Away rotations are generally done for three purposes:
- For fields that require or generally prefer Letters of Recommendation from institutions outside of your home school: Emergency Medicine, some surgical sub-specialties (e.g. neurosurgery)
- Audition rotations (especially helpful for marginal candidates trying to “come off the page” or when trying to break into a specific out-of-your-region program)
- For fun!
There are caveats:
- Rarely will an away rotation get you an interview you are not qualified for. An away rotation may get you an interview you might otherwise not get. Needing a LOR or wanting to see a particular program out of your region is a good reason, but being “accepted” for an away rotation is not an indication of acceptance for residency or even a guarantee of a future interview.
- Don’t let success stories drive you to do more aways than you want or need to do for your residency goals. Most spots nationwide go to applicants whom programs meet for the first time on interview day. The positive anecdotes exhibit strong confirmation bias.
- The reverse is probably truer: there are sadly many people who didn’t get interviews at programs they did aways at because the away was out of their reach academically. Or, they are simply interviewed as a courtesy. Don’t expect a miracle because you are pleasant and hard-working. Most people are pleasant and hard-working.
You will apply through VSAS (the Visiting Student Applicant Service), which opens in Feb/March for the coming academic year. You will need a professional-looking photo for both VSAS and ERAS in a suit/tie, nice dress, etc. You want this to be done professionally, as it will be the first thing people see every time they open your application. Leave the loud ties or deep v-necks at home. Your school probably has an on-campus photographer with reasonable rates. Not everyone can look good all the time (or even most of the time), so don’t be too embarrassed to let them touch you up, as long as they have a relatively subtle hand with Photoshop.
Keep in mind:
- Rotation dates may not overlap perfectly with your school’s schedule. You may need to take vacation time to make your away rotations jive with your underlying schedule.
- You may need additional liability insurance depending on the demands of the institutions you wish to visit. The coverage is usually required 30 days in advance of your rotation.
- Some states that typically require more liability insurance on top of that which your school provides are Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Caroline, and Wisconsin.
You may also be able to pursue international rotations (through your school or independently) but keep in mind that there are times (roughly September through January) that you will want to be around and available (Obtaining LOR, taking Step 2 CK/CS, interviews, submitting your ROL). If you’re gone around ROL time, you at least want to make sure you have reliable internet access.