Match Week is an incredibly exciting and nerve-racking time for medical students. On Match Day, you will find out along with your peers where you will be completing your upcoming years of residency and potentially continuing your future career. But for some students, Match Week comes with some devastating news—no Match. Students who do not match at the beginning of Match Week need to participate in SOAP, the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program.
SOAP gives unmatched students another shot at matching with a residency program in a whirlwind week of new applications and interviews. Our SOAP Guide covers the Match Week process, strategies for SOAP success, and answers to frequently asked questions about SOAP.
What is SOAP (Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program)?
The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP), a service of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), is the channel through which qualified unmatched applicants in the Main Residency Match apply for and are offered the positions that weren’t filled during the initial matching algorithm.
All Main Residency Match applicants will receive an email notification of their SOAP eligibility the Friday before Match Week. In 2023, SOAP will take place March 13-17. As with 2022, there will be four rounds of SOAP.
If you weren’t matched when the initial matching algorithm was processed, you can use FREIDA™, the AMA Residency & Fellowship Database®, to research residencies from over 12,000 programs both during and following SOAP. Registration is required, and access is free, but extra benefits, like the dashboard that enables applicants to save, rank, and make notes on each program, are only available to AMA members.
How Does Residency Match Week Work?
Match Week takes place during the third week of March. It begins at 9 am ET on Monday and ends at 12 pm ET on Friday (Match Day)—when the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) releases the results of the Match simultaneously to graduating medical students.
Learn more: The NRMP Residency Match Algorithm Explained.
On the Monday of Match Week, applicants will find out at 9 am if they matched, but not where they matched. The Match status notification is sent by email to applicants. Applicants can also use a mobile device to access their Match status in the Registration, Ranking, and Results® (R3®) system.
Following the Match Status Notification, unmatched or partially matched applicants spend Monday through Thursday applying and interviewing for unfilled positions. On Monday, applicants start to put together their applications. On Tuesday, programs start to review the applications. On Wednesday, programs begin to interview the applicants. On Thursday, programs start to make offers.
On Match Day (Friday) at 12 pm ET, Match results are sent by email to the applicants who matched initially as well as the applicants who matched through SOAP. Applicants can also use their mobile device to view their results in the R3 program.
SOAP Strategies: What Should You Do Now?
1 | Prepare in Advance
The entire SOAP process occurs over a few short, hectic days, which means you need to be prepared. If you believe you are at risk of not matching, you should begin preparing additional materials for your SOAP applications the month before Match Week. This might include gaining additional letters of recommendation or editing your personal statement to be geared toward a different specialty.
Leading up to Match Week, brush up on some of your residency interview skills. Go over your answers to common residency interview questions, practice your answers, check your body language, and ensure you have professional attire clean and ready to go. As soon as you find out you need to participate in SOAP, double down on these efforts and prepare yourself for a whirlwind of short notice interviews.
2 | Clear Your Schedule
You must have a clear schedule during Match Week in order to participate successfully in SOAP. Don’t plan any events or trips around this time, and if you have a job, ask for the days off work.
You’ll need to submit 45 applications as soon as possible on Monday, and in the following days, you need to be available for potential interviews. It’s a stressful and speedy process that will require all of your attention.
3 | Take the First SOAP Offer You Receive
The availability of openings drops radically during the second round of SOAP. For this reason, it’s not a good tactic to wait and hope for something better. It’s best to accept the first offer you receive, as fewer offers will go out in subsequent rounds.
4 | Use All 45 Applications in the First Round
You will be able to apply to 45 Match participating programs in total between Monday, March 14 at 10 am ET and Thursday, March 17 at 9 pm ET. You can apply to new programs as well as reapply to the programs you applied to during the ERAS 2022 season. You can only apply to programs participating in SOAP that have unfilled positions you’re qualified for.
Although you aren’t required to apply to all 45 programs, it’s a good idea to do so in order to maximize your chance of matching during SOAP. Fill each application out and broaden your horizons past what you thought was ideal. Even if you don’t think it’s a program you want, it’s important to consider it since this is your last shot to match this year.
Choose your programs wisely and make sure you are an eligible applicant. For example, not all programs accept IMGs.
Submit your 45 applications as soon as possible on Monday in order to be among the first group of candidates residency programs review. This will give you the best chance of acceptance.
5 | Be Open to Specialties or Locations You Haven’t Considered
If you do not match on Match Day and need to participate in SOAP, it is very likely that you won’t end up in your ideal specialty or location. This is sure to feel disappointing, but do what you can to stay positive and be open to other possibilities.
Perform a modified SWOT analysis.
- Strengths: What are the strengths of practicing the specialty?
- Weaknesses: What about the specialty stands out as something you wouldn’t like?
- Opportunities: What opportunities are available in the specialty that appeal to or relate to your chosen specialty?
- Threats: What about the specialty will threaten other aspects of your life?
You may not end up where you thought you wanted to go, but you might end up liking it more than you expected. It’s possible you’ll enjoy a different specialty or love a city you hadn’t considered before. What’s important at this point is that you match somewhere so that you can continue gaining the residency experience you need for your degree.
6 | Resist the Urge to Turn to Social Media
Understandably, you will have a lot of emotions to deal with after just finding out you did not match. You will be filled with uncertainty and may look for distractions. Resist the urge to turn to social media.
You will most certainly see posts from many close friends and acquaintances celebrating their match, and you may be happy for them, but this is an added distraction and another emotional rollercoaster you don’t need at this crucial time.
