Our Experience with the Couples Match
When we entered the match, we initially thought that we would remain uncoupled because, as IMGs, we were told that we would be limited in our options. We found that to be far from reality.
Like many couples trying to match together, we were afraid because of the lack of information regarding the process and the many misconceptions and misinformation out there. These are some tips that we found to be vital to our success in couples matching.
Submit Your Application on Time
We can’t stress enough about the importance of submitting your applications on time, which means the day that ERAS opens. For us, there was a delay in our STEP II grade report but we applied without this grade, which came in two weeks after ERAS opened. We still received interviews within days of applying.
Personalize Your Personal Statement
Make your personal statement personal. Some students had friends or companies write their statements for them, and we believe that no one can write a personal statement better than the applicant can. There is no harm in having it proofed by a third party but the final product should be your own.
Every interview we went on, our personal statements were the focus of the interviews. We both had unique non-medically related statements that were sincere and not embellished. Furthermore, if you’re applying for multiple specialties (backups), we recommend you have a personalized statement that fits each specialty. Program Directors want to know that you are genuinely interested in the particular specialty for which you applied.
The important factor in regards to couples matching is that both candidates have to be strong in the fields for which they are applying. There is a misconception that if there is one strong candidate that this can help pull the weaker candidate into the program. This will probably not happen.
To make the couples match work to your advantage, you have to be pro-active. Every time that one of us got an interview at a hospital, the other person would contact the program secretary and let them know that our significant other was interviewing. We would typically ask if it was possible to obtain an interview, as our partner was interested in their program. By doing this, we obtained quite a few interviews in the same hospital. In many instances you can schedule the interviews together (hospitals were pretty accommodating).
Interviewing Like a Boss
When we went to our interviews, we mentioned that we had a significant other who was also matching if the hospital had a residency in that specialty. Most programs asked if we were couples matching, and we told them we were both looking to get the best training possible even if it meant being apart.
We never confirmed that we would be couples matching as some programs directors seemed unreceptive to the idea. The beauty of the couples match is that you can couple or uncouple up until you submit your rank order list. If you already clicked couples match during your NRMP application, the programs directors will be able to see this. However, if you click it before you submit your ROL, they most likely won’t see this.
After going to your interviews, you will most likely get a sense of whether the program is couples match friendly or not. In many instances, you can ask the residents if anyone has couples matched into the program. Towards the end of interview season, you can try to schedule a second look along with your partner in the hospitals which are at the top of your list. We did this at our number one pick and we spent half the day rounding the neurology department and the other half in the psychiatry department.
The Terror of the Rank Order List
Now for the confusing/scary/difficult part of the couples match: the Rank order list (ROL). We would advise only entering the couples match if you both are strong candidates with more than five interviews each (we each had more than 10 each). The difficult part of doing the ROL as a couple is coming up with the various combinations, and the fact that you can rank one hospital many times. We would advise ranking according to where you want to go rather than where you think you will end up. The match works in your favor, not in the favor of the program.
Here is an example of a couples ROL. We have two applicants: Candidate A and Candidate B. Candidate A had interviews in Albany Medical Center, Virginia, and Monmouth in NJ. Candidate B had interviews in Albany Medical Center, Virginia, Staten Island University, RUMC, UMDNJ, and SUNY Downstate.
Candidate A ROL
Candidate B ROL
After Virginia, we did not have the same hospitals but we coupled hospitals within the same area. To increase the likelihood of matching on our real ROL, we did every possible combination, even if it meant one person being in Albany and the other in Virginia. As a last resort, we put unmatched at the very end of our list, as a possible combination with our partners programs. This is important because, in the event any program rejected one candidate, it would prevent the other candidate from being automatically rejected as well.
In our scenario, we had 195 different combinations and were fortunate enough to match into our number one choice.
by Anita Maraj & Alexandr Dron, Class of 2013