Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


2017-2018 Visiting Student FAQS / Policies & Procedures

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Application Preparation

  • Who can apply to the Visiting Student Program at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine?

    The Feinberg School of Medicine has adopted the VSAS (Visiting Student Application Service) system for receiving and processing visiting student applications.

    As a result, we can only accept applications from students who attend the following types of institutions:

    • United States medical school: refers to any LCME-accredited medical school located in the United States or Puerto Rico.
    • Osteopathic medical school: refers to any AOA-accredited Osteopathic medical school.
    • Selected students from our Global Partner institutions: a current list of Partner institutions can be found on the Global Partner page of our website and on the Global Partner application form

    Unfortunately, we can no longer accept applicants from schools located outside the contiguous 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico with the exception of Global Partner institutions.

  • What are the basic eligibility requirements for the Visiting Student Program?

    Visiting Student rotations are designed specifically for students enrolled in their final year of medical school who have already completed one full year of in-hospital clinical training prior to an anticipated elective at Northwestern University. It is required that visitors first complete basic clerkships in Internal Medicine, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Pediatrics, and Surgery before participating in any electives. Certain specialty electives may have prerequisites. Please check each individual listing in the elective catalog for details.

  • How can I apply to the Visiting Student Program at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine?

    Applicants should submit a complete application via the VSAS system only.

    You can find our institution page on the VSAS website

    For more information on VSAS, please visit or contact VSAS at or 202/478-9878.
  • Who do I need to contact to schedule a clinical clerkship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Lurie Children's Hospital or Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago?

    All clinical clerkships for non-Northwestern students are arranged by submitting an application via VSAS.  Department heads, coordinators and faculty should not be contacted regarding clinical clerkship opportunities.

  • Can I send paperwork directly to the department or a faculty member?

    No. All application documents and supporting material should be submitted via VSAS only.

  • I have applied for residency through the ERAS system. Do I have to submit all application materials again or can some of the ERAS documents be used?

    The ERAS documents cannot be accessed by the Visiting Student Programs staff or VSAS. All required documents must be submitted via VSAS order to apply for a visiting student rotation.

  • My home institution requires that an affiliation agreement be signed in order for me to complete a rotation at Northwestern University. Is this possible?

    The official policy of Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine is not to sign any type of affiliation agreement with other institutions for visiting student rotations. This policy is in place due to the high volume of visiting students we accommodate each year and the lengthy process required by Northwestern legal counsel to review each affiliation. If your school requires an affiliation agreement, please notify your Dean or Registrar of our official policy before you submit an application.

  • When should I submit my application on VSAS?

    Space is limited and students are placed on a first-come, first served basis. Each time block will automatically close 70 days prior to the start date after which no further applications will be accepted for that time. Please refer to the academic calendar.   Incomplete applications will not be processed.

  • I know a Faculty member who has told me that I may attend their elective. Is automatic acceptance allowed?

    Knowing a Faculty member does not guarantee acceptance to rotate at Northwestern, nor does it allow a student to override policy. To assure credit and fairness, all scheduling is done on a space-available basis and processing is the same for all students. You may certainly include a letter of support from that Faculty member with your supplemental application documents. All application processing initiates with VSAS and the Visiting Student Clerkship Coordinator in the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

  • Can the department reserve a space for me?

    No. Pre-approval is not permitted, as applications must be reviewed by the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education, the appropriate department and Student Health. Students are placed on a first-come, first served basis based on academic merit and availability. In order to be fair to all applicants, departments, coordinators and faculty cannot override this policy.

  • How can I find out about availability of a rotation?

    Please do not contact course directors, department heads or the Visiting Student Coordinator regarding availability. This information can fluctuate hourly due to add/drop requests by NU students and therefore, cannot be maintained in real time. For this reason, all electives are considered open unless it has been closed in VSAS; however, there is no guarantee that an elective will have availability at the time that you apply. Some electives are closed during certain rotation blocks. Please refer to the elective catalog and the VSAS elective description for details. We do not reserve spaces. All students are reviewed and placed on a first-come, first served basis based on academic merit and rotation availability Spaces will not be reserved and students are placed on a first-come, first served basis based on academic merit and availability.

