Electives in USA - Frequently Asked Questions

    • By Dr Umar Tariq. Taken from http://www.mededia.com

  • Which Documents we need to apply for electives?
  • Depends upon the university you are applying to. Usually it includes the following:
    • Completed Application Form
    • Completed Health Form with Titers, Mantoux Test report and Immunization Certificate
    • Health Insurance
    • Malpractice Coverage
    • Personal Statement
    • CV
    • Letter of Intent
    • Cover Letter
    • HIPAA certificate
    • OSHA certificate
  • The first two are required by every university and few of the remaining are required by some universities in addition to first two. Thats why it is always advisable to contact Electives Co-ordinators before sending your applications. You dont want to send incomplete applications are be rejected.
  • Which Documents we get after electives?
  • You should try to get a proof of your elective from the university. Some do give LORs and some dont... if you dont impress them. Its always better to get a LOR alongwith an Evaluation form signed....for your college...even if your college does not require it. For further details on it and regarding its sample, please visit the Electives section. 
    • When to apply for electives?
    • As soon as you can....although many good universities do not fill spots on "first come first serve basis" but even then I dont think there is any point of waiting and delaying your applicationwhen all the documents are ready. First complete your application and documents, double check them and send them.
    • It is advisable to apply 8-10 months in advance but you can also be accepted by applying even 4-6 months before the starting date of electives. 
    • Where to go for electives?
  • First of all get electives wherever you find them and if you are lucky enough to have multiple acceptances.... it depends upon what are your priorities...
    • which specialty you have your electives in? is it in your specialty of choice? the first thing....
    • is it in a top university program? the second factor...
    • is it in a state where you want to live in with some relatives/friends? This can be the first factor for many of you....
      best of luck! 

