Pediatrics: Funded Away Rotations


I won’t lie to you: I’m not the most spontaneous. When it comes to academics and life-planning, I’m (to be frank) not spontaneous at all. This may not come as a surprise to those of you who have read my series on “How to Survive Medical School.” This time last year, a flurry of emails from then-MS4s-now-PGY1s launched a series of conversations amongst my classmates: “should we go on away/audition rotations?” For some of you pursuing fields such as orthopedics and urology, the question is not “should I?” but rather “how many?” For others, it really depends. The argument is raised that: if you go on an away rotation and perform poorly, you ruin your chance of matching to that program. I think that point is fair but I also think that if you go on an away rotation and you’re motivated and excited, it’s hard to leave a terrible impression.

Sure, there’s the “fish out of water” effect that is to be expected. Sure, you’ll get lost a time or two. Sure, the MS3s may perform better than you at the start. Sure, you’ll be frustrated because you’re nervous and feel like you’re not performing at your best in a new environment. You’ll acclimate. You’ll progress. They’ll notice. It’ll work out.

In the case that it truly is a terrible away rotation experience in regard to fit or workload – there’s a chance that it might not have been the right place for you as a resident. So even in that case, you’ve learned a lot about where you want to end up or what sort of programs you’re looking for when you start on the interview trail. Speaking of the interview trail, if you want to follow my journey the best places to do that are Instagram or Twitter. I’ll share a recap of my trail here on the blog after match day (March 2018!).

There are quite a few reasons to go on an away rotation:

  • It’s the expectation (as mentioned above for fields such as orthopedics and urology).
  • You want to express interest in a geographical region.
  • You want to compare a program to your home program, so as to better know what you’re looking for on the interview trail.
  • You want to get a letter from a program with more reputable faculty.
  • You want to match at the program where you perform your away rotation
  • You’re a masochist 🙊

It’s by no means expected for pediatrics applicants to complete an away rotation. I went on one away in the Northeast. My home program does not have a free-standing children’s hospital and I wanted to get a sense of what that would be like. Overall, I found my away rotation to be informative in regard to education (I learned so much on a daily basis, it’s actually unreal!) and also for what would be an ideal residency program for me. If you guys have questions about whether or not you specifically should go on an away rotation, reach out to your faculty mentors. Feel free, as always, to contact me if you have questions.

For the rest of the post, I’m going to address the application system for away rotations and I’ll close with a list I compiled of programs who have funded away rotation opportunities for underrepresented minorities in medicine.

The Visiting Student Application Service was the thorn in my side from December 2016 – April 2017.  Here’s a quick look at the portal once you log-in.


On the Institutions tab you can take a look at all the institutions that use VSAS for their away rotation applications. Keep in mind that some programs do not use VSAS and have unique application portals. From conversations from my friends, I gathered that quite a few of the Ivy League institutions are non-VSAS. Be certain to check your institution of choice’s website if you don’t see them on VSAS.

This tab gives you a look at: 1) whether they accept MD +/- DO candidates for an away rotation, 2) what day they publish their rotation offerings, 3) what day applications are accepted, 4) VSAS requirements, 5) processing fee, and 6) required malpractice insurance.


Depending on when you schedule your MS4 rotations, it’s a good idea to take a look at the course dates for your potential away rotations so that you can block out an appropriate amount of time / make sure your dates match!

So what is the standard VSAS application?

  • Contact Information (fill this in under ‘Application’ tab)
  • Professional Headshot (upload this under ‘Documents’ tab)
  • Clerkships Completed and Associated Dates (fill this in under ‘Application’ tab)
  • Verification Status (information is under ‘Application’ tab)
  • Curriculum Vitae (upload this under ‘Documents’ tab)
  • Transcript (your institution will upload this – make sure to request this within a reasonable amount of time; re-request if you get new grades prior to applications opening)
  • Immunizations (different schools have different immunization requirements and so you can upload one form per institution under the ‘Documents’ tab).

Some schools require supplemental information. You don’t want to not be considered simply because you did not send everything that they required. Some supplemental information that could be desired:

  • USMLE transcript (upload this under ‘Documents’ as a supplemental document)
  • Malpractice insurance coverage letter (your institution can give a copy of this to you – upload under ‘Documents’ as a supplemental document)
  • Background check (ask your upperclassmen how to get this done through your school for free – upload results under ‘Documents’ as a supplemental document)
  • Drug test (get this done at your student health clinic – upload results under ‘Documents’ as a supplemental document)
  • Copies of HIPAA and OSHA training certificate  (your institution can give a copy of this to you – upload under ‘Documents’ as a supplemental document)
  • Letter of Good Standing (contact your office of student affairs to get your form letter – upload under ‘Documents’ as a supplemental document)
  • Mask Fit Documentation (your institution can give a copy of this to you – upload under ‘Documents’ as a supplemental document)

How do you know if the institution has supplemental requirements? Click on their name when on the ‘Institutions’ and you’ll find all the information you could ever want. Some may mention a supplemental application on their home website. Some may mention additional forms once you are accepted to their away.

