The Match Commitment: What You Need to Know

Participating in a Match

Participating in an NRMP Match can be an exciting and rewarding experience.  A Match

  • allows applicants and program directors to consider all options before making decisions
  • creates an impartial venue for matching applicants’ and program directors’ preferences
  • establishes a uniform date for appointments to graduate medical education programs
  • fosters a spirit of fairness by ensuring all participants comply with policies governing the Match

The policies and procedures that govern the matching process protect the interests of Match participants and ensure an equitable experience for all.  Knowing Match policies will ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities.  Here are some important reminders to help.


All Match commitments are binding.  The ranking of applicants by a program director and the ranking of programs by an applicant establishes a binding commitment to offer or to accept an appointment if a match results.  The same binding commitment is established during the Match Week Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program® (SOAP®) in the Main Residency Match® if a program offers a position by listing an applicant on its preference list and the applicant accepts that offer.


If for any reason an applicant or program cannot or will not honor a binding commitment, a waiver must be obtained from the NRMP.  Keep the following in mind:

  • Waivers can be requested for unanticipated serious and extreme hardships or for change of specialty.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to prove an unanticipated serious or extreme hardship.  Waivers based on change of specialty must be requested by the December 15 prior to the start of training.
  • Applicants and program directors are not authorized to release each other from a binding commitment.
  • Applicants cannot apply for, discuss, interview for, or accept a position in another program until the NRMP has granted a waiver.
  • Programs cannot discuss, interview for, or offer a position to a an applicant until the NRMP has granted a waiver.

Waiver requests must be submitted using the appropriate Waiver Request Form found to the right.  Click on the ‘Download’ icon in the top right corner of the Form to complete and submit online.

If a waiver is granted, an applicant may accept a position in another program or participate in a future Match and the program may recruit for the position. If a waiver is not granted, the applicant and program are expected to honor the binding commitment (click here for the Waiver Policy).

Read Waiver Case Summaries


The NRMP will conduct a violation investigation into any suspected or alleged breach of its policies (click here for the Violations Policy).  Here are some of the more frequently investigated breaches:

  • An applicant or a program declines to honor a binding commitment
  • An applicant posts Match data on a website or listserv without authorization from the NRMP
  • An applicant fails to provide complete, timely, and accurate information to programs
  • A program asks an applicant to reveal the names, specialties, geographic location, or other identifying information about programs to which the applicant has or may apply
  • A program offers a position to an applicant who is matched to a position in another program

Applicants with a confirmed violation of NRMP policy are subject to the following sanctions:

  • One year bar from accepting or starting a position in any program sponsored by a Match-participating institution
  • One to three year or permanent bar from participation in future NRMP Matches
  • One to three year or permanent identification in the R3 system as a Match violator

Programs with a confirmed violation of NRMP policy are subject to the following sanctions:

  • One to three year or permanent bar from participation in future NRMP Matches
  • One to three year or permanent identification in the R3 system as a Match violator

For additional information about how sanctions are levied, please review the Sanctions Guidelines found to the right under Match Resources.

Check back frequently for more tips and tutorials about NRMP policies.  The NRMP is happy to address your questions and concerns.  If you suspect a violation of NRMP policy has occurred, please report it to (202) 400-2235 or

Read Violations Case Summaries


As an applicant, how long must I remain in my program?
Applicants who give notice of resignation, resign, or vacate a position within 45 days of the start date specified in the appointment contract are presumed to have breached NRMP policy unless they can demonstrate, through the NRMP waiver process, that they entered into the program in good faith and the NRMP determines they have a reasonable basis to be released from the binding commitment to the program.
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