Streamlining the Medical School Admissions Process for Couples

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The average age of incoming medical students is rising, and approximately 9% of incoming students are already married.1 However, in the current medical school admissions process, couples are unable to coordinate their applications. Couples ending up at different institutions may, in select cases, choose to transfer at the beginning of the second or third year, but the competitive transfer process and often-incompatible medical school curricula have made this option less popular in recent years.2
In contrast, 2,092 medical students elected to enter the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) this year via its “couples match” algorithm.1 Since 1984, the NRMP has enabled tens of thousands of individuals to successfully match to mutually satisfactory residency program pairs.3 Many couples applying to residency programs together likely also aimed to coordinate their medical school applications, and there should be a parallel mechanism to accommodate these couples at the beginning of their medical education pathway.
During our own application cycle, there was no formal way to declare our hopes to attend medical school together. The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application did not allot space for this, and only a few school-specific applications asked for this information. Instead, most of our communication on this matter came in the form of “update letters,” which we typically submitted to each school by e-mail as addenda to our respective applications. Once this information was received, we had no clear grasp as to how, or if, it factored into our candidacies.
We suggest a few improvements for this process. AMCAS could allow students to list another applicant with whom they hope to attend medical school, potentially with relationship details (e.g., “married”). Additionally, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) could ask all medical schools to collect this information on their school-specific applications. Finally, the AAMC could encourage increased transparency between admissions staff and applicants regarding how a couple’s declaration of hopes to attend medical school together is considered during the holistic review process.
Attending medical school with a significant other provides a built-in support system which can improve mental health and reduce stress in a challenging profession. We encourage admissions staff and AAMC leadership to recognize the great number of prospective medical students applying together. Any means to streamline this process for couples would be greatly appreciated.
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