  • When are the application deadlines?

    Each time block will automatically close 70 days prior to the start date after which no further applications will be accepted for that time. Please refer to the Visiting Student Academic Calendar.

    If you are notified of any missing or erroneous items in your application(s) you must submit all items within 2 weeks of the 70 day deadline in order to be considered for that time frame.

    EXAMPLE:  May 19, 2016 is 70 days prior to the start date of the Block 16 time frame. No more applications will be accepted for Block 16 after May 19th.  Any incomplete applications requesting Block 16 as a preferred date will need to be complete by June 2, 2016 (2 weeks from May 19th) in order to be considered for Block 16.

  • Can I modify the Northwestern calendar?
    No. All visiting students must follow the Feinberg School of Medicine rotation calendar and policy set by the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education. Faculty members cannot override medical school policy. You should only apply to blocks for which you know that you will be able to attend the full rotation according to the Visiting Student Academic Calendar. *Certain surgical electives such as Urology, Plastic Surgery, Neurosurgery, Orthopaedic Surgery and others may be flexible. Please email the visiting student program coordinator at if your calendar does not align with the Northwestern calendar, and you are interested in an elective in the department of surgery. Please note that you must still adhere to all application deadlines.
  • How can I know if the elective to which I am applying has any additional or special requirements?

    Some, but not all, electives have additional or special requirements for students who wish to apply to their elective.  This may be a prerequisite, a personal statement, or specific requirements for the LOR.  If an elective has any of these requirements, they will be listed in the Comments section of the VSAS elective description and/or in our elective catalog.  You should check both locations to confirm whether or not the elective has any special requirements.  If none are listed in either location, you can assume that none are required.

    The link for the pdf version of our elective catalog is provided on VSAS in every elective description as well as on our website.

Application Processing

  • How are applications processed by Northwestern through VSAS?

    Review of an application occurs in 2 steps: determining eligibility of the applicant and then review of each individual application for eligibility. Only after both steps are cleared can the application(s) be available for scheduling.

    Our first step is to determine the eligibility of the applicant. In other words, has the applicant submitted all the required portions of the application and do they meet all our basic requirements? Required documents include both the required VSAS standard documents (of which there are 4) as well as any supplemental documents we require. If an applicant is missing any of these items or there is an error within them, the applicant will be marked as “ineligible” and the student is notified of this. When these missing/erroneous items are corrected, the applicant status can then be changed to “eligible.”

    Once the applicant is determined to be eligible, then each submitted application is reviewed individually to determine if the application meets all the elective specific criteria (ex. any prerequisite, special LOR, personal statement, etc.). If an individual application meets the criteria in the elective catalog, then that application becomes available for scheduling and the status is listed as "Pending Host Institution Review."  The application status is listed as "Pending Host Institution Review"  If the individual application DOES NOT meets the criteria in the elective catalog, then that individual application is “denied” and the student receives notification of this. If these criteria are met at a later time, the individual application can have the denial status removed and then be available to the department for scheduling.

    Having an application available for scheduling does not automatically guarantee acceptance.  The department will review the application and determine if an offer should be made based on academic merit and availability as well as any other criteria as determined by the department itself.

  • What are my chances of an acceptance? How can I improve my chances?

    Slots are extremely limited. Applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis based on the date they are complete in addition to academic merit. Incomplete applications will be marked as ineligible until missing or erroneous documents are corrected.  Visiting students are placed only after Northwestern Students are scheduled. Spaces in Internal Medicine sub-specialties, Pediatrics, and Surgery are extremely limited. Summer and fall months (July through October), in particular, are extremely full.

  • What communications can I expect from the Visiting Student Office through VSAS?

    We will notify you by email regarding the following:

    • when your application is released by your home school
      This email is automatically sent to an applicant the moment your home school has released your application to Northwestern for processing. This email will automatically indicate if any of the following four required documents are missing:  photo, transcript, immunization form, or CV.
    • if your application is missing any Supplemental documents or has any errors in either the supplemental or required documents
      An “ineligible” email is sent to an applicant if your application is missing  any of the supplemental documents required to complete your application.  Your application is marked as ineligible until these errors/ omissions are corrected. 
    • once your application is complete (only if your application had been previously marked as ineligible)
      If your application was originally marked as “ineligible” and you have corrected all errors/ submitted missing documentation, your application will be then marked as “eligible” and VSAS will email you regarding this change.
    • once your application is accepted or denied

    An acceptance email comes directly from the Visiting Student Coordinator via VSAS only.