Instead, focus your energy on your own circle of control. You have a busy week of SOAP ahead and you’ll need all of your attention directed at making smart application decisions and nailing your SOAP interviews.
SOAP by the Numbers
In 2021, categorical positions, which are full-length residency training positions with a board certification at the end, were not in the majority of positions filled through the SOAP process. However, hundreds of full-length training positions were filled.
Common categorical specialties filled through SOAP in 2021:
- Internal medicine: 368
- Family medicine: 340
- Pediatrics: 38
- Pathology: 17
- Neurology: 13
Slightly over half of SOAP positions were PGY-1 only. Residents who are matched into a PGY-1 position will spend a year in a more general discipline to begin their training and enter their chosen specialty in their second year of residency. This means that those applicants will have to participate in the Match again the following year for an advanced postgraduate year 2 (PGY-2) position.
The most common PGY-1 only positions in 2021 were preliminary medicine and preliminary surgery. Typically, there are not very many PGY-2 positions available in SOAP.
The majority of applicants in SOAP are usually international medical graduates (IMGs).
This is how the applicant participant types broke down in 2021:
- 5876 applicants were non-US citizen IMGs
- 3700 applicants were US citizen IMGs
- 2125 applicants were senior students at US allopathic medical schools
- 964 applicants were senior students at US osteopathic medical schools
- 999 applicants were previous graduates of US allopathic medical schools
- 428 applicants were previous graduates of US osteopathic medical schools
1773 positions were filled through SOAP. 48% of those positions were filled by US allopathic seniors, 27% were filled by US osteopathic seniors, and 18% were filled by IMGs.
Offers are extended to applicants from participating programs in a series of rounds. There are typically three rounds, but a fourth round was added in 2021. There will also be four rounds in 2022.
This is how the SOAP rounds played out in 2021:
- 1113 positions were accepted in the first round
- 426 positions were accepted in the second round
- 192 positions were accepted in the third round
- 4 positions were accepted in the fourth round
119 positions were left unfilled at the end of SOAP.
Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program FAQs
Why Didn’t I Match?
You won’t receive any feedback from the NRMP as to why you didn’t match. Ultimately, it comes down to other medical students being stronger, more desirable options for residency programs.
It may be possible to speak with mentors or faculty during the SOAP process to learn more about the weak points of your application. If you don’t match during SOAP or if your Match is PGY-1 only, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your application will play a critical role in improving the next time around.
Personal Story: Curve Ball! The Day I Didn’t Match by Dr. Sarah Ottum.
Am I Eligible for SOAP?
To be eligible for SOAP, you must:
- Have registered for the Main Residency Match
- Be eligible to enter Graduate Medical Education (GME) on July 1 of the year of the Match. You must fulfill all of the requirements in time to have them verified by your medical school or the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
- Be unmatched or partially matched on Monday, March 14.
Each sponsoring institution may have additional requirements for eligibility.
How Much Does SOAP Cost?
You will not need to pay any application fees during SOAP if you applied to at least one residency program during the ERAS 2022-2023 season by Monday, March 13 at 6:30 am ET.
If you did not apply to any residency programs through the ERAS by that time and are eligible for SOAP, you will be required to pay a fee of $99.
If you haven’t sent your USMLE or COMPLEX-USA transcripts, you will be required to pay a fee of $80 per transcript.
Can You Reapply to Programs You Applied to During ERAS?
Yes, you can reapply to the programs you applied to during the ERAS 2022-2023 season. The program must be participating in SOAP and have unfilled positions that you’re qualified for.
Can You Contact Programs During SOAP?
Do not contact any programs directly during the SOAP process. This will show that you are not paying attention to the rules outlined by NRMP. Programs must initiate contact with you.
Can I Match After SOAP?
You can check the list of unfilled spots and contact these residency programs directly after SOAP has concluded, but it is very unlikely to receive an offer at this point.
What Happens if I Don’t Match?
Not matching in SOAP can be heartbreaking, but it’s important not to give up. No matter how devastated you may feel, remember that this is only one small bump in the road. There are so many ways you can make the most of this and turn everything around by creating new opportunities for yourself.
You can’t care for patients unless you’re in residency, but there are many other options to pursue. Stay in touch with your medical school and ask the dean and others for help. Look for mentors at your school who are working in the field of medicine you’re interested in pursuing and volunteer. Get involved in a research project if you can, though, your time between finding out that you didn’t match and reapplying is limited.
You could even use this bump in the road to explore other exciting opportunities in medical technology or serve as a medical consultant for a Silicon Valley startup.
Do I Need to Participate in SOAP?
You may choose not to participate in SOAP. Some students choose to refocus their efforts into improving their application for next year’s Match or even the year after.
Completing more research is possible, but you’re on a tight schedule. You’ll need to reapply using ERAS in September, which doesn’t give you much time to complete notable research that same year. However, it is possible, and some people choose to take two years for research in order to make significant improvements to their residency application.
Improve Your Residency Application With Med School Insiders
If you had the misfortune of not matching into a residency program this year, it is of the utmost importance that you reassess your application for weak areas so that you can make drastic improvements for next year.
Med School Insiders can help you prepare a stand out residency application. We offer a number of Residency Admissions Consulting Services tailored to your needs, including personal statement editing, USMLE tutoring, interview prep and mock interviews, and overall application editing.