Background: Medical students commonly enroll in courses known as "subinternships" before residency application. This study investigated the experiences and needs of students completing subinternships in surgery. Methods: Electronic surveys were sent to medical students applying to the surgery residency program at our institution and to medical student clerkship directors for distribution nationally. Approximately 700 surveys were distributed with 275 completed (39%). Results: Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated subinternships influenced specialty choice, and 82% of this group applied in general surgery. General surgery applicants rated mentorship (93%) and clerkship experience (92%) as important factors for specialty choice. Technical skills education was rated as beneficial by 89% of respondents, but formal laboratories were included only in 21% of courses. Only 49% received course objectives, and less than 10% were given a reading schedule. Conclusions: Opportunity exists to define a curriculum for surgical subinternships in order to address student needs for specific didactics for residency preparation and technical skill enhancement. © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.