  • Can an incomplete application be processed? How will I know if my application is complete or not?

    Incomplete applications will be marked as ineligible until missing or erroneous documents are corrected.  Incomplete applications will not be considered for an elective.  If your application is marked as ineligible or denied due to missing or erroneous items, you will be notified of this via VSAS (see notifications above).  Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the student to submit a complete application for consideration.

    NOTE: The immunization form and required labs are considered part of the application.  Applications without the immunization form and labs will be considered incomplete and ineligible to be scheduled.

    Applicants should carefully review our Institution Information webpage and the elective catalog descriptions for the electives to which they have applied to ensure that they have submitted all requirements.
  • How long does review of my application take?

    This varies for each department. In order to be accepted, you must have both departmental approval and Student Health clearance. This can take a minimum of 30 days. Application review takes longer for the Summer and Fall rotations which are the most busy times.

  • How can I find out about the status my application?

    Please allow a minimum of 30-60 days for your application, after being released by your home school, to be reviewed by the departments to which you have applied. Please do not call the Visiting Student Office to check on the status of your application.

     Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received (i.e. released by your home school).  When your application is released your application status is “Pending Eligibility Review.”  When your application is determined to be eligible, it becomes available for scheduling by the department.  The application status changes to “Pending Host Institution Review.”  Once the department makes a decision regarding your application, the status becomes either “offered” or “denied.”

    Refer to the FAQ:  How are applications processed by Northwestern through VSAS? for further details.

     Please check VSAS for the most up to date status of your application.  DO NOT contact course directors, coordinators or faculty regarding the status of your application.

     If you have questions regarding your application’s current status, you may contact our office at no earlier than 30 days after you have received email notification that your application was released. 

Letters of Recommendation

  • Who does my letter of recommendation (LOR) need to be from?

    All applicants are required to submit one general letter of recommendation from a physician who has observed you clinically. The letter must comment on your clinical abilities and performance. Letters of Good Standing and Dean's letters are not acceptable substitutes.

    Some departments have specific letter of recommendation requirements. Please check the elective description in VSAS and the visiting student elective catalog carefully for specific LOR requirements.  All LOR’s must contain a faculty member’s signature and be on official letterhead.  LOR's should be uploaded by your home school only.

  • Who should my letter of recommendation be addressed to?

    LOR's should be addressed to "Visiting Student Programs” unless otherwise indicated in the elective catalog description.  LOR's should be uploaded by your home school only.


Health Records

  • Do I have to use the Northwestern Visiting Student Immunization form?

    Yes, the Visiting Student immunization form is a required part of the application. A substitute form is not permitted, however you may attach additional health documentation. Please follow instructions carefully and upload all required lab tests, reports, etc. along with the 4 page form to VSAS. Incomplete health records will only delay your application processing, and you may risk not starting on a desired date.

  • How does the health record review process work?

    Your immunization form is initially reviewed by the Visiting Program Coordinator to ensure that the 4-page form is filled out correctly and that the required labs are attached. Once your main application is complete and your immunization form is correctly filled out, your main application begins review by the departments and your health form and supporting medical documents are sent separately to our Student Health department for medical clearance.

  • How will I know if my records are cleared by Student Health?

    Once Student Health has reviewed your health records, you will be notified by email only if they determine that your records are incomplete. It is then your responsibility to submit the missing immunization forms immediately to the Student Health Office (not the Visiting Student Coordinator or VSAS) in order to gain Student Health clearance. Applications with health records that Student Health has determined are incomplete will be placed on hold and will not continue being reviewed by the departments until all missing documentation is received by Student Health.

Personal Statements

  • How can I know if the elective I wish to apply to requires a personal statement?

    Personal statements are required by some but not all electives.  If an elective requires a personal statement, this will be specified in the elective catalog and the VSAS elective description.

