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Apply This Round or Next? (MD/PhD)

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Genore, May 20, 2014.

This round or next?

  1. Do it now! - 2014 App Cycle

    2 vote(s)
  2. Take a year off - 2015 App Cycle

    3 vote(s)
  1. Genore

    Genore 2+ Year Member

    Mar 30, 2011
    I've been weighing my options on taking a year off and I keeping going back and forth, so I thought I would get some outside opinions. :)

    Goal: MD/PhD at top program

    About me:
    School is well ranked regionally, not super well know outside the region, mid-sized
    Goldwater scholar
    5+ years of research experience, including two summers at top research institutions (one this summer), all but one high school summer were independent research projects I helped direct
    Had a cGPA of 3.93 (sGPA of 3.89) until this a 3.89 (3.81) :dead:
    Have taken two or three science courses every semester (upper level after first year)
    Studying for the June 5 MCAT
    ~50 hrs shadowing
    ~50-60 hrs medical volunteering (free clinic and local ED)
    ~50-80 hrs non-medical volunteering (I need to go through and count everything up...)
    Plenty of leadership positions...VPs of stuff on three stu gov boards (one was Soph year only) + student rep on a faculty/staff campus planning board
    Good/great recommendations
    Baseline (over a month ago) MCAT was low 30s

    Concerns for applying this round:
    I won't have a publication submitted until fall next year (after apps and probably after secondaries are in)
    My semester GPA is the lowest ever (two Bs in a single semester...only four total B+s [two UD science classes + one 1 credit lab] otherwise in separate semesters before); the overall GPA isn't horrible but I wanted to leave off on a strong note and now it looks like I can't handle 3 science courses at once (did both sophomore semesters with all As, but one sci B+)
    I over scheduled last semester and will not be at my optimum MCAT readiness in 16 days
    I don't want to prep/take the MCAT during my fellowship this summer...won't really have enough time
    Not sure my essays will be as good as they could be with only a few weeks remaining
    Stress...I barely slept last semester (stress and over scheduling --> lack of sleep and inability to concentrate/remember things --> stress and lack of sleep) and cramming for the MCAT and prepping for this summer hasn't left much/any time for sleeping and relaxing
    Eight years more school with maybe a summer lab rotation sounds like too overwhelming (a month break between, if that) at this point
    Reasonably sure I want to do MD/PhD but starting to doubt and consider MD only with a research-friendly specialty; I think I would be locked in to getting the PhD at most schools if accepted

    Concerns for applying next round:
    Parents are pressing me to keep going (to MD only...has always been their preference)
    Potential embarrassment of not having a school lined up next year
    Will have to apply to year off programs (considering volunteering [hopefully clinic-related] to establish residency at a state school I want to go to or doing research in home town)
    Potential for schools to wonder why I didn't just keep going (Would this be looked down upon?)

    Current plan:
    Study for MCAT; if I'm not in the ball park the week before, cancel...maybe move back to early July, maybe not
    - Would leave a bit more time to work on essays (maybe submit mid to late June instead of early to be verified just after I get MCAT score back)
    If I do take the official one, apply to schools based on where that puts me with current (lower but still not terrible) GPA; will have "tiers" of mostly top 20 + some top 40, some top 20 + more 21-40s, or a few top 20 that are great mission fits + more 21-50s

    Am I just freaking out because it's all approaching so quickly and I'm low on sleep/stressed? Or should I be worried and thinking of ways to spend a low-stress year? Would love any advice. Thanks in advance!
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  3. kyamh

    kyamh 2+ Year Member

    Aug 8, 2013
    Just a warning, I skimmed your post so I may have missed something.

    It's really hard to give you solid advise without an MCAT score - you may expect to get a 40 and then end up with way to be sure, it's hard to prepare for the nerves ;) Plus, you're taking the MCAT in June, so you will be applying without knowing your score. Please only apply to a throw-away school first. You can add your top schools later but you don't want to kill your chances with a sub-par MCAT score.

    Frankly, if you don't already have a publication, submitting a manuscript in the Fall won't do you any good - you have to have it in minor revisions before AMCAS approves listing it. Major revisions can take a long time and, if your PI wants to try and aim high first (Science, Nature, Nature_insertField) then you will likely go through a few rounds of reformatting, resubmitting, and waiting 1-3 months for the reviews.

    MD/PhD competition is stiff. I met some amazing applicants on the interview trail - and I only applied MD. Many of these applicants interviewing at top 20 schools have stronger applications that the one you have described, I imagine the dual degree candidates step it up even higher.

    Basically, I would apply MD only this year or wait a year and apply MD/PhD.

