3 Rejections and No Interview Invites so far.. what to do?

Feb 25, 2014
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Hi guys, I was wondering if I could get some advice.

I applied to around 20 MD/PhD programs in late July/early August and so far have received 3 rejections and 0 IIs. Naturally, this is worrying me and I'm thinking of what I can do at this point. Is it too late to add more schools? Should I e-mail the schools that rejected me and ask the reasons/what I can do to improve?

I applied with a 36/3.7 with solid research and strong letters but little volunteering so I am getting worried that maybe the clinical volunteering is holding me back (only have like 100 hours).
 

candbgirl

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Did you apply to any MD programs? How much shadowing? Did you have any ECs that are non-clinical? It might be your overall EC package is lacking. You could try calling the places you were rejected but I wouldn't expect much. This is a really busy time and they probably don't have time to review your file and talk to you now and some schools just don't do that at all.
 
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LizzyM

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In my experience, MD/PhD programs tend to review all the applications and bring people in for interviews after new year. You haven't received decisions from 17 schools and I think that you need to give it time. If you have not had at least one poster presentation, publication, or small grant award (e.g. funding for summer research) and if you have not had at least 12 months of bench experience then you may be a relatively weak candidate for MD/PhD. While it is late, you might want to add a few MD applications (different schools) if you'd rather go to an MD program than sit out a year and reapply.

To get any love in MD/PhD you need to be a strong MD candidate as well as a strong PhD candidate. Figuring out which is weaker will be the key to being a stronger reapplicant (or changing gears).
 

GrapesofRath

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Well where all did you apply to as well? The average MD/PhD matriculant has a 3.8/35. Note the key word here is average; not top tier programs. Your stats fall in those lines but if you applied way too top heavy that could cause problems as well.

I don't think 100 hours of clinical volunteering would cause major problems for MD/PhD programs. What's more likely to cause problems(if you end up not getting an acceptance) is that these programs are just absurdly competitive. The average MD/PhD applicant who gets rejected from every single school they apply to WITHOUT ONE INTERVIEW has a 3.7/32. Those are along the lines of stats of MD matriculants just to give perspective in the nature of the beast you are dealing with when it comes to MD/PhD programs.

That said, like LizzyM pointed to, 3 rejections this early in the game is hardly some cause for real concern.
 
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gonnif

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To add further to @LizzyM and @GrapesofRath, some MD/PhD applicants must go thru separate MD and PhD committees. Therefore, not only do you have longer lead times for all this review, the PhD committee may wait to see if you have made it thru MD before going forward. I also find that MD/PhDs programs are really looking for indepth research above and beyond what most UGs tend to do. Since research has become a defacto MD requirement presented by many applicants, it becomes harder to stand out
 
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Dec 7, 2014
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I was in your shoes last year. I eventually got two II. I eventually had to reapply, and this year I'm doing much better.

As everybody else is saying, it's still extremely early. If you look at the MD/PhD II thread, many schools haven't released a single II yet - most MD/PhD programs operate on a later schedule than MD offices. That being said, it might not be a bad idea to apply to more lower tier programs. It's not too late at this point.

Identify which areas of your app are weakest, and improve them throughout the year. Volunteer/shadow so that your app is stronger, in case you need to reapply next year.
 
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Gandyy

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As someone with a good friend who applied MD/PhD with a 3.8/35 and didn't get into a single school and ended up having to waste a year of his life reapplying the following year......please apply to some regular MD programs. It's not too late.
Yea MD is already really tough to get a single acceptance to. I cant imagine MD/PhD.
 
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LizzyM

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The MD/PhD programs will tell you that you will be considered for MD if you are turned down for MD/PhD but the truth is that they don't make there decisions until so late in the season that it is a moot point.
 

gonnif

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The MD/PhD programs will tell you that you will be considered for MD if you are turned down for MD/PhD but the truth is that they don't make there decisions until so late in the season that it is a moot point.
Not all, as one of my students found out a few years ago. Some will automatically roll you over into MD, some will ask you if want to be considered, some just reject.
 
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LizzyM

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Not all, as one of my students found out a few years ago. Some will automatically roll you over into MD, some will ask you if want to be considered, some just reject.
Whichever it is, it is almost always too late to matter.
 

gonnif

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There are a handful of programs (UCSF, UIC) which will consider you simultaneously for MD and MD/PhD, but they are rare.
I was under the impression this was relatively common to be considered for both MD and MD/PhD at same time
 
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Most of the programs I'm applying to do it sequentially or not at all. (I.e., if rejected from the MSTP, they will then send your application to the MD admissions office.) The problem with sequential consideration is that, if you are rejected in October, from the MD office's perspective you might as well have applied in October. Most of the MD IIs have already been taken by that point.
 
