5+ Year Member
May 20, 2010
Medical Student
I know it is the heart of interview season, but was hoping some of those gearing up for interviews might be able to chime in. My question is regarding general advice for away rotations. My home institution has a good rad onc program, and as a student I think I am a good non-PhD candidate, but I was wondering
#1 how many aways do people recommend? We are allowed to do 3 aways, but some of my colleagues suggested that 2 is enough and 3 is exhausting.
Also, I don't want to start another rad onc rankings thread, but how do people generally go about doing aways, all at programs that would definitely interview you? vs. "reach" schools you'd love to go to? All safe?
Lastly, and most important question, how important is it to do aways in different regions? I.E. if i'm from the Midwest, do I need to do an away in the southeast or something along those lines?
Nov 4, 2013
Resident [Any Field]
I'll chime in...

1) Many people do 3 aways, you should probably do at least 2, I know one person who was questioned on the interview trail why they only did 1 away rotation. I only did 1 away rotation but that is due to my unique schedule as an MD/PhD. I would have done 2 and saved the 3rd elective for a research rotation here at home during interview season.
2) My own opinion is that doing away rotations at institutions where you have no chance in hell at matching is somewhat of a wasted opportunity... unless you are absolutely dying to go to a certain place and want the chance to make an impression; or if you really want to get a letter from a specific big-wig. Letters can be big in this field... I'm certain I received some specific offers because of my letters. Obviously, doing away rotations at places you are appropriately competitive for that also will yield a big-wig letter is the best.
3) Our director told us that regional reputation of home schools is very helpful, but not essential. People will want to know why you want to leave your region though. I think its simply another factor to consider in picking your away rotations... in that you might be more competitive at a program in the same region. So if you were worried about matching you might have better chances at staying regional, and if you were determined to leave your region it might be good to do all of your away rotations in the desired region.

The 805

5+ Year Member
Feb 25, 2012
Resident [Any Field]
These are good questions. In terms of the number of away rotations you should do, I was exhausted after doing 2. Frankly, I felt that my performance was getting worse the longer I went on due to fatigue. Assuming you're rotating someplace you want to go, every single day on an away rotation should be treated like an interview (the same could be said for the rotation at your home institution, where its perhaps even more true). However, depending on your qualifications and any geographic limitations/considerations, you might have to do 3. All that being said, depending on the likability of your personality, it might be best to do zero away rotations.

In terms of "reach" schools, I'm not sure how much letters from specific big-wigs matter from away rotations... I know from personal experience they definitely matter from your home rotation, and they can help you at the program you got them from, but you won't do yourself any favors if you should up to a different institution with the sole goal of getting a specific letter from a specific person, and blow off the rest of your responsibilities. Even if you think its a reach, many top institutions will give people an interview if they did a rotation there... and they're a reasonably good candidate... and they were REALLY likable. So don't sell yourself short, and don't close any doors by being myopic on your aways.

I think geography is critical when it comes to away rotations. If you're from LA, and went to medical school LA, and did away rotations someplace else in LA and San Diego, well then even if you get interviews in NYC they're not going to rank you very high because they know you don't want to leave southern California. How will they know where you rotated beyond your letters of recommendation? Well, programs talk to one another, and on more than one occasion during interviews I was asked point blank where I did my away rotations. You think you can hide your geographic preferences, but you can't. If you want to communicate that you'll truly go anywhere, then you should do 3 away rotations: one on the west coast, one on the east coast, and one in the midwest.... which makes me exhausted just thinking about it.