As a result of COVID-19 and the accompanying virtual interview season, the 2020-2021 residency recruitment process has been anything but ordinary. While the 2019-2020 residency recruitment cycle ended with a virtual Match Day (March 20th, 2020), the fully virtual 2020-2021 season will culminate with a unique Match Week of its own. For those Applicants who unfortunately learn they have not matched on March 15th, 2021, the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) offers an additional accelerated matching process that takes place during Match Week, leading up to Match Day on March 19th, 2021.
Previously, we have briefly covered the SOAP process in our blog: “The Ultimate Guide to the Residency Match Process.” However, this year’s particular SOAP process is special for a number of reasons:
- The National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) has added an additional (fourth) round to the SOAP process, “because of the increasing number of unfilled positions that have remained at the end of SOAP in recent years and the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming application and Match season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
- There is increased concern and anxiety amongst applicants and programs due to perceived “interview hoarding” and maldistribution of interviews amongst “top tier” Applicants. Given an entirely virtual interview season, it is hypothesized that Applicants have less incentive to cancel interviews that they historically would not have attended if met with having to pay for the cost of travel. As a result of this diminished cancellation rate and “interview hoarding,” it is believed that an overall lower match rate will result.
We have written extensively on the latter, as there is no difference in distribution of interviews based on Thalamus data for 2020-2021 vs. 2019-2020. This week’s blog post focuses on the former, specifically on this season’s unique SOAP process, “The Ultimate Guide to the Virtual 2021 Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP).”
How the 2021 SOAP process works: the one-sentence version
The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) is an additional accelerated supplemental matching process for applicants that did not match and programs that did not fill, which for the 2021 season has been modified to accommodate an additional, fourth round.
How the 2021 SOAP process works: The longer version
On Monday of Match Week (March 15th, 2021) at 11am ET, applicants are informed of whether they successfully matched into residency positions by email and through the NRMP R3 system—but not where they matched.
Applicants who have not matched (or partially matched) and programs which are unfilled become eligible for SOAP.
The general outline for the SOAP process is as follows:
- Applicants discover that they are unmatched at 11am ET on Monday, March 15th, 2021 and will have one hour to research the programs with remaining available positions.
- At 12pm EST, the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) will open and applicants may submit a maximum of 45 applications to unfilled positions.
- Programs receive the list of SOAP applicants at 3pm EST, and from these interviews build preference lists. Applicants are forbidden to contact programs until the program initiates contact. Programs will spend the Tuesday of match week reaching out to applicants and conduct interviews.
- There are now four rounds in which programs offer positions and applicants can then decide whether to accept or reject them. Each round is two hours long.
- Applicant offers are extended through the R3 system simultaneously at the end of each round.
- Applicants may accept, reject or allow offers to expire. If accepted to multiple programs, accepting one offer rejects the others. An accepted SOAP offer is binding.
- The majority of positions fill in round one. The unfilled program list updates after each round.
- SOAP ends on Thursday, March 18th at 3pm ET. Unmatched Applicants and unfilled programs may then contact each other freely at 12pm EST to fill any remaining positions in a process called “The Scramble.”
The SOAP process will be run according to the following schedule below. The official schedule for SOAP can be found on the NRMP’s website (https://mk0nrmp3oyqui6wqfm.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2021-Match-Week-and-SOAP-Schedule-FINAL.pdf):
Mon, March 15th, 2020:
- 11am ET: SOAP Begins:
- Unmatched and partially matched applicants can access the List of Unfilled Programs in the R3 system. This list is also provided to medical schools.
- Unfilled residency programs are notified of their status via the R3 system.
- 12pm ET: SOAP applicants begin preparing materials through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). (Note: Applicants cannot begin communicating with programs unless the program establishes contact).
- 3pm ET: ERAS Opens
- Programs begin reviewing SOAP applications in ERAS and may begin contacting applicants.
Tues, March 16th, 2020:
- 11:30am ET: Residency programs begin creating SOAP preference lists of Applicants (note: applicants do not complete this step).
