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Being Highly Competitive at the Highly Competitive

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by DKlein, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. DKlein

    DKlein Junior Member
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    Hey SDNers,

    I'm new to posting though I've been reading for a while. One thing which I've been concerned about is how the academic institution you study at, and your science GPA, weigh with top tier MD/PhD programs. Obviously, its important to have high scores, but how high is high enough?

    I know that top schools like Duke, Haaavad and Hopkins say that their average science GPA is something like 3.79, but I'm thinking that a lot of these applicants are coming from top tier schools themselves. I'm coming from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, after spending three semesters at Indiana University in Bloomington. Considering that the pedigree of these schools is less impressive than at top tier schools (ivy...etc), how will a 3.7 GPA weigh up for MD/PhD programs?

    I've also read something about an academic rigor scale. Has anyone else heard about this, or how it relates to admissions into MSTP programs?


    Thanks


    -DK
     
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  3. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    I think that a solid 3.7 GPA should definitely get you in the running at the highly competitive schools. You go to very well respected schools. The problem with GPA's tends to come when applicants hail from unknown or very regional schools. Your GPA should be enough to get you consideration, but to actually get accepted will depend on your MCAT (should be quite high) and research. I wouldn't worry about the reputation of your undergrad, though. Their reputations are good enough, and you should have no trouble gaining some acceptances if the rest of your profile is stellar.

    Just my opinion though. Some on this board think that your undergrad will make almost no difference, while others believe that if you go anywhere outside of USNWR top10 for undergrad you are supremely disadvantaged. In reality it is probably a compromise: your undergrad reputation matters, but a good undergrad almost never helps a bad applicant into great schools, and a bad undergrad won't hold back a great applicant from receiving acceptances to great schools.
     
  4. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    the results of the cornell decisions were a bad indicator for those of us who didn't go to a top 10 school ugrad school. hehe. that being said titan and civic are ridiculously strong apps in addition to that.
     
  5. lundysd

    lundysd Member
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    I can tell you that I've received interviews at several top ten schools with a science GPA slightly below 3.5 (cumulative near 3.7 in engineering). That being said, my weak point in my application is my science GPA, and I'm hoping my research/ECs will overshadow that.

    As far as the undergrad institution goes, I've seen time and again that ivy leaguers have a big advantage in this process, especially when applying to NE schools. It isn't necessarily impossible to go to Harvard from a state school for example, but you have a much better chance getting into a school like Washu in my humble opinion.

    Let me know if this helps

    Scott
     
  6. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    Yeah, point taken. I wish we could get a definitive answer one way or another...
     
  7. mrcdsbenz2000

    mrcdsbenz2000 Member
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    He DK- I go to U of I and have a very similar GPA. I have applied to a number of top MD/PhDs and received interviews from almost all of them. My opinion is that you have to be able to show that 1) you are an intellectual, i.e. like thinking about how things work and 2) that you can apply this to science with success. PM me if you want particulars.
     
  8. mac921

    mac921 Junior Member
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    Let me dispell this myth. I was worried about how my undergrad school was going to impact my application. I am from a southern public university (which generally don't have the best reputations across the country). I had a wonderful experience and received a great education there, but it is not Stanford, UPenn, or an upper-tier private school (from which most of the applicants are graduated). This has not effected my application whatsoever. So far, I am just as competitive. My MCAT score isn't even very high at all. The reason that there are so many Ivy Leaguers is because this is where the majority of the applicant pool is coming from. There is no one applying to MD/PhD programs from my school. Research experiences and potential to be a scientist really matter the most. Also, personal "fit" for a school is important. By the way, if you look at the percentage of kids from public universities that were interviewed and accepted by Cornell, there isn't any difference. Don't sell yourself short! If you are passionate about research, work hard in your lab, do well at school, are committed to becoming a scientist, and aren't socially inept, just be yourself and you'll get into great places.
     
  9. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    hmm? The people accepted by cornell on the board went to yale, hopkins, and stanford. Where is this list you're talking about?
     
  10. DKlein

    DKlein Junior Member
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    I read a post some time ago about how many top MSTP programs aren't interested in anything but research experience. Teaching, community outreach, humanitarian projects and studies in humanities are generally ignored to focus on the meat and potatoes, basic science. Having read these responses--

    lets say that Ugrad institution isn't a dealbreaker. The logical followup to this thread is:

    does anything but research matter?

    Its undeniably a central component to an MSTP candidate's application and should be important to such a person's life, but must it be central to their life? Is there room for people who have an interest in community outreach, ethics, athletics and teaching, in the dog~out-grant-write~dog world of biomedical academia?



