The resident Match program is a doctoral system through which doctoral graduate students match with residency programs across the country. The matches fill first and second-year postgraduate training positions accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) institutes and maintains the Match system.
Almost all first-year positions in ACGME-accredited programs participate in the Match program. Due to this, the matches made fill almost all open positions at hospitals around the country. However, some candidates participate in other matches if they are a part of a subspecialty program. If that is the case, these residency candidates must still participate in the NRMP to secure an initial position for those specialties.
Who Enrolls in The National Resident Match Program?
Any postgraduate medical student seeking a residency position should enroll in The Match Program. Once enrolled, they are bound by the terms of the NRMP process. Failure to comply with these terms may result in elimination from the process. Although most postgraduate medical students use the Match system, several receive offers from institutions that do not participate in the program. Some examples of these positions might include an osteopathic position or an unaccredited position. In this case, the candidate may have their Dean of Student Affairs withdraw their name for consideration before The Match deadline.
The caveat is that if at least one of an institution’s residency programs participates in The Match program, all the programs in that institution must offer positions to U.S. medical school seniors. Additionally, the institution must offer these positions only through accredited programs such as the NRMP or other national matching program.
The Match Timeline: Major Dates and Milestones
The Match program can take anywhere from 12-18 months. Therefore, candidates are encouraged to begin their application process before the start of their senior year. Furthermore, students are even encouraged to request letters of recommendation and add them to their application as early as their third year.
According to the AAFP Foundation, the timeline for the program is as follows:
June 8: ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) issues token. Applicants can register in MyERAS and begin working on their application.
September 1: Applicants can begin submitting their applications to residency programs.
October 21: Residency programs begin reviewing applications. Programs also receive and review MSPEs (Medical Student Performance Evaluations).
January 31: This is the deadline for Applicant Standard Registration.
February 1: Ranking opens. Medical schools begin verifying student/graduate graduation credentials.
March 15-19: The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) begins on March 15. (More on SOAP below.) The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) main residency match results will be available to view. Residents should know their matches.
May 31: The ERAS season ends for the year. MyERAS closes at 5 p.m. ET.
What If I Don’t Match to a National Residency Program?
On Monday of Match week, candidates learn if they matched and to which program(s). However, those who did not match or were partially matched should not lose hope. These candidates still have plenty of opportunities to match with a program through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP).
The SOAP is an NRMP-run program during Match week to match any unfilled residency positions with unmatched applicants. Applicants must apply through ERAS to unfilled programs electing to participate in SOAP. Programs must offer their unfilled positions to applicants through the NRMP Registration, Ranking, and Results (R3) system.
There are eight rounds of offers in the SOAP from Monday through Thursday of Match Week. Match announcements are made on Friday of Match Week for the SOAP and Main Residency programs. Positions fill quickly in the SOAP, and accepted offers create a binding commitment. For this reason, those who participate in the SOAP must be honest, thorough, and critical in assessing programs and offers before accepting.
Not everyone will match to a position, and it is not true that only “bad” programs do not fill. There will likely be several programs with unfilled positions that candidates would find desirable. In some cases, it may mean that a candidate must accept a position in another specialty they were considering as a second choice. The candidate’s Dean’s office is a good resource for unmatched candidates. Often, the Dean’s office counsels students who do not match and can help them with the next steps.
In essence, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) and the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) are intense and lengthy processes for postgraduate doctoral students. Because the matches made in these programs largely determine the projection of the students’ career path, it is important to take plenty of time to consider the choices and make an informed decision.
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