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LizzyM

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I was under the impression this was relatively common to be considered for both MD and MD/PhD at same time
The MD programs won't waste their time; they figure if you are any good you'll get into a MD/PhD elsewhere and will choose that over MD-only. And if admitted to both MD-only and MD/PHD at the same school which would you expect a person who applied MD/PhD to choose? Why would MD-only adcoms spend a minute with these applicants?
 

moisne

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There's a few chance that the rest are still reviewing and often (my n=2) those who reject you for MD/PhD will ask if you are willing to come interview for just MD.
 
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Spector1

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I'd apply to a few more places. you have good stats but I think you might not have applied to enough safeties
 
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Went through last year's MD/PhD cycle with a similar application, and I definitely empathize with your worries. As an n of 1, none of my interviewers ever mentioned a lack of clinical experience. I personally believe it's more important to show that how those experiences substantiate/motivate your goals as a physician-scientist, emphasis on physician. It really is early (even though it feels like everyone else already has dozens of IIs). I heard from many schools in mid-November and, as LizzyM said, found that several held onto my application until December or even early January. This is particularly true given the limited number of interview dates offered. On the other hand, though, I also knew that this probably meant my application wasn't as strong on paper, so I applied broadly and worked hard on interviewing skills.

As for adding programs - don't hesitate if you have the time/$/desire, especially if your list is top-heavy. I added a few programs very late (their secondaries didn't even get to me until October), and I ended up interviewing at all of them. This is not necessarily true for the MD-only, since they have far more applications to push through and you would be at a disadvantage for rolling programs.
 
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Dec 7, 2014
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Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and really try to save the worrying for December. I was told last year that my late-Nov. update letter was helpful for my application. Try to generate some things to put on a letter like that. (Maybe hospice volunteering or something?)
 
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Feb 25, 2014
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Thanks a lot for the advice everyone! I really appreciate it!

Did you apply to any MD programs? How much shadowing? Did you have any ECs that are non-clinical? It might be your overall EC package is lacking. You could try calling the places you were rejected but I wouldn't expect much. This is a really busy time and they probably don't have time to review your file and talk to you now and some schools just don't do that at all.
I did not apply to any MD programs. ~100 hours of shadowing, 2 non-clinical leadership ECs, and ~100 hours of clinical volunteering. Research is solid with multiple pubs and strong letters. I'm worried the 36/3.7 may just not be enough for MD/PhD nowadays.

Well where all did you apply to as well? The average MD/PhD matriculant has a 3.8/35. Note the key word here is average; not top tier programs. Your stats fall in those lines but if you applied way too top heavy that could cause problems as well.

I don't think 100 hours of clinical volunteering would cause major problems for MD/PhD programs. What's more likely to cause problems(if you end up not getting an acceptance) is that these programs are just absurdly competitive. The average MD/PhD applicant who gets rejected from every single school they apply to WITHOUT ONE INTERVIEW has a 3.7/32. Those are along the lines of stats of MD matriculants just to give perspective in the nature of the beast you are dealing with when it comes to MD/PhD programs.

That said, like LizzyM pointed to, 3 rejections this early in the game is hardly some cause for real concern.
Thanks for the advice. That's a good point. I think I may be too top heavy. This is my school list:

University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
Duke
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Columbia
Cornell
University of Rochester
Rutgers
University of Michigan
Harvard
Johns Hopkins
Northwestern
Yale
Stanford
UCLA
Penn State
University of Chicago
Boston University
Dartmouth School of Medicine
Stony Brook


I'm thinking of maybe adding 3 or 4 more programs that are lower-stat range.
 

lmn

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Most schools won't give you feedback on why they didn't want you this early. Also the application game is so random, the rejections at this point mean very little about you as an applicant bar any major red flags/etc. You still have a lot of time and schools to hear back from, you're now in the waiting part of the game which can often times be the most stressful since things are for the most part out of your hands. Keep on doing w/e work/ECs as if you were planning on reapplying next year, other than that find a good way to destress as the application year can be a very long and stressful one.
 
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Thanks a lot for the advice everyone! I really appreciate it!



I did not apply to any MD programs. ~100 hours of shadowing, 2 non-clinical leadership ECs, and ~100 hours of clinical volunteering. Research is solid with multiple pubs and strong letters. I'm worried the 36/3.7 may just not be enough for MD/PhD nowadays.



Thanks for the advice. That's a good point. I think I may be too top heavy. This is my school list:

University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
Duke
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Columbia
Cornell
University of Rochester
Rutgers
University of Michigan
Harvard
Johns Hopkins
Northwestern
Yale
Stanford
UCLA
Penn State
University of Chicago
Boston University
Dartmouth School of Medicine
Stony Brook


I'm thinking of maybe adding 3 or 4 more programs that are lower-stat range.
I think adding a few lower-tiered programs would be a very good idea. That's not to say you won't get interviews at the top schools--you have a strong application, and it is still early. But there is enough randomness and stiff competition in this process to warrant a handful of safety schools (although I'm still convinced there's really no such thing as an MD/PhD safety).
 
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