    -DK
     
  11. CaipirinhaQuinho

    CaipirinhaQuinho Senior Member
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    I'm no expert but judging by my interview experiences I would say research is 100% what matters most. Solid research experiences will get you very far in the md/phd world. And I think that makes perfect sense. If you're interviewing for a sales job, you damn well better have sold something well in the past.

    I don't think undegraduate school matters that much since I've met many interviewees from schools I've never heard of before. I agree with the comment that the majority of the applicant pool comes from ivys and that's why they dominate the forums and interview circuit.

    As for the "what else is important" question, I would say that

    1) Research, if your name is on a science/nature/cell paper or your first author of any peer reviewed paper you will get interviews everywhere you apply (of course you have to have decent stats on 2-4 below.)

    2) MCAT/GPA, not sure which is more important but the combination of these are very important since NIH basis their funding on these numbers. Also, I think these numbers tell another story. For MCAT it tells schools how well you can take a standardized test which will be important when taking your boards. And GPA will tell a school how well you compete with your peers.

    3) Goals/Self-Motivation/Ambition, I think that adcoms/interviewers are looking for leaders who know what they want and are willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals. Obviously your work ethic and ECs play are large role here. I would say that there is no ideal EC to be involved in but getting involved in some activity that displays these qualities is important.

    4) Are you a real person? Can you hold a conversation? Can you communicate your science?

    Good luck with everything.

    How bad does Favre look right now!? God, I hate the Ravens!
     
  12. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    This is a very interesting question and I have talked (to several noncommittee ;)) members about the importance of research vs. numbers. If you look at my mdapplicants you will see good stats and a below average amount of research. I just got back to Michigan where I had an interview with a dean of graduate school admissions.

    Our conversation was very interesting... we discussed the application as a stillframe "snapshot" of the applicant. It is very hard to gauge, between applicants, one's ultimate potential. This is my simple question: does the fact that someone started in a lab freshmen year in college/have more temporal research than me, ultimately mean that they will be a more successful researcher? Of course not, but at a moment in time they have had better experiences on paper, and unless an adcom gets a visceral feeling in an interview otherwise, the guy who started doing reseaerch freshmen year in college is going to get the nod over the one who started junior year.

    I think that research is definitely not ALWAYS the most important aspect of an application. Some schools are willing to give more leeway with respect to the amount of research because of the kind of paradox I just mentioned.

    Cornell, Stanford, and UCSF rejected me almost immediately... all of the other schools (other than Columbia) that I got invites from sent me an invite almost immediately after I was complete. It's definitely a crap shoot. I would even dare to say that a lot of it comes down to the identity of the person who ends up reading your app.
     
  13. Alexs42

    Alexs42 Spaceman Spiff
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    As an almost aluminus of an MSTP program (MSIV, program yr8), I can tell you that decent MCAT/GPA is important as a cutoff only. What will make it or break it for an application is research, fit, and the research-dedicated "vibe" ppl get from you. Where you are from (undergrad-wise) can help you, but not hurt you very much at all (e.g. I am not even from the US when it comes to undergrad).
    I've assisted my PI many times when he interviewed MSTP applicants. Basically the question is:
    Is this applicant dedicated to research, or are they in their heart and mind a physician (i.e. they will spend 3 yrs in the lab get some measly paper out and then venture of to a lucrative surgical subspecialty)?
    If we get the feel it is the latter, they will be automatically downgraded on the list further down than if they had an MCAT of 20.
    So realize that programs look for dedication (applicant will stick it out for 7-9 years) and excitement about research. The whole GPA/Undergrad school discussion is not nearly on the top of the list of concerns.
    My 2c.
    Alex
     
  14. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    How often do you really think an applicant isn't dedicated to research? Everyone who's paying attention knows that's what MD/PhD programs are for, and even if they aren't dedicated to research it wouldn't be that hard to fake it for a day. My experience and information with interviewing MD applicants is that about 90% score the same in interviews, especially when you control for inter-interviewer variability, with about 5% being amazing and 5% being idiots.

    I just can't imagine that somehow you've found a commitment detector that separates your interviewees. Sure, you might find that 1 in 20 that you have real questions about or that 1 in 20 you're very sure about, but for that other 18 out of 20, what's really going on? I feel like this is everyone's question. The problem is that there's no universal answer, and it varies from adcom to adcom and school to school.
     
  15. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    My dad has done interviews for Pharmacy school and he said that in interviewers you are basically tossed into one of three pools: outstanding, acceptable, or unacceptable.

    the "outstanding" interview performances, if they got that far, are then locks, and is usually about 15% of interviewers. 10% bomb interviews maybe. 75% are "acceptable". What determines how these people are resolved is mainly, again, what's on paper, unless the interviewee gets a hunch about some over others.

    Your invitation for an interview is basically a chance to stand out in that 15%, otherwise it usually will come down to paper.

    That's my dad speakin, anyway.
     

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