  • The elective I wish to apply to indicates that a personal statement is required. What is a personal statement?
    “It is a concise essay about one's career goals, identified means to achieve them and accomplishments so far towards those goals.” (from Wikipedia) Please state in your own words why you wish to take a particular elective, what you can contribute to Northwestern, and how this elective will help your future career goals.
  • What are the guidelines for submitting a personal statement?

    Your personal statement should not be more than one side of one page.  It must be typed, include your full name and the name of the elective to which you are applying. The personal statement should be your own original work.

    Personal statements found to be plagiarized from another student or the internet will result in the immediate rejection of your application.  Please see the plagiarism policy below:

    Plagiarism policy: Any student found to have copied another student’s work, submitted a personal statement that was found on the internet or any other example where the student was not the author of documentation intended to be an original work, will be notified that they are ineligible for consideration. Their home school will be notified and they will no longer be eligible for any rotation at the Feinberg School of Medicine.


  • Are there any fees?

    Yes, a registration fee of $150 is charged per elective when a student is accepted to rotate.  The fee must be received within 14 days of receiving the acceptance notification through VSAS. Failure to submit this fee will result in the withdrawal of the offer. The payment form is available on our website under “Forms.” Please refer to the Acceptance and Cancellation policies referenced here in the FAQ.

Global Partner (International) Students

  • How can I find out if my school is Global Partner?

    A list of current Global Partners can be found on the Global Partner page of our website and also on the Global Partner application form itself.

  • I am a Global Partner student. How can I apply to the Visiting Student Program at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine?

    Global Partners should first be in contact with the coordinator of their home school regarding participation in the exchange program with Northwestern.  If they are selected to participate, Global Partners may apply to the program using the paper application found on the Global Partner page of our website.  Global Partners cannot apply using VSAS.

    Global Partners should thoroughly review the page of our website for Global Partners.

  • I am a Global Partner student. What are the visa requirements?

    For the purposes of this medical school elective, a B-1 visa is required. Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine does not process visa paperwork for international students. You are required to obtain entry on your own. If you have another visa type (F-1, J-1, etc.) due to rotating at another US medical school or a B-1 visa for any other purpose, this visa cannot be used to rotate at Northwestern. You will be required to show your I-94 form and disclose the conditions of your visa at registration. Once accepted, we can only provide you with an acceptance letter upon request and only after your confirmation form has been received. Letters can take several weeks to reach overseas addresses. Please plan accordingly.

  • I am a Global Partner student. And my home country is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Do I still need to apply for the B1 visa?

    No, if your country of origin is part of the visa Waiver Program you only need to register through ESTA.  A separate B1 visa is not required.

  • I am a Global Partner student. Is the USMLE Step 1 mandatory to apply?

    No, the USMLE Step 1 is not required for Global Partner students; however, if you have Step 1 scores, you should include them with your application.

  • I am a Global Partner student. What is the malpractice insurance policy?

    If your medical school does not provide coverage, Northwestern University will provide coverage for Global Partner students at no additional cost.

  • Is tuition or a registration fee charged?

    No, the Registration fee is waived for Global Partner students. There is no tuition fee charged.

  • Do I have to pay the health insurance fee when I apply?

    No. This fee is not required at the time of applying. Once accepted to rotate, this fee should be paid no later than 2 weeks prior to your arrival. A health insurance fee of $225.00 for one rotation or $405.00 for two rotations is due. Please use the insurance payment form located on the Global Partner page. You will receive a Student Health Insurance Card and brochure of the policy when you register at Northwestern. Students who intend to arrive 9 or more calendar days prior to the start date of their first (or only) rotation will be subject to additional insurance fees. Please refer to the Arrival and Travel form for further details.

  • Do I have to send TB test results when I apply?

    No. You will receive a QuantiFERON-GOLD blood test at Northwestern. This test must be done in the United States. If you have proof of a PPD skin test, chest x-ray or QuantiFERON-GOLD blood test done within the past six months in the USA you may submit these with your Immunization Application. Do not submit TB tests of any kind that were performed outside of the continental USA.

  • What are the health requirements for a Global Partner (international) student if I am accepted?

