Elective Activities

Students in Year Three and Year Four of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine M.D. degree program complete 35 weeks of electives.  

Non-Direct Patient Care and Reading Elective

Students will be allowed to complete no more than eight total weeks of non-direct patient care electives with no more than two weeks of reading electives. If you want to exceed this limit, you must have your adviser petition the associate dean for curriculum in writing at least four weeks before the elective starts.

Non-direct patient care electives include research, teaching and the capstone courses. Each non-direct patient care and reading elective will be clearly marked in the course descriptions. Satisfactory completion of reading electives should include a written report, paper or exam.

Extramural Coursework

Course work not selected from the OASIS catalog is considered extramural course work and require prior approval from the relevant department at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. In special cases, such as international electives or departments not represented at the school, the associate dean for curriculum will provide the necessary approval. An increasing number of schools publish their electives online.

View a Complete Listing of the Extramural Electives Compendium published by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

When scheduling your extramural course work, you may find that the institution to which you are applying requests a letter of good standing and verification of the University's professional liability program and health insurance. The Office of Curricular Affairs will be able to accommodate your requests. Should you need a copy of your transcript or the school seal affixed to your application, the Office of Academic Records can assist you.

The academic performance of students during Year Four is subject to evaluation. If you are planning extramural electives, you must make arrangements to insure that your elective directors complete evaluation forms at the end of each extramural period. It is important that you provide the name of the evaluator and their correct email address on the add/drop form as all evaluations are completed on the OASIS system.

International Electives

The School of Medicine encourages students to plan curricular experiences in foreign countries. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) has published a catalog titled International Health Electives for Medical Students. Availability and price information can be obtained from AMSA, 1902 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091.

Students who are interested in pursuing an international elective are encouraged to consider taking the elective offered by the Department of Community and Family Medicine titled Global Health: Cross Cultural/International Experiences or the elective offered by the Department of Internal Medicine titled Geriatric Care in China.

Two scholarships are offered for fourth year medical students considering an international elective:  Dr. Tom Dooley Memorial International Elective Scholarship Program and The Everett M. Sugarbaker School of Medicine Scholarship Program.  The application process begins the fall of the Year 4 academic year.  Awards are disbursed at the completion of the elective.

All students scheduling an international elective must meet with Gregory Smith, Ph.D., in the Office of Student Affairs.

Away Electives

Away electives are senior year clerkships that you take at a medical education institution other than Saint Louis University School of Medicine and its affiliated hospitals.

Military clerkships are an example of away electives. Many civilians will also want to do one or several away electives to audition for a position in the residency program at that same institution.

Students interested in the most competitive tier of specialties usually opt to do two electives at institutions to which they are applying.  There is some evidence in the medical education literature to indicate that doing so results in a higher success rate in matching into at least some program in that specialty. It also suggests that there is probably no additional benefit to be gained beyond two electives.

Many students trying for programs in the middle tier also feel that it is wise to do away electives. This is especially so for OB/GYN applicants.

Students who are applying for the third tier — those programs where there are plenty of spots for everyone — do not need to do any electives in order to maximize their chances of getting an appointment somewhere in that specialty. However, some students will still choose to do an elective or two if there are one or two programs into which they would particularly like to match.

Timing of Away Electives

If you chose to complete audition electives, we suggest you first complete the senior year floor service or other appropriate senior year clerkship in that same discipline at SLU, then do your elective soon after.

Timing is a particular concern for students interested in the early match specialties or the military matches because those residency programs hold the applicant ranking meetings often as early as December. Prime interview months for these kinds of electives are July, August, September and maybe October.

Students in the NRMP match often use the same months, however, they may also use November, December and occasionally even January, for audition electives, because NRMP specialties do not call for the residency programs to have their ranking meeting until early February.


To obtain an away elective, you must apply to the away institution, indicating the specialty of your choice and your preferred time frame. Keep in mind that almost no school will give you an affirmative answer until they have accommodated all of their own students. Most schools first grant elective opportunities to students from other medical schools in May or June.

If you are planning to do audition electives in September or October, do not request important Saint Louis University-based clerkships at that time when filling out your Year Four course request list with the Office of Academic Records. Instead, consider requesting electives you would be willing to give up if you get your preferred away elective and sign up for important SLU electives through our matching process. This gives you a backup position while you wait to hear if you have been accepted for your away elective.