Away Rotations for Medical School: Timeline & Applications
- Apr 06, 2023
- Reviewed by: Amy Rontal
For most medical students, away rotations are an important way to make connections at programs outside of your home network. Great performance on an away rotation can secure strong recommendation letters and will get your foot in the door for an interview. The benefits of away rotations are numerous, but the application timeline and to-do list is often unclear. Read on for advice about how to secure that away and shine!
When to Do Away Rotations During Medical School
Away rotations are anywhere between 2-4 weeks long. Students will usually do aways from June through August of their fourth year, often immediately after taking Step 2. Post-August electives can be useful if attempting to make a good impression for an interview—just keep in mind that it will be too late to ask for a letter of recommendation. Residency applications are due in September, and you’ll want to give your attendings at least a few weeks to write your letters.
January to March of Third Year: Pre-Application Season
The Visiting Student Learning Opportunities (VSLO) website is the centralized application portal for aways. Your school should send you a token to access VSLO around January of your third year. During this time, programs will not be open for applications, but it’s a great time to familiarize yourself with the portal.
It’s also a great time to generate a new email that you’ll use specifically for your residency applications. Using a separate email for VSLO and ERAS will allow you to declutter and avoid missing important notifications. Your handle should be something simple and professional (for example, “firstname.lastname@example.org”).
Additionally, make sure your Step 1 score report, CV, immunizations, background check, and drug test are all up to date prior to application season. Most programs will need you to upload these documents. Some require a letter of recommendation, so it’s helpful to ask an attending from a third-year rotation to write one specifically for aways.
Finally, your school oversees uploading your medical school transcript, proof of enrollment, and malpractice insurance coverage. Keep an eye on these requirements and make sure your school is completing them in a timely manner.
In March, programs should have uploaded most of their elective offerings. You can browse by specialty, geographic region, elective length, and other filters. Save the electives you plan to apply to so that you’re ready when submission time comes.
Mid-March to April: Applications Open
Aways have become more and more competitive. The key to securing your away rotation is applying as soon as the program starts accepting submissions, which usually happens on April 1st. Turn on your email notifications in VSLO, which will notify you when each elective you’ve saved is open. If you follow the steps above, submitting your application should be quick and painless!
Many programs take quite some time to tell you their decision. If you haven’t heard back for a few weeks, call the program coordinator. Their contact information will be listed on the away posting. Many students secure aways by showing initiative and calling the office for a status update.
Once accepted, the away program will email you with onboarding and payment information. Make sure to withdraw your application from other electives taking place at the same time as the one you’ve accepted.
Then, take the time to breathe a sigh of relief. The VSLO application process is stressful, but the connections you make and letters of rec you obtain will be worth it!
Don’t forget that the Blueprint Med blog is packed with other free guides on everything a student might face throughout their educational experience! In particular, these resources may provide the solutions you need for your current med school challenges:
- 1. Away Rotations: Worth the Work. Still uncertain about the decision to pursue away rotations? Weigh the benefits with this go-to guide.
- 2. How to Maximize Your Chances of Matching With Your Dream Residency. Follow these tips to impress prospective residency programs and stand out to your top choices.
- 3. Your MS3 Survival Guide: How to Ace Your Shelf Exams. Overcome the challenges of your third year with the right study strategies!
- 4. 4 Keys to Succeed as an MS4 and Beyond. Don’t fall behind on your final year of med school! Leverage these best practices to finish the experience on a high note.
About the Author
Ami is a fourth year medical student at the Nova Southeastern MD program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has been tutoring for Step 1 and Step 2 with Blueprint for over a year! She is passionate about science writing and clinical research, with special interests in delirium and neurocognitive disorders in older adults. She is applying to psychiatry residency programs in the fall. Her LinkedIn can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amishid/