You search and apply for your away rotations under the ‘Electives’ tab. You can save rotations of interest under this tab as well. It’s fairly straight-forward so I won’t belabor that process here. I will give some general advice about how to apply in a smart fashion!

  • You start off with approximately 25 authorizations and you use one authorization for each elective/date combination to which you apply. If you run out (which is definitely possible), contact your office of student affairs to adjust your number!
  • Submit your application the day the institution opens applications. If you submit late, the odds of getting a spot are slim.
  • The time of year you try to perform an away rotation definitely impacts how difficult it would be to acquire a spot. In the early summer, a lot of home institution students will be performing their sub-internships or getting involved in the most desirable electives. June/July/August are prime-time spots! Don’t be discouraged if you get a lot of notifications that “spots are full.” It’s not that you were a weak applicant…you just lost out to home institution students.
  • If you are shooting for June/July/August, apply to multiple programs for the same dates. I only had one month (late July – August) where I could do an away rotation – I applied to 8 programs, 23 sub-internships or electives, and received 4 offers.
  • The advice I was given: apply to every sub-internship or elective at a program that remotely interests you, for the dates that work for your schedule.
  • Keep in mind: sub-internship away rotations are far more time intensive compared to electives, so if you’re trying to explore a new city or hang out with friends…a sub-internship may be more stressful. That being said, a sub-internship gives you more access to interns/residents and a better perspective on what life would be like as a resident at that program.
  • You can accept multiple away rotation offers and decline them later. Don’t feel pressured to decide when you haven’t heard back from other programs! Make sure to withdraw or decline with sufficient notice (I would say at least a month’s notice if possible).

After you submit, you can track your progress under the ‘Tracking’ tab.

So now you know about VSAS. The application process can be a bit expensive when you factor in immunization boosters (if necessary), titers (which are required), and etc. When you factor in the cost to fly to another city and pay for an apartment in said city…it becomes an even more cost-intensive process. There are a number of institutions that will help cover the cost / provide a stipend for students who are underrepresented minorities. The list below is for pediatrics away rotations but many of these schools have equivalent programs for other specialties.

If you aren’t going into pediatrics, here are some good resources (not all of them are up to date, unfortunately) for you:

I would start looking into some of these earlier rather than later. Some of them have early applications dates. For example, Boston Medical Center (affiliated with Boston University) opens applications in January.

Some of these offers only apply for away rotations in particular months – so this is something you want to know before you schedule your fourth year! The information below is based on when I applied. Some aspects may be different during your cycle so be sure to double check application requirements. These programs require a supplemental application – you’ll be able to access this on their websites (not on VSAS).

For some of these applications, underrepresented is defined as: 1) ethnicity, 2) gender (male in pediatrics), 3) sexuality (LGBT).

Programs on the West Coast


Programs on the East Coast


Programs in/near the Mid-West


Programs in the South

  • Duke University School of Medicine 
    • Application Portal: VSAS
    • Personal Statement or Essay Required: Yes
    • Letters of Recommendation: No
    • Other: Submit Supplemental Scholarship Application After VSAS Acceptance
  • Medical University of South Carolina
    • Application Portal: VSAS
    • Personal Statement or Essay Required: Yes
    • Letters of Recommendation: No
    • Other: Meningitis Vaccine
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
    • Application Portal: VSAS
    • Personal Statement or Essay Required: Yes
    • Letters of Recommendation: No
    • Other: N/A
  • University of North Carolina
    • Application Portal: VSAS
    • Personal Statement or Essay Required: Uncertain – you have to email to request the application
    • Letters of Recommendation: Uncertain – you have to email to request the application
    • Other: Apply for Scholarship After VSAS Acceptance
  • University of Texas Southwestern
    • Application Portal: VSAS
    • Personal Statement or Essay Required: No
    • Letters of Recommendation: No
    • Other: N/A
  • Vanderbilt School of Medicine 
    • Application Portal: VSAS
    • Personal Statement or Essay Required: No
    • Letters of Recommendation: No
    • Other: Contact after accepted to an elective through VSAS
  • Wake Forest School of Medicine
    • Application Portal: VSAS
    • Personal Statement or Essay Required: No
    • Letters of Recommendation: Yes (2)
    • Other: N/A

I hope some of that was helpful for those of you going into pediatrics and maybe even for some of you who intend to specialize in other fields. Wishing you guys tons of luck and love!

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