Now that we’ve covered all the reasons why an away rotation might benefit you, let’s get into the logistics of applying for one.
1. Get familiar with VSAS
The first thing you want to do, starting the January before your senior year is to register with VSAS. VSAS is the Visiting Student Application Service and virtually all away programs will be registered here. If an away program is NOT registered on this website, then you will need to contact the program directly via their own website.
2. Start looking at deadlines
VSAS provides a database for all participating institutions and their away programs. By clicking on specific institutions, they will list two important dates: when their catalog for the new year will be released, when they’ll start accepting applications, and when they’ll start processing applications. Because most programs operate on a rolling basis, it’s imperative that you submit applications early, preferably as soon as programs start accepting applications. Most programs start accepting applications after March, but some also start as early as January! So start looking early.
3. Get your paperwork sorted
The best advice I got was to get your immunizations done early! Many of these away programs require certain paperwork such as immunizations, background checks, transcripts, etc. Each institution will have their required documents listed on their page inside VSAS (or directions on where to find them), and you need to upload everything in order to be eligible to apply. Immunization paperwork can take time to gather, since some schools have their own forms (but many also use a common AAMC form that you can re-submit to different programs). Other documents like transcripts and dean’s letters will be provided by your host institution, but you should start requesting them early, since your classmates will also be flooding the registrar with requests.
4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Some away rotations are notoriously competitive, so it might be a good idea to apply to several institutions, in case you get rejected from one. And if you do happen to get accepted into several aways…
5. Cancel rotations in a timely manner
Do NOT wait until the last minute to cancel an away rotation you can no longer commit to. Some programs may remember your late cancellation and strike you out during interview season. Programs are generally understanding if you cancel a few months in advance, so other students can take your spot. You should cancel an away rotation as soon as you realize you can longer attend!
4. Register for the away elective with your school
Your school will have its own registration process that you need to be mindful of. Some schools don’t allow 2-week or 3-week electives. Most schools require an evaluation form to be completed by the away institution. Regardless, you want to clarify the requirements before you commit to an away rotation. The last thing you want to do is not receive credit for your rotation!
5. Pay the fee
Most rotations charge $50-100 for away students. Sorry 😦
6. Kick some butt!
Check out my post here on how to do well on your away rotation.