This is one of the most stressful times of the residency Match cycle. After all your hard work to put together your application, it can be discouraging to discover you didn’t get any interviews, you were offered too few, or for the rare few, that you didn’t match despite a great interview season. While it may feel like this is completely out of your control, there are ways to prepare for the SOAP to make sure you optimize your chances to match into a spot.
First, review the timeline on the NRMP website.
This may seem like basic advice, but you do not want to miss out on your opportunity because you didn’t know the exact timing for the SOAP. For this year:
March 14th at 9am EST: you will receive an email telling you if you matched. For those applying into advanced residencies, it will tell you if you matched into your advanced position, prelim position, both, or neither.
March 14th at 10am EST: you can login to the NRMP R3 system to see the full list of unfilled programs. You can pick no more than 45 programs to apply to.
Then login to ERAS to apply to those programs. You will only be able to apply to the types of programs you did not match into.
For example, if you matched into an advanced but not prelim program, you are only eligible to apply to prelim programs.
March 15th at 8am EST: deadline for applications, as program directors can begin reviewing applications and reaching out for interviews.
March 17th at 9-11am EST: Round 1
March 17th 12-2pm EST: Round 2
March 17th 3-5pm EST: Round 3
March 17th 6-8pm EST: Round 4
March 17th 9pm EST: SOAP ends. The list of unfilled programs is available on the NRMP R3 website.
March 18th 12pm EST: Match Day! Results available by email and R3 system.
Start preparing any materials you might need for the SOAP.
Now that you know when things are due, you can start preparing for the application. First, you may want to consider if you are willing to match outside the specialty you were initially applying into. Historically, internal medicine and general surgery positions are the most common in the SOAP. Think about what types of specialties you might be content with.
Next, consider whether you would like to update your personal statement. If it was rushed or there have been big changes to your application since the initial application, consider revising your personal statement. If you are considering applying to a wildly different specialty, you could also consider editing your statement to explain why you would also be a good fit for that specialty. You DO NOT need new letters of recommendation, unless there are special circumstances (e.g. you did not have enough in the initial application).
Understand the rules of the SOAP application cycle.
These are different from the main Match.
After you apply to your 45 programs, you are NOT ALLOWED to contact a program until they contact you (or have anyone else do so). This is considered a Match violation and can have you removed from the SOAP.
Only the programs submit rank lists. There is nothing for you to do between submitting your applications and the first SOAP round besides any interviews you are offered.
SOAP interviews are usually short and less formal than a regular Match interview. You should still dress up if it is a video interview. Most program directors will want to ask about your career goals and any red flags in your application. Be prepared to discuss and explain any.
During each SOAP round, you can receive multiple offers. You have the opportunity to Accept, Reject, or Let Expire.
UNLESS YOU WOULD RATHER NOT MATCH THAN TAKE A GIVEN POSITION, it is in your best interest to accept the first offer you are given.
There is no guarantee there will be any more. Waiting for a “better offer” is a very risky gamble that may result in you not matching.
Good luck! If you need help figuring out how to approach the SOAP, how to optimize your application for 2023, or what to do with a potential gap year, please reach out to us for help. We also have multiple webinars available answering your questions about the SOAP.
Check out our recent webinar on Match Week & SOAP!
About the Author
Sarah is a dedicated and encouraging tutor who has extensive experience in medical education, including her Shelf exam and Step 2 CK tutoring at MST, serving as the teaching assistant for a preclinical physical diagnosis course, and developing her own online public health curriculum now utilized by all clinical students at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is flexible, accommodating, and creative in her approach to meet each student's individual needs, as she learned during her own Step studying how challenging it can be for students from a non-science background. Sarah loves developing relationships with her students and guiding them to achieve their personal goals. Her favorite part of teaching is seeing students gain self-confidence, as well as clinical knowledge, during their test preparation. She particularly loves working with students who have struggled in medical school and helping them to overcome those challenges. Working with Sarah, you will receive a detailed and customized study schedule that is tailored to your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. She will help you to find the best resources for your specific needs and help you to study them most efficiently and effectively. In her tutoring sessions, Sarah incorporates both intense content review and detailed test-taking strategies to help you improve your fund of knowledge and clinical reasoning skills. Throughout the process, you'll be sure to appreciate Sarah's warmth and understanding as she cheers you on to achieve your personal best!