    The QuantiFERON-GOLD blood test will be required upon your arrival to Northwestern University. You may not participate in clinical activities until this has been completed. The QuantiFERON-GOLD blood test fee is included when you purchase the health insurance. If your test should result positive, further testing or an x-ray and doctor's appointment are required. These additional tests are also covered if you have purchased the NU health insurance.

  • I have a TOEFL score that is older than 2 years. Is this valid?

    No. Your TOEFL exam must be taken within two years of applying for a clerkship.

  • I have not taken the TOEFL, but have another type of English language proficiency exam. Can the TOEFL be substituted?

    No, the TOEFL is mandatory, and no substitutions are permitted. If you have a concern regarding your ability to secure a TOEFL score, please contact the visiting student coordinator via email.

  • Can the TOEFL be waived?

    Yes, but only under one condition: Only students from the following Global Partner institutions may be exempted from the TOEFL:

    • Universidad Panamericana
    • Charité-Universitätsmedizinin
    • Karolinska Institutet
    • Makerere University
    • Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
    • Stellenbosch University
    • University of Jos
    • Trinity College Dublin

    Please contact the Visiting Student Coordinator via email at for an English Language Waiver Form. The completed waiver form should be submitted with your complete application.

  • I am ready to submit my application, however my TOEFL results will not be sent to Northwestern until later. Is this acceptable?

    Your scores may arrive separately from your application, however your application cannot be processed until it is complete which includes the TOEFL scores. TOEFL scores are considered valid only if received directly from ETS. TOEFL scores must be sent directly by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine using the Institutional code: 1547 (Medical Sch; Chicago) and Departmental code: 00 or 99. If no Departmental code option is given, choose "Undergraduate" or leave this area blank.

  • I am a Partner student and I wish to provide my own health insurance during my rotation. What are the requirements?

    If you wish to provide your own health insurance during your rotation at Northwestern, you must submit a copy of your insurance policy in English to the Visiting Student Coordinator no later than 4 weeks prior to your start date. Please note that a detailed policy is required and it must fulfill all these requirements.

    Please note the types of insurance policies that are generally not accepted including travel insurance.

    DO NOT submit your policy directly to the Risk Management office or fill out any forms found on the Risk Management website. These are for office use only and will be completed for you by the Visiting Student office.

    The policy you submit must clearly state that all these minimum requirements are met including dollar amounts. Your submitted policy must be in English and dollar amounts must be in US currency. You may send it via email or fax. You will be notified if it does NOT meet our requirements.

Accepted Students

Denied Students (you were notified via VSAS that your application was denied)


  • I have accepted an offer to rotate, but I can no longer attend the elective. How do I cancel this rotation? What is the cancellation policy?

    Cancellation Policy: If you can no longer attend an elective which you have accepted, you must notify the Visiting Student Coordinator via email no later than 4 weeks prior to your start date even if you have dropped the elective on VSAS.  The Visiting Student Coordinator will then notify the department that you cannot attend. No re-scheduling of electives is permitted. If you fail to notify the Visiting Student Coordinator at least 4 weeks prior to your start date, Northwestern will drop you from any future scheduled elective and your home school will be notified.

    If you are dropped from any elective due to failure to notify the visiting student of a cancellation within the appropriate time frame, you are no longer eligible to apply for any other elective clerkship at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.

  • Is any fee refundable?

    The Registration fee is non-refundable.

Evaluation / Grades

  • My school requires me to use their evaluation form. Is this possible?

    Yes, you have several options to submit a blank evaluation from your home school to be used for your evaluation.  You may upload your blank evaluation directly to VSAS.  You may email your school’s evaluation form to the visiting Student coordinator after you have accepted a rotation and paid the Registration fee.  You may bring  a hard copy with you to Visiting Student Registration on your first day.

    Your evaluation form will be sent to the appropriate department during the second week of the rotation.  Once completed, the original form will be sent back to the Visiting Student Programs staff in the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education, copied for our records, and then forwarded to your school. Students are not allowed to give their evaluation forms directly to departments.  If you do not submit an evaluation form from your home school a Northwestern Evaluation form will be used.


  • When can I expect my grade?

    Evaluations will not be completed by the time you finish your rotation. Grades are requested from departments, sent to the Visiting Student Coordinator for recording and processing, and then sent to your school’s Registrar office. This process can take up to 2-3 months.