Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
MD Education

Frequently Asked Questions

Submitting Your Application

 Who do I need to contact to schedule a clinical clerkship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Lurie Children's Hospital or Shirley Ryan AbilityLab?

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 a department or 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?

Our official policy 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 begins with VSAS and the Visiting Student coordinator.

 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 and drop requests and cannot be maintained in real time. For this reason, all electives are considered open unless they have been closed in VSAS. 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. 

 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 rotation calendar.

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

 Can I modify the Northwestern calendar?

No. All visiting students must follow the rotation calendar and policy. Faculty members cannot override medical school policy. You should only apply to blocks if you know you will be able to attend their full rotation, per the Visiting Student Academic Calendar. Certain surgical electives such as urology, plastic surgery, neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery and others may be flexible. If you are interested in an elective in the Department of Surgery and your calendar does not align with the Northwestern calendar, please email the visiting student program coordinator at You must still adhere to all application deadlines.

 How can I know if an elective has any additional or special requirements?

Some, but not all, electives have additional or special requirements for applicants. This may be a prerequisite, a personal statement or specific requirements for the Letter of Recommendation. If an elective has any of these requirements, they will be listed in the comments section of the VSAS elective description and in our elective catalog. Check both locations to confirm whether the elective has special requirements. 

Letters of Recommendation

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

You 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 requirements. All LORs must contain a faculty member’s signature and be on official letterhead. LORs should be uploaded by your home school only.

 Who should my letter of recommendation be addressed to?

LORs should be addressed to "Visiting Student Programs" unless otherwise indicated in the elective catalog description


 What if a grade for one of my core clerkships does not appear on my official transcript?

Please submit your most updated transcript.  If, however, a grade is unavailable, your home school will be able to verify in VSAS the date you have or will complete a core rotation or other course. All core clerkships must be completed before you can begin an elective.

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., to VSAS along with the four-page form. 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 program coordinator to ensure that the four-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. At this time, 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.

Personal Statements

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

Personal statements are required by some 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’s a short statement about your career goals. 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.

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 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 here.

Global Partner Student Applications

 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 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 Feinberg School of Medicine?

Global Partner students 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 this application. Global Partners cannot apply using VSAS.

 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. 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 U.S. 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 VWP, 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 two weeks prior to your arrival. The health insurance fee is $225 for one rotation or $405 for two rotations. 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 nine 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 United States, you may submit these with your immunization application. Do not submit TB tests of any kind that were performed outside of the continental United States.

 What are the health requirements for a Global Partner 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 student health insurance.

 I have a TOEFL score that is older than two 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?

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.

 Can the TOEFL be waived?

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 a Global Partner student and 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 four 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 U.S. currency. You may send it via email or fax. You will be notified if it does not meet our requirements.

Application Review Process

 How are applications processed by Northwestern through VSAS?

First, we determine the eligibility of an applicant. To be marked as eligible, an applicant must have submitted all required portions of the application and must meet all of our basic requirements. Required documents include both the required VSAS standard documents (there are four) as well as any supplemental documents. If an applicant is missing any of these items or there is an error within them, the applicant will be marked as ineligible and is notified. When these missing or erroneous items are corrected, the applicant status can then be changed to eligible.

Once the applicant is determined to be eligible, each application is reviewed to determine if it meets all of the elective-specific criteria. If it does, then that application becomes available for scheduling and the status is listed as pending host institution review. If the individual application does not meet the criteria in the elective catalog, then that application is marked denied and the student is notified. If these criteria are met at a later time, the individual application can have the denial status removed and marks as available for scheduling.

An application marked as available for scheduling is not yet accepted. 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.

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

Slots are very limited. Applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis based on the date they are completed 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 indicates when your home school has released your application to Northwestern for processing. It will also 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: Your application is marked as ineligible until these errors or omissions are corrected. 
  • Once your application is complete: If your application was originally marked as ineligible and you have corrected all errors or 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.

