How to pick the 3rd year rotation schedule?

I have a questions to those who already went through their third year. In our school the students are assigned to the rotation groups through a lottery… so to some degree we can influence the order of rotations. The lottery works a little bit like ‘the match’. We rate our top 3 schedules, and about 85% of students are assigned to one of these (at least this is what we were told).

So our lottery opens tomorrow, and we have 2 weeks to submit our preferences.

Is there any way batter than others to do the rotations? does it even matter which on I take first, and which I take last? Is it better to start with internal medicine, or psych? or OB/Gyn or surgery? Peds?

Would be grateful for any thoughts!



It really depends, Kasia. A lot of people like to load the harder stuff early (surgery, OB, IM) and coast through the end of the year. Other people like to start off easy. A general rule is that if you think you are interested in a specialty you want to schedule it as your third or fourth rotation. You really want to shine if you are interested and many people like to have a couple of rotations under their belt. It can also be good to do specialties you think you might be interested in fairly early in the year so that you get a chance to try them out before scheduling for 4th year.

I personally chose to do surgery and OB first and get them out of the way. I then scheduled “lighter” rotations like psych/neuro and ambulatory over the winter months. A lot of people suggested that doing IM last was a good idea if you plan on taking step 2 early as the IM shelf exam is pretty comprehensive and will be good preparation for it.

There’s not really a right or wrong way to schedule - a lot of it comes down to personal preference. Good luck!!

I based mine on when I want my vacation.

At WVSOM, everyone gets 8 weeks of family medicine first. That gives you a basic background for all the other rotations to follow. For us, 3rd year was pretty much set up by the clinical ed department, without a lot of input by the student, except as to when you would want vacation time.

Good luck. . . and have fun!

What did you end up getting, Kasia? I’m doing…

Family Medicine


Internal Medicine






My only strategy was to do family medicine first for the reasons that the lady described above-- a nice overview.

We start July 13! My Step 1 is June 30.

At OSU, we don’t get any choice about vacation during 3rd year. They throw a week break in the fall and a week break in the spring (plus ~ two weeks at Christmas), but other than that we have six 8 week-long rotations: ambulatory (one month FP/one month elective), psych/neuro (one month each), surgery, ob/gyn, peds, and IM.

4th year we get 3 vacation months and we have to do 4 months that meet specific requirements and 4 months of electives.

I won’t know what I got until some point in April when they announce the lottery results. We have 12 possible schedules. I rated as my tope choices the ones that ended easily, b/c we might try to have a baby at some point during the summer between the 3rd and 4th year, or so (if the nature cooperates), and I picked up the most difficult + time consuming in the middle, so I already had some stuff under my belt… I’ll post my schedule in couple of months when I know the final version.

My step 1 is on 6/26 (I was trying to add a ticker to my profile, but the software isn’t too cooperative) ;).

Hey Matt, don’t you have to do Neuro rotation?


At Maryland we had NO say in our third year schedule, though you could trade with other people. Our third year was divided into two halves and then each half was divided into two three month blocks. The divisions were:

6 month block-- Surgery (3 mo), neuro (1 mo), psych (1 mo), family med (1 mo)

6 month block-- Peds (6 wk), OB (6 wk), IM (3 mo)

Then within each of those blocks the three months pieces could be reversed (i.e. neuro/psych/FP then surgery). These were all mandatory rotations and there were no electives in our third year. T hat was something the students and the associate dean were trying to change (give a one month elective during third year so that people could explore other things like ophtho, rad-onc, rads, etc).

The order I listed is how I was assigned mine. While I didn’t like the fact that I had IM last since that was one of the specialties I was considering, Liked having surgery first so I could get it out of the way. If I could do it again, I would have done IM earlier in the year because I was down to the wire in June of my third year deciding between IM and neuro.

It’s always interesting to me how different medical schools have 3rd year set up and how different people think about 3rd year. We’re allowed to preference third year however we think we want it with various permutations (6 rotations x 6 time blocks = 36 different choices). We submit our schedule and then they use a computer to randomize selection. The process worked out well for me (I got everything exactly how I wanted it), but I know some people who didn’t get anything where they wanted it. Whether or not that was indicative of pure luck or strategy in placing picks, I don’t know. Current med 2’s will probably begin submitting their schedule soon, but they won’t find out until late march/early april after the current med 3’s have their schedules completed for next year (it affects the number of spots available for med 3’s in certain rotations).

For med 4 scheduling, our process is different than above. Everyone has to do a Doc-2 month, which is outpatient ambulatory (IM or FP). The only choice you get on that rotation is what month you want it. So, for our first round of selection, we preference what month we want our Doc-2 and preference two other months (can be elective or required). They then randomize and run everybody through the computer. The rest of the process is determined on how many of your initial picks you got. If you didn’t get any of your first round picks, you are in the first group to competitively schedule three courses. I actually got all of my choices, so I am in the last round for competitive scheduling and I will get to fill my schedule at that point. It seems overly complicated, but it appears to be better than the year where all 200+ medical students were competitively scheduling online at the same time and the system crashed when they all tried to submit their picks at once.

At TCOM we have a similar lottery system. I figured I’d get the hard ones out of the way and went with IM/Surg/Family first and am ending with OMM/OB/Peds…

I’ve heard people say that IM should be done last as it’s the hardest and others say to knock it out first…

Personally, I figured that coming off of boards was the most medicine I’d ever know so I’d better hit IM first. It actually turned out great. IM is a good foundation to have for the rest of the year and the clerkships that follow. The shelf was my highest thus far so I have no complaints. Again, YMMV…

Kasia, just have to let you know that out of 10 choices in the lottery, I got my 11th! I got my tenth choice and then traded with someone who was in a crisis situation to get something I hadn’t even looked at. I am having the big three at the end and I don’t think it’s made any difference. So don’t worry too much about the lottery. No matter what track you get in, it will have plusses and minuses and it will all work out in the end.


Hey Matt, don’t you have to do Neuro rotation?



We do-- neurology and surgical subspecialties are required rotations and can be taken during the two listed “elective” blocks in 3d year or some time in 4th year. Advanced internal medicine is a required rotation and MUST be taken in 4th year.

So I got my 3rd year schedule lottery results today!

I got my top choice schedule + it looks like I’m going to have an awesome group; most of the people in my group are older + good percentage of them is already married. Those of them who I know closer, are have good work ethics and are really hard working - it should be motivating; I’m getting along with them. I’m really happy! Me and this other girl are going to be group directors - which means we’re going to act as liaison between the students and clerkship directors, attendings and curriculum office; we’re going to be in charge of organizing call schedule etc.

I’m going to start last week of July with 6 weeks of Psychiatry, then 6 weeks of OB/GYN, 12 weeks of Medicine, 8 weeks of Surgery, a month of Family Medicine and Neuro each + 8 weeks of pediatrics. I know that OB/GYN, Medicine and Surgery in a row might seem crazy; but I’m going to get two weeks off for Christmas in the middle of Medicine to catch my breath… plus I’m going to finish on a little bit lighter foot.

OK - off to bed. I’m so exhausted!


Exciting!! Congrats!! You’ll have to keep us posed as you go through your rotations.

Congrats on getting your top choice Kasia!!!

  • RAdamson Said:
Congrats on getting your top choice Kasia!!!

It wasn't really anything I did. I just got lucky in a lottery!

It’s still congrats on the good luck!!!

Kasia and I are going to be in medicine at the same time.