Once you have a specialty, you can start setting up electives. You will get some useful information from your medical school office (depending on the school) and friends. However, despite this, in most cases you will inevitably have to dive into things and do everything for yourself (if your school office does this for you then you're in luck).
First you need to choose a location. Many times its NYC or somewhere in California. The advantage to choosing these places is that they are very familiar with IMG's/FMG's and will many times look upon you favorably, especially if previous candidates from your school left a good impression. If you go outside NYC and California, you risk being looked at as an alien from a foreign medical school who knows nothing. While there are excellent places all over the United States, choosing places that are less familiar with foreigners puts the onus on you to prove your hosts wrong.
You can and should use the info given to you from your school's office to "book" electives. However, should you exhaust the office's list of hospitals or if you have no office to help out, you should know that there are many programs in the New York area and in California. One of the best places to find the various residency programs is the FRIEDA site: Click here for FRIEDA
At this point you will have to start doing the real dirty work, which includes going into each program's website and finding the relevant section on medical student electives. It's a pain in the neck but it simply must be done, there's no way around it. Just for your general info, usually the entire application process consists of filling out a simple application form and a medical status form (which details that you're healthy and that you had all the necessary vaccinations). They may also need some other information like USMLE scores, recommendation letters, and a HIPPA certificate but that is not always the case.
With regards to the medical authorization forms, its best to print out all the ones you will need for all of your electives (including a few spare ones) and have them signed all at once by your doctor. You don't want such technical issues to delay the sending of the material to the various programs.
One of the things many people do not understand is how to schedule everything within the allotted time in the US. First and foremost, this greatly changes depending on your specific status, your school's policy, and the specific hospital in which you do the elective. Some hospitals allow you to schedule electives during any dates you like, while others follow a rigid schedule.
In most cases, the scheduling doesn't matter much as long as you're within the time frame the school gives you and of course that you do the electives continuously. What you do need to remember is that most electives are four weeks. So if you need to do four electives (as in most schools) you must plan for at least four and a half months in the United States. Personally, I spent five months in the US and scheduled my four electives to begin more or less at the first of each month, that gave me a few days off between each elective, which allowed me to regroup and do my best.
I think it is important to mention that I got tired toward my last two electives (especially relevant if you do surgery electives). Therefore, doing your most important electives early on is a good idea. One scheme that works well is to use the first elective to get acquainted to the system (at a less desirable place) and then do your most important electives (most desirable places) second and third. This may be difficult to do schedule wise so don't go crazy if it doesn't work out, its no big deal.
The other issue relating to timing is whether to leave December or January for interviews. Based on personal experience, I don't think it matters one bit. I had interviews in both December and January and I went to all of them. My elective coordinator completely understood and infact encouraged me to go to every interview I got. He told me flat out "its your career, do what you need to do". Now I don't know if that will be the case with every elective coordinator, some may want you to make up days, but I think most completely understand that your priority is to get a residency position.
Despite the above, I did most of my interviews in December. The reason being that I was told "if you get an offer take it as soon as possible" because the programs get more selective towards the end of the interview process. I cannot say if that's true or not for every program, but it certainly holds for some and fits in with human nature. I must remind you though that Christmas is at the end of December, so you wont get any interview offers during that time. This is very nice since it gives you a long relaxing vacation, but from the interview perspective it was a waste of time so do take that into consideration. I don't know if people who had an elective during that time were on duty or were on vacation. In any case you have to have four weeks on each elective for it to count so you don't want to get screwed in that respect (another reason I chose December for interviews).
Setting Up IMG/FMG Electives
Application & Interviews