay to actually add the program that has already invited you for an interview to potentially reach out to your partner’s potential programs even if it’s not at the same university or institution.
5. Check your ego at the door
It is okay for your partner to advocate for you and it is okay for you to advocate for your partner. Ultimately your goal as a couple is to get to the same place together for the best possible outcome for your relationship.
Programs want their residents tobe happy and have their support network in the city that they’re working. So for that reason they want their future residents to have their partners with them. Everyone is really shooting for the same goal.
It is okay if your partner got an interview first, maybe you need a little bit of extra advocacy to get your interview. There is a terminology for this called the trailing spouse or trailing partner. Just knowing, as difficult as it can be, that you are doing this for the benefit for the relationship and that it’s going to be okay.
6. Focus on geographic areas with more programs
Focus on areas that offer a lot of different options for both of you. What this means is if there are no other geographic limitations, focus on the cities that have multiple different academic centers or hospitals that can work out for both of you.
This often means the big cities and also certain geographic areas. If you are not geographically limited, this is a great time to really think about focusing your energy in areas where statistically speaking it’s more likely that the two of you will match together in the same city.
7. Be creative
There can be situations where your favorite program might not be in the same city as your partner’s favorite program or the two programs are not geographically close to each other and you might have to be a little bit farther apart. While this might not seem like an ideal couples match at first, it is totally doable. Keep all your options open and be creative when you’re coming up with possibilities of different matches for for the two of you.
8. Focus on categorical programs
Focusing on categorical programs where the intern year is combined with the actual residency program cuts down on the number of different permutations and options. For those of you who might not have that option to focus on the categorical programs such as those of you who might be going into dermatology where a prelim or TY year is the standard, you can think about focusing on one geographic location for your prelim years.
For example, if you’re graduating from medical school in Boston then maybe you should just apply to the prelim programs in Boston because that cuts down drastically on the number of interviews that you would have to go on in order to make that match happen. Additionally, it’s probably much more likely for you to match at a prelim program if you’re already at that institution and can talk to the program directors. This can really help cut down on cost, time, travel in the future when people are traveling again for interviews.
9. Take notes, and compare later
After interviews, try to take some notes on how you felt about the program, what the strengths and weaknesses of the program might be. This is important because ultimately at the end of everything, when you and your partner come back together to create your paired ranked list, it will be helpful to have those notes help you prioritize.
10. Use your mentors
Use the resources that you have available. This includes current residents at your programand your attendings who have done it before and have been in your shoes.
Hopefully, the couples match works out for and this post gives you some reassurance about the couples match process.