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

If your application is marked as ineligible or denied due to missing or erroneous items, you will be notified of this via VSAS. It is the responsibility of the student to submit a complete application for consideration. Please note that 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 VSAS page and the elective catalog descriptions for the electives to ensure that they have met 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 busy summer and fall rotations.

 How can I find out about the status my application?

Please allow a minimum of 30 to 60 days for your application to be released by your home school and reviewed. Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are released to us by home schools. Please check VSAS for the most up-to-date status information. Do not call the Visiting Student Office or contact course directors, coordinators or faculty to check on the status of your application.

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

Accepted Students

 How will I know if I am accepted?

In order to be fully accepted to our program, you must receive notification from VSAS. Any approval or notification received directly from department does not signify that you have been accepted to rotate. Registration is restricted to a maximum of eight weeks. If you have not received either an acceptance or denial email from VSAS within 30 days of your home school releasing your application, you may email to inquire as to the status. Please do not call.

 I have received notification through VSAS that I have been accepted to rotate. What do I need to do to secure my place in the elective?

In addition to accepting the elective offer on VSAS, a registration fee of $150 per elective is required in order to secure your elective and must be received within 14 days of an offer. Failure to submit this fee will result in the withdrawal of the offer. This fee is non-refundable.

If the offer is withdrawn due to lack of response or payment within the 14-day time frame, you are not allowed to reapply for the same elective at the same time. You may apply for the same elective during a different time frame or for a different elective; however, if you are again accepted and fail to respond or submit payment by the deadline, you will no longer be eligible to apply for any electives.

 I have been accepted to rotate, but I would like to change my dates or my elective choice. Is this possible

No. All assignments are final. Once a student has been scheduled to rotate, no change in elective choice or rotation block will be allowed. This policy cannot be overridden by a department, attending or any faculty member.

 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?

If you can no longer attend an elective which you have accepted, you must notify the visiting student coordinator via email no later than four 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 rescheduling of electives is permitted. If you fail to notify the visiting student coordinator at least four 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 coordinator 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.

 What are the housing options?

The Visiting Student Program cannot assist you with housing. Accepted students are expected to secure housing on their own. For some local housing options, please refer to the Housing page.

 Do I need a white coat?

Yes, please bring a waist-length white coat from your home institution. These may also be purchased from the uniform hospital shop in the lobby of the Galter Outpatient Pavilion (675 N. St. Clair St.).

 What is the dress code in the hospital?

Please refer to the First Day page for guidelines.

 Do I need to bring my own scrubs?

No. Scrubs will be provided during your rotation.

 I would like to do some advanced reading before my rotation. How can I find out more information?

Please contact the visiting student coordinator to obtain this information.

 I need to request time off during the rotation. Who should I contact?

If you must miss a day, you must always inform your supervisor (resident/attending) and your department. Time off is always requested in advance and approval is obtained by your supervisor or department. Be sure to obtain important phone numbers/pager numbers of your supervisors. Please also inform the visiting student coordinator of any time-off request.

 I would like to request a letter of recommendation from a faculty member with whom I worked during my rotation. Is this possible?

The Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education does not handle letters of recommendation for visiting students. If you request one from a faculty member, it is your responsibility to have this taken care of. Our faculty members are in no way obligated to provide you with a letter of recommendation. As a professional courtesy, we strongly recommend that you provide a pre-addressed, stamped envelope for the faculty member to mail your letter of recommendation to the appropriate person at your home institution. Do not have the letter sent to our office.

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

 If a spot opens up, can I be placed?

No. Information is not provided regarding availability and we do not maintain waiting lists. Do not contact course directors, coordinators or faculty regarding availability. Contacting any of these parties may result in your ineligibility for current and future rotations. In order to be considered for other electives or time frames, you must reapply through VSAS.

 I am willing to participate in any elective that has availability. Is this possible?

No. In order to be considered for other electives, you must reapply through VSAS.

 Can I reapply?

Yes, you may reapply through VSAS. Your new application will be considered in the order in which it is received. You may only apply for time frames where the deadline has not already passed. Please check the rotation calendar for deadlines prior to submitting a new application.

Evaluation and 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 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 Program staff in the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education, copied for our records and 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 two to three months.