Juan Solo

7+ Year Member
Oct 12, 2009
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Hi everyone,

I hope all the SDN'ers are doing well. I would really appreciate some feedback on how I should precede with applying to MD/PhD programs. My main issue is my MCAT score that I just received. A 28Q (12-PS; 5-VR; 11-BS; Q). Not very good at all, and I have always struggled in reading comprehension sections of standardized test in grammar school. I also taught my self for preparation for the exam, that probably was a bad idea.

I am non-trad, multilingual, minority student. I am 26 years old and didn't plan to go college after high school. I eventually was a business major for 2 years at a city college and struggled. I later found my appreciation for science and medicine and switched to studying science at another junior college and did really well. I transferred to UC Berkeley and graduated in 2010 with departmental honors and completed my optional honors thesis doing research at UCSF. My cGPA from Berkeley was a 3.7, which was higher than my Junior college GPA. My overall sGPA is 3.75.

Lets see here is my list of experiences.

Research Experience:
1) 2 years undergraduate work at UCSF for my honors thesis at UC Berkeley. This is a translational based type of research with some basic science involved in researching an alternative therapy for Muscular dystrophy. The researcher is an MD, an associate clinical professor at UCSF that is trying to get established in research (this is still an ongoing involvement and I am an author on the manuscript). Not yet published. I presented in a poster session at UC Berkeley.

2)1.5 years at UCSF full time as an SRA, collaborating on a few projects in my lab and with other labs, which has led to 3 other authorships on manuscripts, not yet published (this is ongoing). The PI is well established and well known in the field of cell trafficking. This type of research is very basic science, protein-protein interactions, cell biology and lots recombinant cloning. I have given lab meeting and journal club regularly in this lab and am a very involved and counted on lab member.

3) 3 month summer internship at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in an immunology lab that involved basic science type of research. I gave an oral talk and presented in a poster session about my research during the 3 months.

Clinical Experience:
1) 2 years as a Muscular Dystrophy camp counselor. Essentially for one week of the year I take care of a camper and all their medical needs; g-tube feeding and meds, by-pap, caught assist, suctioning, leg and arm splints, wheel chair transfers, changing, bath etc. and making sure they have a fun time. Its about 250 hours from the two years. The MD that I do research with is the camp doctor here.

2) 2 years shadowing at UCSF in pediatric neurology clinic with the MD from #1 research experience and the same MD as the camp doc. I got to see the clinical side of the research that we were working on and the patients that came to camp. This was a great experience and more than just shadowing, because of my relationship with the MD he was teaching me a lot and would ask me all sorts of questions and really got me involved. I felt like part of the team of other med students and fellows that he was also teaching.

Teaching Experience
1) 6 months as an educator at San Quentin State Penitentiary- 5hrs a week
2) 2.5 years tutor at a Junior college-15hrs a week.

Other Experiences:
1) 6 months- car salesman at a dealership-full time
2) 4 years- grocery clerk at a supermarket-full time
3) 3 years 5K runner for race for the cure-part time
4) 2 years Attended AACR conference
5) Awards/honors-student of distinction for department of chem

My LOR's are:
1) My current PI (from #2 research)
2) The MD/mentor (from #1 research, my shadowing experience and camp doctor)
3) My Professor/honors thesis advisor (from UC Berkeley)
4) My O-chem professor from my JC ( nominated me for the award of distinction)
5) My molecular bio professor from my JC ( got me involved in research and AACR Conferences)

I know everyone says this but my letters are really strong. I have solid relationships with all of these individuals and they have been involved and watched my growth as an individual. They all have a PhD's, except for #2 which has an MD. Almost all of them sent me email in the end of the spring asking me how I was doing and if I was applying to school this summer and if I would like that they would write me a wonderful letter. I was a little surprised by that and didn't see that coming. But I guess I am lucky and made a good impression on these individuals, so I didn't even have to ask.

Sorry for this post being really long, but I wanted to be a little thorough. I really appreciate any advice that you may have to offer. Thank you!!
 

StIGMA

Doctor Professor
10+ Year Member
Jul 6, 2008
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It will be hard to give adequate advice without your total undergraduate GPA (including all your community college classes added in). Is your total cumulative GPA <3.0, <3.3, <3.5, etc?

A 5 on verbal will severely limit your options, and a higher scoring here (even an 8/9) will open up your options significantly with your other scores remaining as they are or improving a few points (for a 32-34+ total). At this point the only thing in your application that you can easily change that would make a huge impact is your MCAT, and it is in your best interest to really give it your best.

Are you applying this year? It is getting toward the later end of the cycle as far as submitting applications, especially an application with flags in 2 of the main 3 areas (GPA, MCAT, research/LOR's).

I believe you have a chance to get into an MD/PhD program at this point (but not MSTP). I also believe you could matriculate at a much higher ranked school/have more options if you did better on the MCAT and applied earlier.
 

