Couples in the Match

Whitney Burns and Jeffrey Robertson
University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson
2016 Main Residency Match

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.

Becoming a Couple

Applicants must register individually for a Match in the Registration, Ranking, and Results® (R3®) system before one partner can send a couple request through the R3 system to the other partner. Applicants MUST be participating in the same Match in order to couple.  Once an applicant sends a couple request to the partner, the couple fee is due regardless of whether or not the request to couple is accepted. Once the partner accepts the couple request, the partner must pay the couple fee. The process is completed when the Couple Status field in the R3 system reads “Accepted” and Fee Status is “Paid”. Note: Couple fees are non-refundable, even if applicants later decide to uncouple.

Rank Order Lists

Any two applicants can choose to participate in an NRMP Match as a couple. When creating rank order lists, couples should keep the following in mind:

  • A match is established only if both partners match at a pair of ranked programs.
  • 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.
  • Partners must have the SAME NUMBER of ranks on their respective rank order lists.
  • Each partner can submit NO MORE THAN 700 ranks on their respective rank order lists.
  • Couples have the option to rank a “No Match” code. The No Match code is entered by one partner and means that, if the other partner can be matched at that rank, the partner ranking the No Match code will not match. The No Match code for residency programs is 99999999 and for fellowship programs is 88888888. Pairs of ranks using the No Match code should be placed at the bottom of the rank order list so that both partners have the best chance of matching to programs.

Ranking Resources

For the Main Residency Match®:

  • If either partner ranks an advanced program on a primary rank order list, a supplemental rank order list of preliminary programs can be attached 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. Supplemental ROLs are considered individually by the matching algorithm and ONLY after a match is established to a pair of programs on the partners’ primary rank order lists.
  • Each partner of a couple may rank up to 20 unique programs on their primary rank order lists and up to 20 unique programs on all their supplemental rank order lists combined before incurring any additional chargesNote: The “No Match” program code is considered one unique program.

Deciding to Uncouple

If individuals who have coupled in a Match subsequently choose to participate in that Match as individuals or if one partner wants to withdraw from the Match, BOTH partners first must uncouple in the R3 system. Once uncoupled, each individual must adjust their rank order list by removing duplicate programs and re-certifying it before the Rank Order List Certification Deadline. For more information see the Applicant Coupling Guide.