Electives in USA - List of Universities 2014

Electives in USA - 2014 list

By Farkhanda Qaiser

Final Year MBBS

Before you begin reading this blog, let me warn you that applying for electives is no piece of cake. Gone are the days when electives were easy to get. Now rejections are given out routinely and acceptances are painfully rare...! 

Confused about Electives?

So you have got to be persistent all the way through. As you apply roughly 8-10 months in advance of your planned elective date so it is nearly 10 months of persistence…! I know many people who gave up halfway through because all the efforts seemed so much in vain. BUT there is light at the end of tunnel. Quite a few students have received acceptance for the coming spring semester in 2015 and that too in renowned and affordable universities (including myself). Thus, if you stay persistent and apply in the right places then you can be successful.

            I have compiled the following list after a whole year’s hard work. Thankfully, two of my friends shared the workload so things became a bit easier. We sent emails to over 100 universities in USA. Most of those places don’t accept international students anymore. The ones which do, require Step 1 as part of the application process. So if you’re still in fourth year, my advice would be to get done with Step 1 first because then electives would be no problem at all…! And if you’re in final year and can’t take Step 1 then you should start emailing the universities for electives. 

             For those of you, who don’t know anything about how to apply for electives, I will give a summary here. (I will write a detailed blog later, inshaAllah). In final year, you can do electives during the summer break or after the professional exams. The first thing that you need to do is write a few documents that you will be emailing to the universities. These are:

·                                                                                                                                   Letter of Intent
·                                                                                                                                  Curriculum vitae
·                                                                                                                                  Personal Statement

Once you have emailed these, wait for the replies. If you get a positive reply and the university welcomes you to submit an application, then without wasting any time, do so. Time is the key. If you send timely applications, you stand a greater chance of getting accepted. However, do not forget to keep in touch with the elective coordinators. Keep reminding them about your application and how you are so good a candidate, that they shouldn’t miss a chance to host you.

            Finally, moving on to the list. According to me, there are three types of universities:
The affordable, the elite and the ‘Step 1’ requiring.

The affordable:

In the past, this list could have included the universities having tuition fees of under $1000 but keeping the current extremely diminished options in mind, I have labeled $2000 and below as affordable.

1) University of Alabama:
Tuition fee: $165
This is an excellent university. The entire application process is online. However, the only hitch is that it requires faculty sponsor which may be a bit difficult to get. There are two ways to go about it. One way is to write one standard letter of intent and send it to all the 14 departments that accept international students. Go to UAB Course Catalog. Choose the department and email the course contact. Do not email the course director. He will get irked because the initial screening process is the job of the course contact.  The other way is to keep that letter of intent that you wrote but change one paragraph before sending it to a different department. In that paragraph, explain why you want to do an elective in their department. This doesn't have to be too innovative (though if it is innovative then there can be nothing better than that. But considering, how we're a lazy nation and prefer halwa to hard work, I've provided the alternative) and too much of a rocket science. You can simply take their course description and write it in your own words. If you want to go one step further, the best way to impress a sponsor is to show him that you have read his research which has inspired you and that is why you want to work with him. You can google his name; read any one or two of his research works and then comment on it in a professional way. If you have a publication under your belt, then you can draw some sort of parallel between your and his work. In short, you need to be desperate to get that elective but without showing your desperation. (This was a great saying by one of our senior kemcolians and it has helped me alot in this electives search.). So do whatever you can, to prove your worth to the faculty sponsor.

2) University of Massachusetts:
Application fee (AF): $50
Tuition fee (TF): $500 (inclusive of AF)
I personally know around a dozen people who applied in this university this year, but as far as I know, no one has been accepted except me. This is another great university and many Kemcolians have done electives here in the past. They start accepting the applications around 10 months in advance. I was told that they follow the first come, first serve rule. However, there were many students who applied 2-3 months before I did and they still did not get accepted. This is not to say that I was superior in any way at all to these class fellows of mine. Frankly speaking, I myself don't know the reason why I was selected. But according to my speculations, there were two things that I did differently from others. One was that I sent a personal statement in my application packet even though it was not a requirement. (I had been told by a respected senior that we should ALWAYS send our CV and Personal Statement along with the application.) Second was that I kept in touch with my elective coordinator. I did not bombard her with emails. That is never the way. We always have to be civil and professional. I used to keep her updated with any new developments that I had. For example, once when my research paper was published in an international journal, I emailed her and shared my good news with her. And so on and so forth.