Wed, March 17th, 2020:
SOAP Round 1
- 11:55am ET: Round 1 program preference list certification deadline.
- 12:00pm ET: Applicants receive Round 1 offers in the R3 system. Note: Medical schools may track their student’s progress using the real-time SOAP Schools Report.
- 2:00pm ET: Applicant accept/reject deadline for Round 1 offers.
- 2:05pm ET: R3 system unfilled program list updated.
SOAP Round 2
- 2:55pm ET: Preference list modification/re-certification deadline (Round 2).
- 3:00pm ET: Applicants receive Round 2 offers in the R3 system.
- 5:00pm ET: Applicant accept/reject deadline for Round 2 offers.
- 5:05pm ET: R3 system unfilled program list updated.
Thu, March 18th, 2020:
SOAP Round 3
- 8:55am ET: Preference list modification/re-certification deadline (Round 3).
- 9:00am ET: Applicants receive Round 3 offers in the R3 system.
- 11:00am ET: Applicant accept/reject deadline for Round 3 offers.
- 11:05am ET: R3 system unfilled program list updated.
SOAP Round 4
- 11:55am ET: Preference list modification/re-certification deadline (Round 4).
- 12:00pm ET: Applicants receive Round 4 offers in R3 system.
- 2:00pm ET: Applicant accept/reject deadline for Round 4 offers.
- 3:00pm ET: SOAP ENDS
At the conclusion of SOAP, the List of Unfilled Programs is updated to include programs in SOAP that did not fill as well as unfilled programs that did not participate in SOAP within the R3 system.
This is an important time, as applicants are now permitted to contact all remaining unfilled programs in a final attempt to secure a residency position for the upcoming education year that starts July 1st. This process is aptly named “The Scramble.”
How Thalamus assists with the 2021 SOAP process works
Thalamus is the premier GME interview scheduling and management platform. We currently work with over 2200+ residency and fellowship programs across 100+ specialties and 200+ institutions throughout the US and Canada. While the majority of programs that user our software will fill in the match, historically, there have been some programs using Thalamus which enter into the SOAP process. We anticipate this trend will continue this year (especially given that we are supporting 4x as many programs as the year prior). And if that does occur a program may contact you and/or utilize Thalamus as follows:
- During any SOAP round, Applicants may receive an interview invitation from a SOAP program via email from email@example.com.
- Applicants whom already have an account within Thalamus will be prompted to log in. Those Applicants new to the Thalamus system will be prompted to created an account. This is an ~10 second process that includes setting a password and confirming an AAMC ID.
- Applicants can self-schedule a time slot with that program on their Thalamus Smart Calendar (or conversely a program may manually schedule an applicant on their end), and will receive confirmation both in-app and by email.
- Programs may interview Applicants a variety of ways including phone call, video conferencing software (Zoom, Teams, Webex, Thalamus custom video chat), WhatsApp, Facetime, etc.
Important: Key SOAP actions will take place in the following software as noted:
- Notification of need to SOAP – NRMP R3
- Application to <= 45 programs in SOAP – ERAS
- Interview Invitations – Email, Thalamus or other interview scheduling software.
- Interviewing – Phone, Video Conference (including Thalamus), etc.
- Notification of residency offer + offer acceptance/rejection – NRMP R3
Please note: The Thalamus Customer Care team will be fully available for both applicants and programs by clicking on the “Help” button at the bottom right-hand corner of any Thalamus screen or emailing us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org Our team recognizes how important this process is and will be standing by to assist as needed.
For residency programs and Thalamus users interested in learning how to use Thalamus for your SOAP process, please contact us at email@example.com
The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) process for the 2021 Match will be unlike any other, supporting a fully virtual interview season and a new fourth round.
For Applicants and programs, it represents a final anxiety-ridden step towards a hopefully successful match. For those involved, do your best to remain calm and know that this is part of the designed match process. There is no shame in participating in SOAP.
Along similar lines, there will be Applicants that do not match and programs that do not fill. And for this, we have more advice in another of our blogs here.
We wish everyone the best of luck this match season!