    I am happy to have a longer conversation with you about MD/PhD but the bottom line is that applicants with real research experience (the kind where you honestly take a project from start to publication with only your PI's help over multiple years) often find that they can accomplish their career goals just as well with an MD as they can with the dual degree. I don't know your exact career goals, but know that you can get plenty of RO1 grants and do basic (or clinical) research full-time at a top 5 medical school with an MD and no PhD - plenty of PIs on my floor do just that.
  4. URHere

    URHere Physician PhD 10+ Year Member

    Nov 20, 2007
    From reading your post, it sounds like you could apply this cycle if you just bite the bullet, put in the time for MCAT prep, and take the test ASAP.

    Assuming you get a good score on the MCAT and that "5+ years" means year-long years and not "5-6 summers", I think you will be plenty competitive for MD/PhD programs. You don't need to be published to get in - I wasn't and neither were many other students in my program. Yes, the MCAT can be a deal-breaker but if you apply to programs broadly, something in the 32-34 range is managable.

    However, it also sounds like you are desperate to take a gap year and looking for any excuse to do it. If you think you need a break between undergrad and medical school, just take one. No one will judge you for this, especially not if you continue to research, volunteer, and be otherwise productive. Are you a junior now (heading into senior year)? If so, you're still young and you are not in a race to get through medical school (or even an MD/PhD program).

    My advice would be to plan on a gap year and relax for now. Get your head back in a good place so that you can figure out what you really want.
  5. Zach Morris

    Zach Morris

    Mar 16, 2014
    My advice after reading your post:
    DO ANY/EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO AVOID A LATE AMCAS SUBMISSION!!! THIS POINT CANNOT BE STRESSED ENOUGH! Even if this involves waiting an additional year, it is worth it. I believe I had a strong application (PM me if you have any qs about stats) but because I submitted my primary late, I only got 4 MD interviews. Fortunately, I was accepted to my top choice.

    So breaking down your stats for consideration of MD/PhD programs (just remember, the competition for these programs, as said, is extremely stiff).
    1. Research is above avg / on par with those candidates. People applying to MD/PhD are really heavily research oriented so most of these candidates have done a ton of research.
    2. GPA looks to be on par with those candidates (especially if you want top 20 MD/PhD).
    3. Shadowing hours are probably fine.
    4. Clinical volunteering: honestly, you are a little below average. Most pre-meds shoot for the 100-hour mark (I know my pre-health committee advised to have at least 100 going into the cycle).
    5. Good leadership positions. Should be fine there.
    6. Big thing is MCATs. Top 20 MD/PhD candidates have pretty darn high scores. You need to perform pretty darn well (35+) to get considered for MD/PhD, especially at a top 20.

    Honestly, your application is good, but I don't know if it stands out all that much when you enter the arena of the MD/PhD candidates. I think you could probably gain at least one acceptance to an MD program this year if you perform well on your MCATs and you don't submit your primary very late. As far as the MD/PhD, I don't know. The people that apply for those spots are unreal candidates (like, you can't believe these people exist, unreal).
    Heplayer92 likes this.
  6. Heplayer92

    Heplayer92 2+ Year Member

    Jun 25, 2013
    Agreed ^^ but that person could also be you OP!
  7. Microglia

    Microglia 5+ Year Member

    Jun 26, 2012
    Application is fine if LOR's are good, MCAT is high (shoot for 35+), and secondaries are done as fast as possible. If one of those looks like it's gonna be subpar, I'd take the time to ensure it's not. GPA is a check box and it's fine, and you're a little weak on the clinical side but that's ok, not a deal breaker. In the end it will come down to your MCAT score, LOR's, and how well you come off in interviews/how well you know your research.

    Edit: Feel free to PM if you want to discuss the MD vs MD/PhD decision.
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
  8. Ismet

    Ismet PGY-fun! Administrator Physician 5+ Year Member

    May 15, 2011
    I have zero background/experience in applying MD/PhD, so take this advice with a grain of salt. But if I were in your position, I would probably take the year off. The amount of things you would have to do in the next month or so in order to apply early cycle makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed, and I'm not even the one in your shoes. Study hard for the MCAT and rock it (35+) and stat-wise you will be set for top schools. Also take the year to reflect and decide if you want to do MD or MD/PhD. Keep in mind that many top schools are very research oriented, and while the PhD is helpful/sometimes necessary for receiving grants and stuff, you can still do substantial research with just an MD and forego the extra 4 years. MD/MS is also a possibility.

    You should also beef up your clinical experience. Remember you're applying to be a physician scientist. The research is there but you need more clinical exposure to show that you know what it's like to be the "physician" part of that.

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