3) University of North Carolina:
AF: $100
TF: $2000
This university initially states that Step 1 is mandatory to apply but later provides a waiver to almost every applicant. I received a waiver just a few days ago...! So let me state another principle about this electives process. NOTHING is absolute...! If a university says they don't accept international students, they might accept students who have a faculty sponsor. If they say we need Step 1, they might give you a waiver. If their tuition fee is too hefty, they might give you a discount. So don't let the initial response discourage you. Remember, like I said, the key is to remain persistent. Try prodding them till they say yes, either to get you off their backs or because you have really impressed them. But NEVER EVER cross the line of civility. I keep saying this again and again because I know people who have actually misbehaved with their coordinators. That is never the way. 
The unique thing about UNC is that they require a cover letter which is slightly different from a personal statement. And most of the application process is online.

4) National Institute of Health (NIH):
Free electives
They provide clinical research electives. Their cut off criteria is a high Toefl score of 28 in speaking and 28 in listening. Fortunately, I had this score. But I applied very late because purely clinical electives had been my priority. But if you have this toefl score, then I would suggest that you should apply here as soon as possible because something is better than nothing. Besides, it's totally free and the application process is also online so what's the harm?!  Their unique requirement is a highly research oriented cover letter and they require your Letter of recommendation and Transcript to be emailed to them by your faculty. Knowing how technology-phobic most of our faculty is, this was a bit difficult but not impossible task.

5) Specialty Hospital of Washington:
AF: none
TF: $2000
This is a community hospital which should be your last priority. If you do not get an elective ANYWHERE else then you should apply here. However, the upside about this place is that they give you an acceptance quite easily.  Well, maybe not that easily. Their elective coordinator does a part time job at the hospital so she replies very late to your emails. So you have to keep reminding her to reply. (Remember what I said about being persistent. It applies everywhere.) If you are lucky you will get the acceptance letter within a few weeks. The benefit of getting an early acceptance is that you can use this letter to apply for USA visa which is what I did. Because otherwise, most universities start sending acceptance letters in late November or even December and obviously you would not want to schedule a visa interview during your final profs...! 

6) John Hopkins University:
Very minimal fee. 
They provide research electives and require faculty sponsor. I suppose, you can follow the procedure I mentioned earlier for UAB but there are too many departments at JHU. So it would be a hit and trial method. Many kemcolians have done research electives here and courtesy mainly a few Kemcolian alumni who are now the faculty at JHU. Dr. Ali Hashmi of the Psychiatry department can provide information and help in this regard.  

Uptil now, all the universities that I have mentioned, you should DEFINITELY apply here and pursue them till the end even if they keep saying that we can't keep you. Because these are the places where many kemcolians have done electives in the past and many students have been accepted as of this year. 

Now, the following universities may or may not keep you. I have no data to support this fact but they do accept international students according to their websites.

7) University of Texas, Southwestern:
AF: $150
TF: $25
They only accept international students in two departments. Pediatrics, which requires Step 1 and Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, which requires previous US clinical experience in surgery.

8) University of Kansas:
AF: $600 
TF: none
They don't provide the application to everyone. First you have to write a short personal statement and submit it. If they like it then they give you access to the application. Unfortunately, I did not clear the first step so I don't know what happens next. But you can definitely try your luck here.

9) University of California, San Diego:
AF: none
TF: $250
They have a pre-screening process which started on May 15 this year. My friends and I were among the first people to fill this screening form but unfortunately all of us got the rejections in a couple of weeks. The form just asked you basic biographical information like name and medical school etc. So we don't know what they are looking for to accept students for electives. You can try here too, just for the sake of it.

Following are universities which did not reply to our emails but they may just reply to you. You never know!

