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Interview Questions (for usc md/phd program)

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by utgrad, Dec 19, 2005.

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  1. utgrad

    utgrad Junior Member

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    What type of questions do most people ask at these interviews?

    This is one insightful list I found from the usc program-

    1. What is average graduate debt (for unfunded positions)?
    2. How far from campus do students typically live?
    3. How do USMLE board scores compare to the national mean?
    4. How many program events are held per year?
    5. Do you have a list of recent student publications?
    6. Do students file income taxes?
    7. Is spanish-fluency a must for the wards?

    In my interviews the best way I've found to get behind the marketing schemes to better understand programs is to ask questions at the end of interviews or during dinners with other students. I've been trying to get a better feel for what it would actually be like to spend 8 years at one of these places..
  2. irvine4

    irvine4 Junior Member

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    yeah i think i saw something like that- is that from that reviewhttp://www.geocities.com/mdphdpgm ?

    Those questions would probably give you the best indication of your experience at an MD/PhD program but it takes a lot of guts to ask (and you run the risk of them thinking you're not that interested). I don't know how else to tell one program from another- there are the rankings but those are for the school, not the program (for example medical schools at AECOM & irvine are ranked below usc in USNews but they have had mstp funding for many years- so apparently the nih has a much different opinion)

    I wish I could pick random students to interview instead of being assigned students who are marketing the school.
  3. utgrad

    utgrad Junior Member

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    yes that was the review.

    my interview with the usc md/phd program is in feb, maybe I'll have the chutzpah to ask those questions.
    the students at dinner usually dont have input into the admissions process (though they did at my northwestern interview :( ) so maybe then would be a good time to work those thoughts into conversation.


  4. Neuronix

    Neuronix Super Corgi Away! Administrator SDN Senior Moderator SDN Advisor

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    Very important is:

    8. What is your average time to graduation.

    Don't except waffling/old data/"We're hoping to lower it" blah blah nonsense. Ask for an average number and hope it's close to 7.5. Unfortunately, asking too many questions may make you look too critical or uninterested, so it's something of a game. I feel like PDs just want to hear nonsense little bogus questions when they ask you "Any questions?" and don't really wanna hear "So, are MD/PhDs required to TA?" Personally, I think that's a waste of time for a MD/PhD, but it's funny that where it's required PDs think it's great and where it's not PDs think it's a waste. When you hear a higher graduation time, think about why that might be. TA requirements? Rotation requirements? Grad school and med school course or elective requirements? All minor things to think about.

    As far as question 2. is concerned, that depends alot on the living situation. If you have a suburban or rural med school, do the students get parking? Personally, I would hate having to have a car only for it to be very inconvenient to use (i.e. Baylor (car + shuttle unless you bike), Pitt (bus required for the med school part), Mayo (car + shuttle), etc...). URochester and Duke get props for actually giving their students good parking.

    At any urban schools you're not going to have a car anyways, so look for convenient subway stops or nearby housing. I am surprised when I see students interview here at Penn who think they can live in the burbs and commute. I can understand their confusion--very few of the faculty at the med school actually live in the city--but that very rarely happens for students because it would be such a pain since students don't get parking. Consider also if you can enjoy the city you're living in. UChicago was a school that surprised me in how difficult it was to get into the heart of the city if you lived very close to the school. Some areas are so expensive you have to think if you can really afford to have the kind of lifestyle you want. i.e. do you mind student housing or studio living? Check that out. Do you want to buy? Hope you have parent money or live somewhere really cheap.

    As for #1, I would honestly try to avoid any school that still has unfunded positions. For #3, it's not really important. For #6, students legally should be filing federal income taxes, though state/city/regional obligations vary from location to location. Another good question (that surprisingly few PDs know the answer to) is whether MD/PhDs are eligible for loans. This varies from instiution to institution.

    For #7, how many non-latino MD/PhDs are Spanish fluent? Somehow I don't think that one is a big deal either.

    Other things to consider: how well integrated is the program? Is there some MD remaining in the PhD part and some PhD remaining in the MD part? Consider what these programs actually are and whether you want to be a part of them. For example, here we're required to continue a med school class into the first six months of our PhD that many (but not all) of us think is completely useless. Do you get clinical exposure before going off to research? I think getting into at least one rotation before starting research is an awesome way to figure out what you want to do in research and give you focus for when you're done. You may think you want to do surgery, IM, whatever... But you have no idea until you see what life is like every day (i.e. not just shadowing) in what you think you might want to do. How flexible is the program? If your PI goes somewhere else after 3 years of grad school, is it ok if you take off with them for awhile or do you get screwed? How would they feel if you wanted to take some time off? Is there any time for taking time off built into the program?
  5. Doctor&Geek

    Doctor&Geek 25 > 5 / 15 < 8 Lifetime Donor

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    Beware, as that "review" was written with somebody with a chip on his/her shoulder.
  6. utgrad

    utgrad Junior Member

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    no one has pointed out any errors in that review, so I don't know what I can do other than to believe it.

    The question about TAing during grad school is a good one- it doesn't sound like a great idea of it prolongs graduation any.

    I don't know how to get accurate info about graduation time- maybe the best way is to talk to prior md/phd students from labs of interest since that would seem to depend as much upon the lab as anything.

