On Monday, in mid-March, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) sends out its Match emails to eager medical students. Although not matching can be disappointing at first, it’s important to keep in mind that you still have a chance to get a desired residency position.
If you’re here from my recent post on not matching, you’ve come to the right place! Don’t give up—check out if you have a shot at matching through SOAP.
What is SOAP?
SOAP stands for the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program. SOAP provides residency opportunities for eligible applicants who did not match this cycle. Though not a guarantee, the SOAP allows unmatched candidates to apply to residency programs with unfilled positions, often in a different, less competitive specialty.
In order to apply, you must be SOAP eligible (the NRMP will determine your eligibility status). The process of matching through SOAP is similar to the initial Match process. After deciding to participate in SOAP, you select programs you want to apply to, then have a brief phone/virtual interview with the program directors of residency programs with open slots remaining. You’ll have to rank those programs for your own convenience.
Participating in SOAP
To participate, meet with your medical school dean of student affairs to obtain a list of all unfilled programs. Pay special attention to programs closest to or most useful for your desired specialty. Be aware, however, that most unfilled spots will likely be in a primary care or general surgery specialty. For example, if you applied to radiology and failed to match, but are eligible for SOAP, there may be 2 unmatched radiology positions available in the entire country, as well as 20 internal medicine slots, and 20 preliminary surgery slots.
Check out this guide for 2023 SOAP applicants.
Some schools require SOAP applicants to apply to all available programs, and I would advise you to cast a wide net. After applying, you are not allowed to reach out to any program personally, but the programs can contact you for an interview.
During the initial match process, you may recall having months to interview, strategize, and plan your rank list. For SOAP, however, you only have days to take similar action. The SOAP process begins at 12 p.m. EST the Monday of Match Week and closes at 3 p.m. EST the same Thursday. Programs and applicants alike scramble to conduct interviews as well as to finalize their rank lists.
If you plan to SOAP, keep your phone close at all times to respond to calls and emails from eager programs and schedulers. This process happens quickly, so prepare yourself to receive multiple calls from program directors of various specialties to interview you. During these interviews, stay humble, refrain from slandering other programs, and keep your eyes on the prize: an available residency spot.
Once you have interviewed, plan your rank list. Tips from this post still apply, though you will not have as much time to decide.
Next step: prepare to accept the offers as they come. Starting that Wednesday, there are four rounds of offers made. During that period of time, applicants can accept or reject offers they receive. This is where having a running rank list is helpful. As the offers come, you’ll only have a few hours to decide whether you want the spot, or if you want to pass it on to another applicant.
Log in to your application to see available offers where you’ll have the option to accept or reject them. Be aware that you may not get an offer for your desired specialty. You could be an aspiring orthopedist SOAPing into a year of general surgery, or a hopeful dermatologist starting out a year of transitional medicine. Don’t be discouraged—you will still fulfill your dream of being a doctor. Look forward to your residency year and use it to hone your skills in other areas of medicine!
The SOAP comes to an end on Thursday at 3 p.m. If you are still unmatched, you can go into Round 3, which will have the final list of unfilled positions. While this can be a lengthy and stressful process, luckily, your school deans are familiar with it. Use your student affairs office as a resource as they help students match and participate in SOAP year after year.
Lastly, check out if there are any local transitional year slots available at your medical institution or at other schools in your area. If not, perhaps your school has a potential research fellowship for a year. During this time, you can conduct research in your specialty of interest and improve your competitiveness for the next year’s match. There are many ways to get exactly where you want to be while improving your skills and enriching your resume in the process!
About the Author
Mike is a driven tutor and supportive advisor. He received his MD from Baylor College of Medicine and then stayed for residency. He has recently taken a faculty position at Baylor because of his love for teaching. Mike’s philosophy is to elevate his students to their full potential with excellent exam scores, and successful interviews at top-tier programs. He holds the belief that you learn best from those close to you in training. Dr. Ren is passionate about his role as a mentor and has taught for much of his life – as an SAT tutor in high school, then as an MCAT instructor for the Princeton Review. At Baylor, he has held review courses for the FM shelf and board exams as Chief Resident. For years, Dr. Ren has worked closely with the office of student affairs and has experience as an admissions advisor. He has mentored numerous students entering medical and residency and keeps in touch with many of them today as they embark on their road to aspiring physicians. His supportiveness and approachability put his students at ease and provide a safe learning environment where questions and conversation flow. For exam prep, Mike will help you develop critical reasoning skills and as an advisor he will hone your interview skills with insider knowledge to commonly asked admissions questions.