Matching into a U.S. residency program can sometimes seem like a game of chance. In fact, the National Resident Matching Program has an algorithm that ultimately decides which programs and applicants are paired together. In some cases, an individual is not paired with their desired program and while being rejected can be challenging, applicants have a second chance to continue their post-graduate medical education through the NRMP’s SOAP. This year, SOAP will be a little different.

Continue reading below to learn more about SOAP and how it will change for applicants looking to enter residency in 2021.


What is SOAP?

SOAP stands for Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program. This program gives applicants who do not receive offers from their ranked programs the chance to be matched to programs with offers that have gone unaccepted or which have seats leftover. To take advantage of this program, individuals must enroll in SOAP through ERAS by January 21, 2021.

For the last three years, there have been just three rounds of SOAP. This year will be the first in which four rounds will be held.


Why is Another Round Being Offered?

A trend of unfilled residency seats may be what has inspired the NRMP to introduce another round of SOAP. The NRMP has also suggested that COVID-19 and its effect on applicants was a factor that contributed to this change.


When Does SOAP Begin?

SOAP begins on the first day of Match Week. According to the Main Residency Match’s 2021 schedule, the first round will commence on March 15, 2021. On this day, unmatched applicants will be notified of this and receive a listing of programs with seats available. They will then have just 24 hours to rank open programs based on their preferences.

On March 17, first round offers will be released, and those receiving offers will have the afternoon to accept them. Then the second round of SOAP begins. On March 18, the final two rounds will be held. Match week will then culminate with Match Day on March 19.


Will This Change Continue Beyond 2021?

The NRMP has not indicated if the fourth round of SOAP is a temporary change or one that can be expected in future matches. It is likely that the NRMP will base any decision to continue with the fourth round of SOAP on the success of this year’s Main Residency Match.


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