Welp, somewhere in the back of your mind you probably knew this was coming. Whether it was the low number of interview invites, your sub-par STEP 1 score, or just a gut feeling, being a no match and having to SOAP wasn’t a complete surprise.
Just because you knew there was a chance this could happen, doesn’t lessen the extreme disappointment, confusion, and anger you are no doubt currently feeling.
As much as you feel like your world is collapsing in on-top of you, there is still hope to become a part of a great residency program. You are not alone in this.
Below, I will outline my thought process which allowed me to successfully obtain multiple offers and ultimately match through the SOAP. I hope this will prepare you to do the same.
- Talk to your advisors and understand the process
During the next few days, try your best to stay off Facebook. The last thing you need right now is to see screenshots of the “Congratulations! You have matched!” email plastered all over your news feed.
If your medical school is anything like mine, there will likely be a meeting for “no-matches” shortly after these emails have seen sent out. Department chairs for each specialty along with guidance counselors will be present to outline the SOAP timeline and to give words of wisdom.
Here where you will find out which, and how many, residency spots remain in each specialty.
I highly encourage you to attend as difficult as it may be.
An in-depth video overview of the SOAP process can be found here.
2. Do a bit of soul searching before re-applying
If you were applying to a competitive specialty, there will likely be few, if any, openings during the SOAP. If this is the situation you have found yourself in, you will likely be advised to apply for a medical or surgical prelim position and re-enter the MATCH for a categorical position the following year.
The idea is that you can boost your resume with research and better letters of recommendation based on real life clinical performance before reapplying.
This can be a viable option for some. Multiple classmates of mine successfully matched into Derm, Ortho, and ENT by using this method.
However, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before jumping straight for a prelim spot.
- Realistically, are my board scores competitive for this specialty?
- If they are, identify the red flags and deficiencies in you application. Ask your advisor for help.
- If they aren’t, a preliminary year probably won’t make you more competitive next year.
2. Is there another specialty that I would be happy going into?
3.Is doing a preliminary year, repeating the match process, and possibly doing intern year twice worth it to be a “insert specialist here”?
After working through these, you should have a pretty good idea whether you are applying to preliminary positions vs categorical.
If you still aren’t sure, there is no rule stating you cannot apply to both. Work through the list of openings and make a list of programs you plan to apply to.
3. Consider adjusting your personal statement
Read over your personal statement and consider making adjustments.
If applying to a preliminary position you might add what you plan to work on during this year to make yourself more competitive when re-entering the match.
If you are changing specialties, your statement will probably require a bit more work. Focus on the qualities which make a good resident as these span across all specialties.
- Talk about positive experiences in medical school which drew you to this new specialty.
- Use parallels between the two to justify your choice.
If switching between Gen Surg and Family Med, you could talk about being able to perform outpatient procedures while having improved continuity and close-knit relationships with patients.
As hard as it might be, do your best to stay upbeat and spin everything in a positive light. Have someone read over your edits before submitting if possible. You should keep this positive mindset throughout the rest of the interview process.
4. You got an interview, now what?
You can start getting phone calls and emails with interview invites starting at 3:00 pm EST on Match Monday. The majority of the interviews will end up being video chat over skype. Whether a video or phone interview, you will need to be prepared to put on your game face at a moments notice.
- Make sure you have a clean and quiet area, with a good internet connection, picked out in advance to limit distractions
- Dress professionally. Dress shirt and tie, with or without a blazer, for men and nice top with or without a jacket for women.
- If switching specialties, be prepared to defend why you made this choice, you will get asked about it
- You may get asked to discuss the reasons you feel you didn’t match. Have an idea how you will answer this. Do your best to spin it as a positive.
- Do some research on the area to show you are serious about becoming a resident at their program.
As much as you are wanting to find a job, these programs are wanting to fill their spots just as bad. They will be vetting you to determine how likely you are to come to their program.
Be engaged. Ask good questions.
If you are asked to have a second interview, don’t worry, this is a good thing. Two of the three programs I had offers from had me speak with more faculty during a follow-up interview.
I wish you the best of luck as you go through the SOAP. It is a very stressful and emotionally exhausting few days.
Remember, hundreds of students successfully find residency positions through this process every year. Everything will be work out if you make realistic decisions and trust in the process.
If there is only one piece of advice you take away from this, above all else, STAY POSITIVE!
For most medical students, this is the first time they have had to deal with failure. How you respond to this adversity will set you apart and say more to programs about your character than any board score or letter of recommendation ever could.
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