Ready, Set, SOAP

NRMP Set to Proceed With New Program During 2012 Match Week

March 07, 2012 03:30 pm Sheri Porter

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) Match Week is nearly here, and medical school seniors most certainly have March 12-16 blocked on their calendars.

Medical students, such as those pictured here at a student-run free clinic, should be able to leverage skills learned from that opportunity when they enter family medicine residency programs in the upcoming Match.

AAFP News Now will provide coverage of the results of the 2012 Match when those figures become available near the end of Match Week. However, a new system -- the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) -- kicks in for the first time in 2012, and a summary of how that new process works is in order.

According to NRMP Executive Director Mona Signer, M.P.H., in 2008, a work group was formed to investigate the creation of a new system to replace "the Scramble," the process by which applicants who didn't match to a residency program vied for unfilled program positions.

"The Scramble was so chaotic, and it was really a case where applicants were making decisions without enough time to think about their options or even to know their options. And programs were doing the same thing. We think this schedule (SOAP) -- and this entire process -- will allow both applicants and program directors time to reflect about the choices they're going to make during Match Week," said Signer.

The SOAP consists of eight offer rounds, with the first round commencing at noon EDT on Wednesday, March 14, and the last round of offers expiring at 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 16.

story highlights

  • The National Resident Matching Program will launch the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) during Match Week 2012.
  • SOAP replaces the Scramble, the process by which applicants who didn't match to a residency program vied for unfilled program positions.
  • SOAP consists of eight offer rounds beginning at noon EDT March 14, with the last round of offers expiring at 5 p.m. EDT March 16.

The most important piece of information Signer wants applicants to grasp is that they only have a limited window of opportunity. "If applicants receive an offer in the first round, they should accept it, because that offer will not come back to them from that same program if they reject it," said Signer. "And in each round, there will be fewer and fewer positions available.

"I expect most of the positions will be filled at the end of the first day," she said.

Additionally, Signer stressed that when applicants accept an offer through the SOAP, they are entering into a binding commitment. "Applicants need to think carefully before they accept a position; on the other hand, keep in mind that applicants are only sending their application to programs in which they are interested. So if they receive an offer, it will be from a program to which they have applied," she noted.

SOAP Highlights

Creation of the SOAP was a collaborative effort that included input from the NRMP, the Association of American Medical Colleges, program directors, resident physicians and affiliated organizations.

Here are some of the most important details of the new program; for complete information, visit the NRMP website(

2012 Match Week SOAP Schedule

(All times indicated are EDT)

Monday, March 12

Noon: SOAP-eligible applicants have access to the list of unfilled programs.
2 p.m.: Applicants can apply to unfilled programs through the Electronic Residency Application Service.
Tuesday, March 13
11:30 a.m.: Programs begin entering their preference lists into the electronic system.
Wednesday, March 14
Noon: First round of program offers go out to applicants. After each round, all unaccepted offers expire after two hours.
3 p.m.: Second round of offers sent to applicants.
Thursday, March 15
9 a.m.: Third-round offers go out.
Noon: Fourth round of offers extended.
3 p.m.: Fifth round of offers commence.
Friday, March 16
9 a.m.: Sixth round of offers extended.
Noon: Seventh-round offers go out.
3 p.m.: Eighth-round offers extended.
5 p.m.: Last offers expire.

  • On Friday, March 9, all Match applicants will receive an e-mail from the NRMP indicating an applicant's eligibility to participate in SOAP.
  • SOAP applicants will receive an e-mail from the Electronic Residency Application Service with program offers.
  • Applicants who are at the top of more than one program preference list could receive more than one offer.
  • Applicants can electronically accept or reject offers.
  • Offers not accepted or rejected will expire at the end of the SOAP round in which the offer was made.
  • Expired offers will not be extended again.
  • When an offer is accepted, the applicant's name is listed as unavailable on other program preferences listed and no subsequent offers are made.
  • The NRMP recommends that applicants keep copies of all SOAP-related e-mails.

Signer urged all applicants take a few minutes to view an NRMP webinar( explaining the SOAP. Those who still have questions can call the NRMP toll-free hotline at (866) 617-5838.

Preparation Pays Off

Signer told AAFP News Now that all SOAP systems are ready to go.

"We have been testing this software a lot, and we have been working with our information technology provider, and I certainly believe it's all going to come off well. But any time one implements new technology, it can be nerve-wracking," said Signer. "Am I confident? Yes. Am I overconfident? No."

However, according to Signer, all testing indicates that the system is capable of handling the high level of stress that will be inflicted upon it during Match Week.

Finally, even though programs can opt out of SOAP and try to fill on their own in the weeks following Match Week, Signer doesn't expect many to do so. "I'm expecting good participation primarily because, for unfilled programs, their best opportunity to find a strong applicant is during Match Week," she said.

Note that traditional Match Day ceremonies have moved from Thursday to Friday; therefore, Match results will be announced March 16 at 1 p.m.