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Being Successful with a SOAP Strategy

The last year of medical school is an exciting time, and even more so with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) Match Week right around the corner. Residency training will determine where you live and work for the next few years (and maybe longer), and also gives you the chance to practice in your dream specialty. But, while a majority of applicants place to their first or second program of choice, a small number may not.

First thing’s first – there is life after Match. In 2021, 50 percent of the 964 DO seniors who applied to the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) placed into residency programs, performing better than MDs (40 percent) and IMGs (3 percent).

Being successful in SOAP means planning ahead. We spoke with Director of Medical Student Success, Melva Landrum at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, about the importance of planning for SOAP, and she shared her advice for developing a plan with your COM’s career office to prepare for that (small) possibility.

“If you’re looking to Match for 2022,” she says, “it’s important to be optimistic as well as realistic.” With your COM advisor, you can weigh the number of interviews obtained and programs ranked against the competitiveness of your desired specialty. If an applicant focused on only one specialty and only landed a few interviews, it may be helpful to have a SOAP strategy in place, just in case.

Landrum emphasizes that not every specialty will have available positions in SOAP, and frank consideration should be given to the most reachable specialties available via SOAP, especially for those candidates who had a strong application, but applied to a highly competitive specialty.

When preparing your SOAP strategy, remember to use the resources available to you:

If you’re eligible to participate in SOAP, you can access the List of Unfilled Programs in the NRMP R3 system starting Monday, March 14 at 9am ET. SOAP deadlines and offers take place on Thursday, March 17 prior to Match Day (see the full SOAP schedule for details). There are now four SOAP rounds available, created in response to an increased number of unfilled positions in recent years. During the process, contacting the SOAP programs or looking for other, external positions outside of SOAP is prohibited. Additional resources about the SOAP process can be found on the NRMP’s website.

If you are not able to find a placement through SOAP, Landrum recommends prioritizing positions in a clinical setting or obtaining additional education in the form of a research position or an additional degree or certification that aligns with your career goals. Unmatched DO graduates may also consider applying to take COMLEX-USA Level 3 under the alternate pathway attestation, which permits candidates to obtain eligibility with endorsement by their COM dean.

Most importantly, never lose sight of the fact that there are many paths which lead to success. In 2021, AACOM reported that the total post-Match Week placement rate for DO seniors was 99 percent, so your chance of finding a residency placement is extremely high. Take the opportunity now to consult with your COM advisor and develop a strategy that will allow you to face any obstacle on the Road to DO Licensure.