Understanding SOAP (Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program)
The Match process is a stressful time and can leave many med students wondering “what happens if I don’t match?” For many candidates, the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) is another avenue to matching into a Residency program.
Here’s what you need to know about the program:
What is SOAP?
In a nutshell, SOAP matches participating programs who are looking to fill vacant Residency positions with candidates. Many students receive an email about their eligibility for this program before Match Week. That doesn't mean you won’t match. It just means that you can look into the SOAP program as well. SOAP is made up of a series of rounds, and the goal is to fill as many open positions as possible between Monday and Friday of Match Week.
Am I eligible for SOAP?
SOAP eligibility is based on National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) requirements. Everyone who is SOAP-eligible receives a confirmation email confirming the Friday prior to Match Week. In order to be eligible you must:
- Register with the Main Residency Match.
- Be eligible to enter graduate medical education programs on July 1 in the year of the Match.
- Be partially matched or fully unmatched on Monday of Match Week
What should I expect in Match week?
Here is a breakdown of the SOAP timeline:
Monday of Match Week:
- 11 a.m EST - SOAP begins and applicants find out whether or not they’ve matched. All those who are eligible for SOAP can view the List of Unfilled Programs in the NRMP Registration, Ranking, and Results (R3) system. Candidates can start submitting applications through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). You’ll be able to apply only for the categorical, preliminary, and/or advanced unfilled positions that you’re eligible for and can submit up to 45 applications during this time.
- Please remember that it is a violation to communicate with a program until contacted by that program, so don't reach out!
Tuesday and Wednesday of Match Week:
- Starting at 12 p.m. EST on Tuesday - Programs gain access to SOAP applications in the AAMC ERAS system for review and begin the “interviewing” process. This can mean a phone call, video meeting, or in-person interview, if local.
Wednesday of Match Week
Programs continue reviewing SOAP applications, contacting applicants, and creating SOAP preference lists.
Thursday of Match Week
There are three offer rounds based off of the program’s rank list:
- 8 a.m. EST - SOAP Round 1 begins
- 9:00 a.m. EST- Applicants receive Round 1 offers
- 11:00 a.m. EST - Deadline For applicants to accept or reject Round 1 offers. If you are extended an offer during the first round and decline it, you will not be offered the spot again.
- 11:55 a.m. EST- SOAP Round 2 begins
- 12:00 p.m. EST- Applicants receive Round 2 offers
- 2:00 p.m. EST- Deadline For applicants to accept or reject Round 2 offers
- SOAP ENDS
- 3:00 p.m. EST- In this final offer round the remaining unfilled spots from both SOAP and non-SOAP programs are released. This list is available from R3 system top menu bar to all unmatched and partially matched applicants. You can start reaching out to all remaining unfilled programs directly. Programs will update the List as positions are filled.
What happens if I am contacted for an Interview?
After your ERAS application is received, you must wait for a program to contact you for a Residency interview. It's important to remember that applicants are not allowed to initiate contact with programs during the SOAP process. Programs will contact you by phone or email first to conduct brief phone interviews. Some programs will prefer to have video interviews, and if you’re local, they may request to have in-person interviews. Make sure you are ready during your interview to show that you’re the right candidate for the program.
What if I am an International Medical Graduate?
We know that unless you already have a relationship with a program, SOAP can be a frustrating process for IMG’s. As an IMG you have few resources to navigate the system, which can make it hard to increase your chances in securing a spot.
If you aren’t set on a particular speciality and your main goal is to practice medicine in the U.S., then applying to preliminary medicine/surgery, as well as open categorical primary care specialties, is a good option. It is also important that you show you’re a strong Resident in a one-year position and can probably open more doors for re-application the following year.
What next after SOAP?
If you haven’t matched after the SOAP, you can use the list of unfilled spots to reach out to programs directly. Be prepared to find that at this point there are typically very few programs left, and most have either filled the spot by the time you’ve reached out or decide to leave it unfilled. Don’t be discouraged though! It won’t hurt to reach out to any program where you’d be open to training. Just be mindful that, at this point, the number of offers extended are minimal.
Applicants who remain unmatched after Match Week should review their applications and look at any shortcomings so they can decide the best plan for re-application. Certain elements can’t change, such as clinical grades and USMLE scores. But letters of recommendation, research, and networking are all areas that can be improved. Contact your mentors and ask for honest feedback on your application. It’s important to think about your application and move forward.
Some applicants might consider another advanced degree [e.g. MPH, MBA], but this also generally confers more debt.
After matching, we recommend you take Step 3 before starting Residency. Once you start your Residency you won’t have as much time to study, so take advantage of that time while you can!