VSLO stands for Visiting Student Learning Opportunity and is one of the primary ways third and fourth year medical students obtain audition rotations for the fourth year of medical school. 

What are audition rotations?

  • Audition rotations have several different names that float around. Acting internship, sub-I, and aways all refer to audition rotations and are the same thing.
  • These rotations are acquired through an application and allow fourth year medical students to spend a range of time (usually ranging from two to four weeks) at a current residency program.

Why do audition rotations?

  • Why people are interested in completing audition rotations varies person to person, as each person who applies may have a different goal in completing a rotation. Probably the two most common reasons people try to do audition rotations are to further their clinical knowledge and experience, and to experience a residency program they’re interested in applying to in order to see if they may be a good fit for that program.
  • Audition rotations are an excellent way to gain knowledge and get exposure to different specialties or subspecialties within your interested field. The month (or two-weeks) you spend at a program can often be very illuminating into the program culture. Hopefully the experience is a positive one where you leave the rotation excited to apply to the program. If this is not the case, it’s good that you know to save your money so you can  apply to a different program instead.

Who should do audition rotations?

  • Fourth year medical students
  • It is common to hear from medical students that they want to do audition rotations to increase their chances of an interview and matching at a particular residency program. While there is no way of saying with 100% certainty that doing this helps an applicant match successfully, there is also no way of saying it doesn’t help. It is our hope that this is not the primary reason for you completing an audition rotation – after all, most people end up matching at programs where they did not complete an audition rotation. It’s just how the numbers work.
  • With there being so many subspecialties out there, audition rotations are a wonderful way to not only see a residency program, but also to experience a rotation you otherwise would not be able to during your fourth year of medical school. This experience could open doors and ideas for your future in medicine and change a plan you might have previously held. Be open to your learning experiences and enjoy these audition rotations as much as you can. 


  • Application timeline
    • VSLO applications and audition rotation applications on residency program sites vary on when they open. It is often specialty dependent and also changes a lot program to program. In general, most applications open in March/April. You may hear back from programs quickly, but it can also take several weeks or months before you hear a decision on your application. 
    • While it is tempting to reach out to program coordinators about decision timelines and when you might have a decision in your inbox, try to refrain until absolutely necessary. Many residency programs will have projected timelines on their website or VLSO page for audition applicants as a reference for you. If it has been several weeks, or if the time frame you applied to complete a particular audition rotation is coming up in a month or less, we think it is acceptable to email the program coordinator regarding the status of your application. If you are accepted, you will need the remaining time until your audition begins to set up housing and travel.
  • Applying through VSLO
    • Most residency programs accept applications for audition rotations through VSLO. It’s a central application website where you can upload application materials, apply to programs, and accept offers.
    • Some programs may not show up in VSLO when you search the program name. This is frustrating but can usually be resolved by going to the programs page either through VSLO or outside of VSLO through their residency program site and obtaining their program number and searching for the program using that.
  • Applying through residency website
    • While most residency programs accept audition applications through VSLO, there are many programs that accept them through their own website. Unfortunately, this means you must go to each program’s site in order to apply, but on the plus side, you can usually avoid an application fee when applying outside of VLSO.
  • General application ideas
    • Do not hesitate to reach out to program coordinators if you have issues with websites or seeing program information. Certainly review the program website and avoid calling/emailing coordinators if you can, but if you need information, just ask! There is no sense in feeling anxious from a lack of information when you can get the issue resolved.
    • Apply to programs you have a reasonable chance of matching to. You can apply to “reach” programs, but in general we would recommend applying to programs you are interested in and have a good chance of matching to.
  • When and how to schedule
    • On VSLO, you apply to a program and a range of times at the same time. We encourage applying to every time frame where you are available. If you have a rotation already scheduled then don’t apply during that month, but apply to every time frame across each of your applications. You will hear back from programs at different times and your availability may change as you accept rotation offers. When this happens, you can go into VSLO and remove time frames where you are no longer available.
    • As your schedule fills up with audition offers, you may receive offers where you are available for the first three weeks, for example, but have a rotation scheduled to end during the first week. If something like this happens, reach out to the coordinator and see if the program can work with your availability to schedule you. It may be that they are able to accept you for three weeks or add on a fourth week at the end of the three weeks.
    • In general, we recommend scheduling audition rotations after you are finished taking USMLE Step 2/COMLEX Level 2 and before January. The reasoning behind this is because a lot of ERAS interview offers and dates are scheduled in December and January. This means two things for you as the applicant: it is difficult to complete a rotation during December/January because of interviews and completing an audition after or during this time frame decreases the already small influence completing an audition rotation at a residency program has for interview offers.
  • What about changing rotations?
    • Try to avoid accepting an offer from a program and then rejecting them. It wastes your time, the program’s time, and runs the risk of taking an audition spot from another applicant.
    • When your availability changes, such as when you accept an audition offer or if another life event comes up, remember to go into VSLO and change your application by removing dates where you are no longer available.
    • Even if you change your availability as soon as it changes, it may still occur where a program offers you a date to rotate in which you are no longer available. Communicate this change to them and ask if there are other dates you may be able to complete the rotation. Most programs are quite understanding about scheduling conflicts due to the nature of the applications.
  • How many rotations should I apply to?
    • The answer to how many programs medical students should apply to depends on many things, including how many audition rotations they want to complete.
    • Each VSLO application requires an application fee and expenses will add up quickly. Keep in mind you will have to pay for a place to live during the audition rotation as well as for the ERAS application, which is more important than doing audition rotations. Make a budget and stick to it.
    • Be mindful of the programs you apply to through VSLO. Often students will do audition rotations for the programs they are most interested in or have ties to regionally. There is no sense in trying to complete a ton of audition rotations just for the sake of completing them; instead, come up with a game plan – apply to more spots than you want, apply to programs you are genuinely interested in, and be mindful of expenses. If you are faced with choosing to apply to a program through VSLO or ERAS due to expenses, we recommend applying through ERAS only. Remember, most people end up matching at a program where they did not complete an audition rotation. 

