Participating as a Couple

Participating as a Couple

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

Participating in the Match as a couple is a feature that allows two applicants to link their rank order lists in a Match, usually for purposes of obtaining positions in the same geographic location. When applicants participate in an NRMP 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.

Any two applicants registered for the same Match can choose to participate in that Match as a couple. Other important considerations include

  • A match is established only if both partners match at a pair of programs.
  • Partners listed as a couple 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 lists separately to find a possible match for each individual.
  • In the Main Residency Match®, the algorithm considers only a couple’s primary rank order lists when attempting to establish a match. The matching algorithm does NOT consider a couple’s supplemental rank order lists as a unit.

Becoming a Couple

Participating as a Couple Video Tutorial

Applicants must first 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. Once the other partner accepts, each individual 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.

Creating Rank Order Lists

When couples create rank order lists:

  • The partners must have the same number of ranks.
  • Each program ranked by one partner must be paired with an active program or with an indication of “No Match” by the other partner.
  • Using the “No Match” option means that one partner is willing to be unmatched if the other partner matches to a position in the program designated at that rank. For residency applicants: NRMP Program Code = 999999999; for fellowship applicants: NRMP Program Code=888888888.
  • A program can be ranked more than once on a partner’s rank order list provided the corresponding rank on the other partner’s list is different.
  • New! Each partner can submit no more than 700 ranks, including ranks listed as “No Match”.
  • Rank order lists should NOT be certified at the same exact moment. The R3 system must check the second partner’s list for duplicate pairings.

Because the R3 system must look for duplicate pairs when processing couples’ rank order lists, it is recommended that rank order lists be certified well before the Rank Order List Certification Deadline when the system is busy.

For additional guidance on ranking, please view the Rank Order List Toolkit

Specific to the Main Residency Match:

Charges for More Than 20 Unique Programs 

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 charges.

Note: The “No Match” program code is considered one unique program.

Supplemental Rank Order Lists 

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. For that reason, supplemental rank order lists usually are created based on the geographic locations of the programs.

Learn more about supplemental rank order lists

Uncoupling and Withdrawing from the Match

If a couple subsequently chooses to participate in the 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 remaining partner must adjust their rank order list by removing duplicate programs and re-certifying it before the Rank Order List Deadline.