    • Is there any use of electives in fields other than field/specialty of interest?
    • Yes it is always better to have SOMEthing than NOthing but its always better to secure a elective in the specialty of your choice. A Medicine/ Medicine sub-specialty LOR would be better than an Opthalmology LOR for applying into a IM program but again Opthalmology LOR is better than no LOR for IM residency... 
    • How many weeks of electives/ number of electives are enough/sufficient?
    • 1 month- something is better than nothing
      3 months- good
      6 months- very very good
      1 year- ideal
      These hold true for clinical fields like IM/FP/Surgery etc
      Any question you ask regarding steps, electives, research etc.......its answer would depend on one simple fact.... which specialty you want to pursue your medical career....e.g clinical electives are always considered superior to research electives for surgery/medicine fields but research electives/ research carry far more weightage than clinical electives in feilds like Pathology, Radiology etc. first finalise your specialty and then go through the residency programs of that field to see their eligibility requirements....best of luck! 
  • How to get a sponsor for electives
  • For Henry Ford:
     You  can   contact  the  faculty  members  by  the  emails. You  cant  find  the  email   addresses  of  the faculty on  the  website, but you can  find  the  names of  faculty members on  it.
       Go to www.henryford.com  and then go to 'Find Doctors'.
     There  is  a  formula  for  determining  the email  addresses  from  their  first  and  second  names.
    So, what  you  need  to do to  get  the  email  ID  of  a  faculty  is  using the   FIRST LETTER  OF  THE  FIRST  NAME  and  FIRST SIX  LETTERS  OF  THE  2ND  NAME  and  THEN ADDING  1  before  @hfhs.org
    For  example,  If  the  name  of  Faculty  is  Steven Harrison,  then the  email  ID    will  be     sharris1@hfhs.org  (same  thing: FIRST LETTER  OF  THE  FIRST  NAME  and  FIRST SIX  LETTERS  OF  THE  2ND  NAME  and  THEN ADDING  1  before  @hfhs.org)
    You must always  send  your  CV  in the email  for request of sponsor, stating your  purpose  and desire to do electives  in  Henry Ford.
    You  should  send  emails to  a  number  of  faculty  members,  because  only  a  few  one  are  going  to  reply  you  back.
    While  emailing  anyone, whether  its  elective  coordinator  or  faculty  member, dont  start  with  words  like  madam/sir. You  can  always  start  with  words  like  Dear Dr. Harrison.     
    For Emory:
      The  email IDs  are  available  on  their  website,  in  the  faculty  corner of  each  department.
    Again, you  should  email  as  many faculty  members as  you  can  with  your  CV, because  only  a  few  one  are  going to answer  you. You should not email without attaching your CV. back to top
    • How can I improve my chances for acceptance for electives in any medical school?
    • I believe TOEFL/ USMLE step 1 are big plus points but a good CV and good personal statement alongwith good documentation and proper filling of application forms are far more important. Its the combination of all these which counts.
    • TOEFL is not a bad deal for 165 $. Hundreds of dollars are spent in application fees and thousands of dollars in tuition fees and if you spend mere 165 $ for TOEFL it increases your chances tremendously. Moreover it opens many new good new places for you that have no fees e.g NIH. back to top
    • What is the cost of malpractice coverage
    • As far as malpractice is concerned... it depends upon the insurance company you are using...e.g some local companies offer insurance only for their local universities... so obviously you need to buy separate insurance if you are applying to multiple universities...but some do offer a combined package but they charge extra depending upon the no of universities and the duration of coverage....as far as I know academic insurance is the most cheap and suitable one and they offered insurance for one uni for around 200 $ for 8 weeks I guess but if you give them a list of about 10 uni... it is about 400 $ for 8 weeks... I might be wrong in figures...anyways there are some insurance companies who offer you insurance that holds true for all the US med schools... if you get one of this type, you dont mention the name of school while you are filling out their forms... it holds good for every university...and you just need to send a photocopy or simply a print out of the soft copy to the elective co-ordinators. 
      • Which malpractice coverage I should go for?
      • Depends upon u...If you are interested in medical assistant student insurance (which is not a 'true' medical student insurance but even then recommended by all the seniors) then go for hpso.com or proliability.com. If you are interested in genuine medical student insurance then undoubtedly www.academicins.com is the best, I like both their professionalism as well as their comparatively affordable quotes i.e about 250- 350 $ as compared to others 1050-1250 $. 
        • My medical school is not a well-reputed one...can I get electives in US?
        • The repute of your college does not matter at all for elective...college's repute has nothing to do with electives... Its only and only your documentation and other stuff like CV, personal statements, toefl etc. And yes step 1 score is a big boast but you can get electives without them as well. 
  • How much TOEFL helps for electives?
  • TOEFL is not a bad deal for 150 $. Hundreds of dollars are spent in application fees and thousands of dollars in tuition fees and if you spend mere 150 $ for TOEFL it increases your chances tremendously. Moreover it opens many new good new places for you that have no fees(see below).
    Following universities require or prefer toefl
  • NIH(requires TOEFL)
    Wisconsin(requires TOEFL)
    Northwestern(requires TOEFL)
    Uni of Massachusettes(requires TOEFL)
    Uni of Cincinnati(requires TOEFL)
    Vermont(requires TOEFL)
    TUFTS(requires TOEFL)
  • Yales(prefers TOEFL)
    Harvard(prefers TOEFL)
Moreover there are many more universities that prefers TOEFL. I strongly recommend giving TOEFL as soon as possible for everyone going for electives. 
  • How much score do I need to get in TOEFL?
  • The more score you get in TOEFL, the better it is....they have no cut off value, usually anything above 90 is very good and above 100 is considered exceptional....but make sure you score evenly good in all 4 aspects...rather than being at the top in 3 and at the bottom in any 1....that is try to score in late 20s out of 30 in all the 4 sections of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Best of luck! 
  • How much USMLE Step 1 help for electives?
  • USMLE Step 1 increases your chances tremendously for electives. Its always good if you have given USMLE step 1 but I wont recommend giving step 1 for electives as steps score is the primary thing and electives are the secondary factor for residency...u cant risk the primary factor for the secondary factor....
  • Can I get a acceptance after rejection?
  • Yes you can. Try requesting change in dates or change in specialty/field of elective to the elective co-ordinator after rejection. Usually they are quite helpful 'esp after rejection'...they try to accommodate you. Just play your cards well!

  • How can I improve my CV?
    • What u can do to improve ur CV depends upon your specialty of choice. Following is the priority list for Internal Medicine:
      1. Clinical Electives(or any other USCE) in IM or any subspecialty
      2. Longtime Research+ Publications in IM or any subspecialty
      3. Short-term Research+ Publications in IM or any subspecialty
      4. Longtime Research without publication in IM or any subspecialty.
      5. Short-term Research without publication in IM or any subspecialty
      6. Research Elective without publication in IM or any subspecialty.
      7. Clinical Electives in any other field.
      8. Longtime Research+ Publications in any specialty
      9. Short-term Research+ Publications in any specialty
      10. Longtime Research without publication in any specialty.
      11. Short-term Research without publication in any specialty
      12. Research Elective without publication in any specialty.
      If you fulfil any of the first 3 in some good program... you have a strong chance of getting an interview call from there and then its upto you to impress them during interview and before it now.......
      I have set the priority list especially for IM according to the best of my knowledge.