    As for question #7 - I've heard that spanish fluency makes patient interviews take half as long on the wards at USC- though that wouldn't be a problem for me.

    parking and housing costs also seem to be good questions- the same stipend can go a lot further somewhere like st. louis or pittsburgh that LA or NY.
  7. Doctor&Geek

    Doctor&Geek 25 > 5 / 15 < 8 Lifetime Donor

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  8. utgrad

    utgrad Junior Member

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    the intransit site gives some info about interview day (though I will find that out when I visit anyway) and actually very little information about programs themselves. As for direct comparison, there is nothing there to contradict the other site other than the statement that funding is expected within a few years (which I highly doubt, when the program just contracted)

    I'm glad this forum is used to hear the opinions of students from within programs whom I would otherwise not be able to hear from- theres no way they would let me talk to them on interview day. Hopefully more students with differing views will post their opinion about advantages/drawbacks of the program they're in. Maybe the fact that usc is such a rarity in having openly unhappy students says something in itself.


    in any case now I'll have a few good questions to ask next month in LA (of course making sure none of the students have any admissions input first ;) )
  9. Doctor&Geek

    Doctor&Geek 25 > 5 / 15 < 8 Lifetime Donor

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    Actually, I would think that somebody taking advantage of internet anonymity to set up a knockoff of Prabjot's website and start posting innocent little scribbles linking to it is more likely to be a troll, not somebody with legitimate complaints or criticism.

    If you're a disgruntled applicant or student, you might state your opinions on this forum. Why then does one have to go to the extent of setting up fake websites and pretending to be an unbiased party?

    Haven't we already proven that this guy is bogus (linked in the threads above?). He or she is not even halfways sophisticated.

    I suspect that more than one poster on these threads are internet sock puppets.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_sock_puppet
  10. irvine4

    irvine4 Junior Member

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    wow, actually I thought the site was useful too and though it was a little opinionated overall I'm glad it was posted.. as was the moderator's post, but not the previous one (sorry please dont flame me). is that the program administration trying to cover something up?

    anyways something else to check on interview day may be the distance between institutions in some of these dual programs. Everyone knows about the distance between schools in the cornell tri-inst program, and the ucla or usc/caltech may have some of the same problems, esp. at rush hour. Pitt/CMU was a little more manageable and only about 20 mins walking, though I don't know how much back-and-forth there would actually be once youre attending a school.


  11. Habari

    Habari Senior Member

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    The distance from the 68th St/York intersection to Rockefeller University, Cornell Med, New York Hospital, and Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute is approximately 20-30ft. One would be hard-pressed to take longer than the length of a pedestrian walk light to get from one institution to another. Especially at rush hour.
  12. Hurricane

    Hurricane Senior Member

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    Well, I am one of the students who sometimes does interviews at my MD/PhD program (not USC), and I would be impressed with an applicant who asked such relavent questions. Well, maybe less so now that I know they came off a list on SDN ;)
  13. kamio

    kamio Junior Member

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    I finished my interview with USC so maybe I can help give some pointers.
    1. Currently, all positions are fully funded and students can freely choose to go to either Caltech or USC for their PhD (Previously fixed at 2 Caltech, 4 USC - but students have informed that this was on paper only, there was still flexibility once you get in).
    2. There is on campus housing 2 min away (walk) from the lecture halls. However, most students live off campus about 45 min away drive. Cheapest housing I heard about is around $500/mo in a decent condo. Student opinions seem to be that a car is a must because everything is very far apart. I've heard one student who bought a '92 used car using only stipend, but usually some parental help may be needed.
    3. Many students rave about the school's board scores. What I heard is that their scores have been rising since they switched to the new curriculum a few years back. Apparently this year, they are only a couple points below Harvard.
    4. I am not sure about this one, my impression is maybe 3-4 a year.
    7. Definitely not, I have met students who have never had to use Spanish even in their weekly clinical course (they do patient interviews) in LAC. An upside is that if you do want to learn Spanish, they offer a free medical Spanish course and you'll get plenty of chance to practice.

    Everyone I met during my interviews was extremely friendly so I don't think you need to be worried about asking questions as long as you are asking out of genuine interest in the school. You also get many chances to ask questions to student guides, who don't submit reports on you and have no bearing on admission decisions. Many students told us that they won't be offended by frank questions because they are there to help us decide. In fact, some of them also gave very frank answers, I didn't get the feeling that they were trying to "sell" the school. All the students I met were genuinely happy and mentioned good points about the school that they genuinely loved. My overall impression of the school was positive and they exceeded my expectations. The only real downside of the program that I gathered was the amount of research in the medical school. Quality wise, I don't think they lose out, but they simply don't have as many faculties doing research as the more established schools. So you are out of luck if no one is researching in the field you are interested in. Of course, if you are considering Caltech then the story is different. That being said, the school is determined to climb to the top and is hiring new faculties every year, often big names. In fact, many of the faculties I met were recent recruits. It is also the students' unanimous opinion that the administration takes their feedbacks very seriously to improve the program, and they had plenty of evidence to back it up. I think to summarize my impression of the school, I would say they are truly a school on the rise, with a determined administration and more than enough resources to pull it together - tangilbe improvements are already in place, and every year (well, according to some students, every semester) they are improving more.
  14. kamio

    kamio Junior Member

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    Edit: Sorry - double post.

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