This Month's News
Scramble out, SOAP in: Improving the post-Match process
For graduating medical students, part of the madness of March extends beyond basketball to trying to obtain a residency program position during the National Resident Matching Program's (NRMP) Match Week.
The challenge is intensified for those who aren't initially matched, who in past years were forced to "scramble" for an unfilled slot. This became a free-for-all frenzy; phones and fax lines at residency programs would become clogged, and open positions were sometimes filled haphazardly rather than based on applicants' qualifications and preferences.
This year, the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) washed away the chaos and provided a uniform, standardized process.
Under the new process, unmatched applicants were told not to directly contact residency programs with unfilled positions. Rather, these applicants received on Monday of Match Week a list of programs with unfilled positions, so they could research the residency programs. Applicants could then submit their applications through ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service). Also, offers to the applicants from programs were only through ERAS and extended Wednesday through Friday, with expiring deadlines. To allow for this process, Match Day was moved from Thursday to Friday.
Both data and anecdotal reports from program personnel and program applicants show that SOAP provided a much smoother system than the Scramble. "This year, 1,246 residency positions were available after applicants who matched were notified," notes an AAMC press release. "During SOAP, programs offered 1,131 of those positions and only 152 remained available at the conclusion of three offer rounds."
Not surprisingly, the popularity of the AMA's FREIDA Online® database spikes each year around Match Week. With listings of and information on all accredited residency programs, FREIDA is an invaluable resource for medical students year-round, as applicants research which residency programs are the best match for them.
Regardless of how they arrived at their positions—through the main Match or the SOAP—all of this year's new residents celebrated on Friday, March 16, the new Match Day.