Application Components

  • Program-specific application
  • AAMC standardized immunization form
  • CV/Resume
  • BLS/ACLS training
  • USMLE Step 1 or COMLEX Level 1 score
  • Professional photograph
  • Transcript
  • Affiliation agreement: this is a documented agreement between your school and the program you are completing the audition rotation through
  • Letter of good standing
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Personal health insurance
  • Personal statement: it can be a rough draft, or the final edited version of your personal statement you plan on uploading to ERAS; often times they are rough drafts and programs understand a finalized version will come at the time of your ERAS application

Completing the Audition Rotation

  • Succeeding in the OR and Succeeding with Skills should be good places to start on how to do well during your surgery audition rotation, and the same ideas translate to other specialties.
  • Meet with the program director (PD) during your audition rotation. Some PDs will schedule this meeting ahead of time since most auditioners will want a chance to speak with them, but other PDs leave it up to the auditioner to set up meetings. Once you have accepted an audition, you can ask the coordinator about setting up this meeting. Additionally, once your rotation has started, you can ask residents about setting up meetings with the PD or other faculty to express interest, ask questions, and learn more about the program.
  • Housing. As far as determining where to stay during the rotation, there are a few different options available to you.
    • Residency website. Some programs have residents that offer rooms to visiting medical students for rent. Check out the program website and email the program coordinator to see if this is an option. It may be the best option.
    • Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) housing. AHEC housing is an option for certain health science students in certain areas of the U.S.
    • RotatingRoom. This is essentially an Airbnb specifically made for the medical community.
    • Airbnb
    • Extended stay hotels


  • VSLO: search for residency programs offering audition rotations
  • Residency Explorer (free): learn about individual residency programs; includes number of positions offered in the NRMP MATCH, number of applications the program received, and the percent of applicants that were interviewed
  • FREIDA (free, with option to purchase subscription): search for residency programs accredited by the ACGME
  • Prepping for Auditions & Residency: more information regarding decisions around applying and preparing for away rotations plus additional advice; some information is specific for Ob/Gyn applicants

Email surgerystudentweb@gmail.com with questions regarding VSLO and audition rotations.