10) New York University

11) Tulane University

12) Wakeforest University (they require faculty sponsor)

13) University of Illinois (accepts students from affiliated universities only. From Pakistan, only Aga Khan University and Dow Medical College have affiliation with this university)

14) Henry Ford University (on their website it says that International students are not allowed but I know a few seniors who were accepted here. So the 'no IMGs' status is crap.) 

The Elite:

These are the universities that cost above $2000 but they have considerably higher rates of acceptance.

15) Icahn school of medicine at Mount Sinai:
AF: $1000
TF: $2000
According to what I've heard, they generally accept all students who apply. Well I hope they do, because $1000 is a hefty application fee to pay. I would not want it to go to waste. So if you are willing to take this risk, then you can apply here.

16) Weill Cornell Medical College:
AF: $300
TF: $2000
I deliberated alot about whether to apply here or not. Ultimately I decided that $300 was a huge amount to risk because this college has slightly less rates of acceptance as compared to Mount Sinai. But if you can afford it, then you're definitely welcome to apply.

17) Harvard Medical School:
AF: $100
TF: $4000
It's said that everybody who applies in Harvard, gets accepted. I hope that's true because I've applied here too. (But I won't be going there because I have managed to get accepted at the affordable universities.) They inform about acceptance in early January for electives in February. You can not apply before 6 months. The unique thing about Harvard is that you have to pay the application fee from a bank located in USA. So unless you have relatives or acquaintances living in USA, you can't apply for electives here. 

18) Yale School of Medicine:
AF: none
TF: $3000
The best thing is the "no application fee" part so you should definitely apply in this school. Their unique requirement is a personal statement but if you're following my advice then you would already have written a personal statement so you can send that to them. Their rates of acceptance are least by far of all the 'elite' universities I've mentioned. Nevertheless a friend of mine was accepted here this year. Therefore, you can give it a shot too. You might just get lucky!

The Step 1 requiring:

Now here is a category about which I have no idea. But if you're among those intelligent people who have managed to take step 1 during your medical education then you can apply in the following universities. This list is by no means exhaustible, there may be many more which would take you.

19) Thomas Jefferson University:
minimal fee
They can also provide you electives if you have previous US clinical experience or even a research elective.

20) University of Texas at Houston:
AF: $250
TF: none

21) SUNY downstate:
AF: $175
TF: none

22) Louisiana School of Medicine:
AF: $250
TF: none

23) University of Cincinnati:
AF: none
TF: $250

24) Mayo Clinic

25) Cleveland Clinic

 Did you notice the astoundingly low cost of these 'step 1' universities? See, this is the benefit of an early Step 1. Less khap about finding an elective and once you do get an elective, it is extremely light on your parents' pockets. So do everyone a favor and please try to take step 1 as early as possible. It is very much doable as has been shown by many of our seniors and even some of my brilliant class fellows...!

If you have applied in all the above places and still not managed to get an elective then it's time for you to do a little brain storming. You can either decide to start applying for observerships or you can dump this entire electives plan and start preparing for your steps. If you decide the former then you will have to google the available options. I know of only two places that offer observerships. One is PPS Chicago and the second is Ochsner Medical Center. But I'm sure there are plenty of others. This is simply a field which I have not explored. 

At the end, I would mention the websites which I consulted and which mention a much longer list of electives than mine. 

Very useful and comprehensive website about all aspects of electives.

It states all the requirements of electives and their official websites. You can search almost all US medical schools here.

This is an extremely useful website about all aspects of USMLE and has been founded by a senior Kemcolian. I gained very beneficial information about Toefl preparation and USA visa process among other things from this website.

Lastly, best of luck to all of you in this electives search and in the ultimate residency match as well. If there is any thing else which you want to know about electives, you are always welcome to ask me. This offer is especially open to all my juniors at KEMU. I would be more than glad to help in whatever way I can.

Signing off.

Best Regards.


  1. Wanted to say "Thank you so much"

  2. That was very helpful! Can you do an elective after you finish your prof exams of final year? I am confused because as far as i know they only allow you to do electives while you are still an undergraduate student. Please do reply back fast. Thanks.


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