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You’ve heard that away rotations are a big part of fourth year. Away rotations let you show your face to programs, meet residents and attendings in your specialty, and possibly could increase your chances of an interview. But what are the reasons for doing an away rotation? Are you doing them for the right reasons?
Before deciding on whether you should do an away rotation, consider these four reasons we’ve heard for why medical students might choose to do an away rotation:
1. Boost your chances at a particular program.
This is probably the #1 reason that most students do an away rotation. However, be careful: whether spending a month at a program will increase your odds depends highly on the program itself. We have an entirely separate article on this particular reason — basically, do your research!
2. Get a letter of recommendation.
This is particularly important if your school doesn’t have a department for your specialty, or if you want to give residencies a more well-rounded view of who you are. However, schedules among schools vary — and if you only work with the same faculty a few times, it can be extremely difficult for them to write you a solid letter of recommendation. If you have your sights set on a particular faculty member, don’t automatically assume that you’ll get to spend quality time with them.
So if snagging an LOR is your main goal, ask the medical student coordinator for the away rotation about the schedule. A simple way would be to say, “I am highly interested in Dr. __’s research in __, and I would love the chance to work more with him/her during the rotation. Would this be possible?”
3. Learn about your specialty.
While this is a valid reason, it’s not exactly the best reason. You’ll be spending the rest of your career learning about your chosen specialty; there’s no reason to spend your time and money packing it all in now.
4. Live in a cool city.
This is probably the reason that should be at the bottom of your considerations. If you think about the cost of doing an away rotation (rent, flights, transportation, groceries) plus the fact that you’re working most of the time, you’ll quickly realize that away rotations are probably the least efficient way to enjoy a city. Save that money for later travels; chances are you’ll have plenty of extra time in the spring, when you’ll be able to have the time and energy to fully explore a new place.
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United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) is a registered trademark of the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and is used under the fair use doctrine. Med School Mentors is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the NBME.