Author: Linda Katirji MD, Assistant Director of Medical Student Education, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Ohio on behalf of the Advising Students Committee in Emergency Medicine (ASC-EM)
As applications for Emergency Medicine away rotations begin to open, many students have been asking what programs are looking for when they request a letter of interest.
The letter of interest essentially is a way for clerkship directors to see who is genuinely interested in the program. It is meant to ensure visiting student rotation slots go to EM bound applicants who are genuinely interested in a program/area. As far as visiting student rotation applications, some programs view it as the single most important piece of data we use to select which students to invite for rotations.
These statements are brief, but have the potential to set students apart from the crowd. This post gives a few basic guidelines for students writing letters of interest to apply for EM away rotations.
1. Follow directions!
This is possibly the simplest YET most important piece of advice for letters of interest. If a program has asked a certain question to be answered – make sure the student’s letter answers them. If there is a word limit or guideline for length, stick to that.
2. Show interest
Students will have the opportunity to write his or her personal statement on their ERAS application – this, on the other hand, should be a true letter of interest in the program. The letter of interest is an opportunity for students to say why they want to rotate at a program, in the area, or a combination of both.
Some questions you students may consider are:
- What are they hoping to gain from the rotation experience?
- Are they looking for more exposure to urban EM vs. community EM?
- Do they want to be near family/friends/ support system?
- What is their potential connection to the rotation site?
- Are they interested in sub-specialties that our program may offer (toxicology, US, EMS, etc)?
The letter of interest allows some excellent candidates to surpass the objective grading system based on their sheer interest in the program. It is helpful for programs to see who genuinely had an idea of why they would want to spend time rotating – so make sure students use this section of their application to their full advantage.
3. Highlight yourself
Have the student briefly highlight anything about themselves of interest whether it be prior accomplishments or future goals. Based on things they may identify about themselves, the letter of interest can also potentially provide a sense of “fit” for the program.
4. Show commitment
Students can describe “why EM” and include aspects of the variety of patient, procedures, leadership, and personal qualifications. It is important and okay to touch on this, however programs understand that many students applying in early MS3 year may not have even had an EM rotation. Some have had only limited exposure with their EMIG or shadowing, or maybe prehospital exposure and are looking for the rotations to solidify their decision. Have students be prepared to delve further into this in their personal statement.
5. Keep it brief – less is more
Clerkship directors and program administrators will have many applications to read through, and ultimately things blend together. The student should emphasize quality over quantity!
If you have any more tips for students writing letters of interest for away rotations, leave them below!