Are Away Rotations Necessary?

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 pros and cons of doing away rotations? Do you need one?
There is no simple answer, and it really depends. For some specialties, away rotations are highly recommended as a way to increase your odds of an interview, or to get a letter of recommendation. These are typically the more traditionally “competitive” specialties (ophtho, derm, plastic surgery, emergency medicine, etc). However, some applicants in these specialties may still choose to not do away rotations, perhaps because they already have a stellar application (top-tier schools, with great scores and above-average number of publications). Attendings and other mentors at your school will have a good sense of whether away rotations were necessary for previous years’ applicants.
For other specialties (like IM, surgery, OB/Gyn), away rotations are less emphasized. However, some applicants may still choose to do away rotations within these specialties, in order to demonstrate a specific interest in a program or region of the country. Some regions of the country, like New York or California or Texas, are very regional and away rotations (especially if you get a letter of recommendation) can be helpful.
The general rule is that away rotations are only necessary in those more competitive specialties. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, however, depending on your school and/or your specific situation.
Either way — if you choose to do an away rotation, do your research!

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