  • Is there any use of doing short-term research/observership/electives?
  • Always remember if there is not a disadvantage of something....there is always some advantage... SOMEthing is always better than NOthing....every achievement/ hard work does pay back sooner or later....
    So whatever you can get...grab that opportunity and learn to convert half chances to complete ones....always remember....every experience in life teaches you a useful lesson for the future experiences of life....so they are not wasted...they carry the same importance as your school carried for your college and ur college carried for ur medical college... nothing is useless....never run away from any experience....grab whatever you can get and then have faith in yourself and your hard work.... always remember.....chances are not available....they are always created my dear....and if you find one...dont miss it....and if you made use of one....never regret it... it can never be 'useless'! You would realize this later my dear friend....go for everything u can get....best of luck!

    • On which visa to go for electives/ which visa we need for electives?
    • Depends upon the University you are applying to.......most of the Universities sponsor B1/ B2 visa but now due to some of the recent changes in the Visas many universities require you to come on J visa even for electives. You can apply for visa once you have received the acceptance letter. If you have received the acceptance letter, then you should contact the electives co-ordinator of the respective university and confirm their visa requirements and then apply for that category of visa! If you wish to come to USA for any of the following reasons, you can apply for B1 or B2 Visitor VISA. (Visiting your relatives/friends, medical treatment, Attending meeting, company sponsored training).
      Business related visitors can only apply for B1. Others can apply for B2.
      The purpose of your VISIT should be short term and you should have permanent residence in the home country (in your case Pakistan).
      To obtain B1/B2 VISA, the visitor should show strong evidence to prove that their intention is just to visit USA and their stay in US will only be temporary. Also, they should submit the documents to prove that they have strong base in their home country and will return from US within the permitted time.
      Documents for B1 Visitor Visa
      • Letter from your sponsor. US company or organization explaining the purpose of your visit, duration etc.
      • Supporting documents from you to explain the purpose of the visit. If your visit is for the company purpose, you need the letter from your company.
      • Supporting documents from you. To prove that you have strong tip up with your home country (Bank statements, Family details, employment details)
      • VISA application form. - (Form DS-156)
      • Valid Passport
      • 2 Photographs
      • Visa fee
        I hope this will help you.

    • Should I go for electives on a J1 visa?
    • If u dont find elective anywhere there is no harm in doing one at J1... Some places like Mount Sinai require it for electives...
      I would prefer a elective in mount sinai than no elective at all but keep in mind J1 is also a very big hurdle.

    • Is step 1 necessary for observership/electives?
    • No its not at all necessary to give step 1 before observerships/electives, I myself did an observership in internal medicine in 2007 and I had not given USMLE step 1 then.
      Although step 1 increases chances tremendously for electives/observership but it is not compulsory in many universities. Observership/Electives may or may not require your USMLE steps.

  • Am I late for electives?
  • You are late only if you have graduated because once you have graduated you cant do any more electives otherwise you can never be late...I would say even if there is 0.0000001% chance, dont miss it becz if you miss it....there would be no chance not even this 0.000001%, SOMEthing is better than NOthing my dear!!!
    Its never late. Although its better to be pro-active but dont consider yourself to be late if you had been not. Although it is recommended to start applying 8-10 months in advance but I have seen people being accepted while applying just 2-3 months in advance whereas many people are rejected applying 10 months in advance. So the thing that counts the most is your luck, so always keep praying for yourself and others.
  • Plz go ahead! never waste time in thinking... you always have a chance... there is nothing like impossible or 0 % chance... as I mentioned I know people who even got accepted by sending applications just 2-3 months before...so never miss a chance... whenever you find one grab it.... and whenever there is a half-chance... convert it into a complete one...best of luck!!!


  1. Assalamalaikum my name is fahad n im a student of 3rd yr mbbs, i want to ask that if someone gets supplementary in any subject say physiology or anatomy in prof exam, then does it affect the usmle or residency matching or not?

  2. does your prof scores count when it comes to getting electives?? does they constitute a part of your cv or you just need to get through with them??

  3. Those universities that you mentioned (except Harvard and Yale where only the true world class people get in) are not even very well known in the US. Don't waste your time and goverment's money. Practise in your own country for god's sake

  4. Dear Azhar, These are for elective rotations not admissions to their MD program. A lot of people from Pakistan are able to do elective rotations there each year. The question about serving your own country: Well you can always get high quality residency training from USA and come back to serve your country

  5. If your prof grades are good, that is a very good thing. But in the bigger picture, the residency coordinators look for the grades of their own standardized exams first. USMLEs. Followed by your US clinical experiences as electives - both clinical and research, publications in good journals, observerships.. And then come your grades in your medical school in Pakistan. And what matters most is if you have a distinction in a subject. Otherwise it has less weightage than the above mentioned factors

  6. It doesnot matter as long as you've passed the subject

  7. TOEFL is a language test generally taken by those students who want to take admission in any foreign universities.

    know about TESOL

  8. Thank you for share this informative post.

  9. Thank you for share this informative post.


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