Juan Solo

7+ Year Member
Oct 12, 2009
2,772
247
Los Angeles, CA
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Resident [Any Field]
It will be hard to give adequate advice without your total undergraduate GPA (including all your community college classes added in). Is your total cumulative GPA <3.0, <3.3, <3.5, etc?

A 5 on verbal will severely limit your options, and a higher scoring here (even an 8/9) will open up your options significantly with your other scores remaining as they are or improving a few points (for a 32-34+ total). At this point the only thing in your application that you can easily change that would make a huge impact is your MCAT, and it is in your best interest to really give it your best.

Are you applying this year? It is getting toward the later end of the cycle as far as submitting applications, especially an application with flags in 2 of the main 3 areas (GPA, MCAT, research/LOR's).

I believe you have a chance to get into an MD/PhD program at this point (but not MSTP). I also believe you could matriculate at a much higher ranked school/have more options if you did better on the MCAT and applied earlier.
My cumulative GPA is around a 3.6 for all of my undergrad course work from two junior colleges and my UC. I was hoping to apply within the next week or so, as all my essays are complete and my transcripts and LORs have all been received by AMCAS. But in light of this score, I wanted to get some advice if I should hold off till next years application cycle and retake the exam.
In any regard thank you for your help!
 
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ablavar

5+ Year Member
Mar 2, 2011
85
0
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Pre-Medical
If you can pull over a 10 in the sciences, you obviously have the comprehension skills to do better than a 5 on VR. Don't let your MCAT hold you back, you have great potential for MD/PhD.
 

PfNO22

7+ Year Member
Feb 21, 2011
215
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Anytown, USA
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My cumulative GPA is around a 3.6 for all of my undergrad course work from two junior colleges and my UC. I was hoping to apply within the next week or so, as all my essays are complete and my transcripts and LORs have all been received by AMCAS. But in light of this score, I wanted to get some advice if I should hold off till next years application cycle and retake the exam.
In any regard thank you for your help!
A resounding Yes, wait.
 

StIGMA

Doctor Professor
10+ Year Member
Jul 6, 2008
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It is a very personal decision whether to go ahead and apply versus wait another year with the potential for a stronger application. It is not a clear-cut decision by any means, and I believe you have a decent chance of getting into a program this year (albeit likely a smaller/less well known MD/PhD program) if you apply very broadly (>30 schools including many non-MSTP MD/PhD programs with large MD/PhD classes-- see the MSAR). If you applied with a significantly higher MCAT, your options for schools will be greatly increased. If you really want to apply this year, there is nothing stopping you.
 

Lil Mick

5+ Year Member
Apr 23, 2009
927
33
The South
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MD/PhD Student
You probably could get in somewhere this cycle. However, if it were me, I'd try to bring up the MCAT score and try to get into one of the programs that most interested me (and you'd have a good shot at most MSTP/MD/PhD... programs if you can raise your MCAT). If you're not particularly attached to a certain area/program/dissertation topic, go for it now and avoid the what-am-I-doing-next-year situation :)
 
Jun 28, 2011
176
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How much work have you put into studying for the verbal so far? I'd say wait if you think that you could legitimately raise it 4-5 points with the extra year. If you only did a couple practice tests before writing the actual thing, then I think that is plausible. But if you worked on it for a year, then it's probably not going to change that much, and you should go ahead and apply now.
 

SBR249

10+ Year Member
Mar 23, 2009
777
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MD/PhD Student
How much work have you put into studying for the verbal so far? I'd say wait if you think that you could legitimately raise it 4-5 points with the extra year. If you only did a couple practice tests before writing the actual thing, then I think that is plausible. But if you worked on it for a year, then it's probably not going to change that much, and you should go ahead and apply now.
I would say that even if the OP worked on verbal for a year, it doesn't mean he can't raise his VR score. It just means that self-studying is not a good way for the OP to tackle verbal. Maybe he needs to try a class like Kaplan or PR.
 

erikreinertsen

MD/PhD student
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Aug 19, 2009
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Atlanta, GA
erikreinertsen.com
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MD/PhD Student
I would say that even if the OP worked on verbal for a year, it doesn't mean he can't raise his VR score. It just means that self-studying is not a good way for the OP to tackle verbal. Maybe he needs to try a class like Kaplan or PR.
MCAT aside, you definitely have the stats and the potential for admission to a top-tier MSTP. This is the opinion from someone applying for the entering class 2012, but I based on the success of remarkably accomplished applicants in the past, and some of my current peers, I would focus on the MCAT. The package is almost complete, and it looks good so far.

Best of luck!
 

Juan Solo

7+ Year Member
Oct 12, 2009
2,772
247
Los Angeles, CA
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Thank you everyone for your advice on this matter. I really appreciate it. I think I will opt to retake the exam and try to raise my VR score and apply early during next years cycle. Thanks again!
 
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