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Afraid to ask... but have to. Thanks in advance!

Discussion in 'Radiation Oncology' started by ndundergrad10, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. ndundergrad10

    ndundergrad10 2+ Year Member

    Jan 12, 2014
    Hey guys, long time reader here and decided to start an account to get some advice (and hopefully pay forward some of the lurking advice I've gotten). I have no doubt rad onc is what I want to do but I'm afraid that my chances are so slim I'll be setting myself up for not matching. My stats are below. I'd really appreciate some advice guys (my Dean told me to 'go for it' and my assistant Dean said I most likely won't match and would definitely need a back-up option).

    First 2 years: Middle of the class in mid-tier MD program
    Step 1: 209
    1 published paper (not in rad onc).
    8 Poster presentations at National Meetings (various fields), 1 more coming up in Rad Onc.
    Med Student Council President and various student admin positions at my school
    Lots of ECs
    3rd year grades thus far middle of the class

    Thanks for your insight guys. I'm also interested in radiology and anesthesia but to a much lesser degree.
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  3. medgator

    medgator Senior Member Physician 10+ Year Member

    Sep 20, 2004
    I've heard of some programs using step 1 cutoffs of 220 or so before even considering applications for interview.

    I think what you'd want to know is if there is anyone on these forums who has managed to interview and/or match with a 209
  4. ndundergrad10

    ndundergrad10 2+ Year Member

    Jan 12, 2014
    I'd love to hear from someone who did. The last NRMP shows a pretty good chunk of people with 200-210 still matching who applied.
  5. RSAOaky

    RSAOaky 5+ Year Member

    Jul 1, 2012
    I think you'd need to take a productive year off to seriously be considered. Sure, people match with lower scores, but that only tells part of the story. They may have phd's or be exceptional in some other way, they also may have taken a year off and gotten a ton accomplished, maybe they come from a top 10 school with good connections, maybe spent a year at a program that really loved them. If it's what you want to do then go for it, but realize you have an uphill battle and need to commit fully and work your butt off to have a chance.
  6. ndundergrad10

    ndundergrad10 2+ Year Member

    Jan 12, 2014
    Anyone out there match w a score that low? Or do anyone have any more insight into whether there's any programs who don't have a 220 cutoff?
  7. MedStud!


    Nov 4, 2013
    I do not know anyone personally who matched with that kind of score... but I do know someone who will be applying next year with similar Step 1 scores and medical school grades.

    Of course he is also worried about matching, but it is highly likely that he will still be able to match somewhere due to the rest of his application. He did his PhD in radiation oncology research. He has attended ASTRO several times and has networked very well... even becoming friends with attendings from several other institutions. He is focusing his 3rd/4th year schedule on being able to study hard and take Step 2 in time where he will have his score for ERAS, in the hopes that by destroying Step 2 it will help make up for the poor Step 1 score (everyone has a bad day now and then, right?). Programs often use USMLE Step scores as an initial "cull" to trim down the amount of applications to read, so even despite this effort to regain lost ground his application may not even get looked at. Some programs might post their "general" cutoff value if they are known to be very selective... but I'm not sure you will get many programs to own up to actively screening for lower scores so I doubt you will get an answer to that question. The best way to address this is to just apply everywhere... and be certain to go out of the way to contact the program coordinator (not director!) at programs you feel like you are interested at and are a good fit. Let them know WHY you are interested and are a good fit. The program coordinator does a significant amount of legwork for the program director in selecting out applications to review and showing your interest might get an application considered that would otherwise have never been looked at. All of the places I interviewed at were not a reach for me but I did note that 90% of the offers I received were from places I had reached out to beforehand.

    A good question to answer is how much do you really want to do Rad Onc over Radiology or Anesthesia? Our deans pushed very hard for us to interview for an alternative specialty but there was no way in hell I would ever do that. I know that this is what I want to do and I would rather re-apply over and over rather than give up on my life's passion. So if you are also that determined then maybe you should consider a year or two off of medical school to bolster things.... crank out some Rad Onc pubs (maybe get a MS degree?), have plenty of time to study hard/take Step 2, and start reaching out to programs and making connections so you won't be just a number when applications go out. How much is one or two years over your entire life? Not much really if it gets you the career of your choice.

    Just whatever you do... DO NOT bomb Step 2. That would be bad.
  8. Juniper4


    Dec 14, 2013
    You should absolutely go for it.

    1-you can dual apply and there is no harm in trying other than application cost which seems worth it if you really want it.

    2-a friend of mine was told numerous times they wouldn't match so they dual applied..100+ applications later....they matched to their first choice rad onc he/she rotated there and worked their tail an amazing letter from the chair who didn't know the board scores when the letter was written, and now they had a very nice trump card. the program is very high quality but in a highly undesirable location so the competition was lessened. i also know of this strategy used by someone to move from lower tier, but definitely match-able applicant into a top 5 program. if they love you on an away, and believe your a smart, hardworking person i think you can overcome a weaker score at least in my experience.

    3-don't be afraid to take the leap. you made it this far.

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