Two individuals on a sidewalk, surrounded by urban scenery, with the phrase "passion led us here" in bold letters.
 Two individuals on a sidewalk, surrounded by urban scenery, with the phrase "passion led us here" in bold letters.
 Two individuals on a sidewalk, surrounded by urban scenery, with the phrase "passion led us here" in bold letters.

The Match Doesn't Define You

Don't let not matching define you! Explore options, from SOAP to alternative paths. Your journey is just beginning.

By: Varun Verma, MD

Published: Mar 14, 2024

📂 Physician Perspectives

Written for:

✅ Medical Students

✅ Residents and Fellows

Tomorrow medical students around the country will tear open envelopes in front of friends and family notifying them where they’re going to spend the next 1-7 years of their lives. But earlier this week - others had their dreams shattered - and received the dreaded email from the National Residency Match Program “We are sorry. You did not match to any position.” Their hearts are heavy and I see posts along the lines of “my life is over” or “worse day of my life.” To those who are hurting - please know, that one day doesn’t define you. Ask any practicing physician and we all have a number of colleagues who have faced challenges along the way (having to retake the MCAT, getting low USMLE scores, or who didn’t match) and ultimately went on to have successful careers in the future. Repeat after me: “This is not the final chapter in my medical career… and one day does not define me!” Instead, it's just a tiny blip in what promises to be a long and exciting journey ahead. Let’s face it - our health is our most valuable asset and none of life is really predictable; we have no real sense in the present moment whether we will stay in the same specialty, explore side gigs, or pivot to something entirely different in the future.

So, what are your options if you didn't match?

1. The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) 

The Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) offers a hope for unmatched applicants. Through a series of four rounds over two days, SOAP provides a mechanism for programs to offer unfilled positions to eligible candidates. While the process is intense and fast-paced, it presents a chance to secure a residency spot even after the official match day.

2. Exploring Unfilled Positions 

If SOAP doesn't yield success, all hope is not lost. The Registration, Ranking, and Results® (R3®) system releases a final list of unfilled positions, including programs that didn't participate in SOAP. This opens up avenues for direct communication with programs regarding available positions. It's a time-consuming process that requires persistence and determination, but it's a route that has led some aspiring physicians to their desired residency programs.

3. Reapply Next Year 

As disappointing as it is to contemplate going through the fire again - some consider seeking out research positions or other opportunities to attempt to bolster their resume and provide valuable experience in order to reapply if you choose.

4. Explore Alternative Career Paths 

Explore alternative career paths: While residency training is the route for many physicians, there are alternative and non-clinical paths to consider. Roles in consulting, pharmaceuticals, tech, or healthcare administration offer diverse career trajectories outside of clinical practice.

Utilize online resources like or to explore job opportunities in various healthcare settings. Additionally, leverage professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, tap into your medical school alumni network, or engage with others at meetups of professional societies to connect with mentors and explore alternative career paths.

While not matching can feel like a devastating setback, it's essential to maintain perspective and resilience. The road to becoming a physician is rarely linear, and setbacks are an inherent part of the journey. Each challenge presents an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. So, if you find yourself facing the uncertainty of being unmatched, remember that this is just one chapter in your story—a story that is bound to unfold in ways you may never have imagined.

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