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I've been considering what I want to do with my GAP year and I've decided that I'm going to apply for a masters in epidemiology. I'll be applying for several scholarships, but I would go regardless of whether I'm awarded any money (assuming I'm accepted to the school at all). I decided to look up what the acceptance rates at Cambridge were and I noticed that they were extremely high! The department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics has an acceptance rate of ~65% and the department of public health and primary care has a 19% acceptance rate. What is causing these inflated acceptance rates? Are students going to these UK schools if they get scholarships or are most students just self-selecting?

Thank you!
 

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Pandion

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For undergraduates, there's a lot of self selection. UK students are limited in the number of schools they can apply to (I believe it's 5, only one of which can be an Oxbridge school, and then when you get conditional offers you have to choose only two, a first choice and a backup, pending A levels), so you're not going to choose Cambridge as one of your five if it's a totally unrealistic option.

For graduate students, I suspect the limiting factor is funding rather than admissions. It's harder to get money than to get in, and most UK students wouldn't self fund. (At least, that was the impression I got). That said, Cambridge (and Oxford) are highly, highly regarded, and many people just don't consider applying at all, so self selection again. Plus, if you are the type of person who wants to get an advanced degree you probably did pretty well in undergrad, so that likely contributes to the high percentage.

Having said that, even though the acceptance rates are high the quality of work they expect is very high. Compared to an American degree it will feel like a much lower volume of work, but the quality and depth of scholarship you are expected to produce as a graduate student is significant. So don't let the numbers fool you!

If you have any more questions or want advice, please PM me -- I did an MPhil at Cambridge during my first gap year and had a wonderful time and love to talk about it :)
 
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Isn't the admit rate for like Wharton MBA and Harvard Law also like 15-20%? You're just spending too much time on top MD gunner forums where 3-5% is a typical admit rate
Really? That puts med school into perspective doesn't it? Jeez
 

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Isn't the admit rate for like Wharton MBA and Harvard Law also like 15-20%? You're just spending too much time on top MD gunner forums where 3-5% is a typical admit rate
I mean there's that too. Very little is as competitive as med school admissions.
 

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The bottleneck for Americans applying to UK programs isn't admission - admission rates, depending on the department of course, are typically in the 15-20% range for science if I remember correctly. Some departments admit more than others but some percentages might be inflated because they're admitting something like 6 students out of 9 applicants to fill the spots whereas some bigger departments admit 25 out of 250 applicants. The bottleneck is, for Americans who have to pay the overseas tuition and don't get UK research council funding for graduate study, securing the finances to fund the education. The scholarship programs (e.g. Rhodes, Fulbright, Gates, Marshall, etc.) are much more selective than admission to Cambridge or Oxford.
 
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Yet another case where $ being no concern makes it a lot smoother sailing to get a nice pedigree
It's definitely true. Though, the more I've been looking into Oxbridge today, the more I realize that there are plenty of alternative funding sources to the standard Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, Fulbright suite. Having money definitely seals the deal, but you're not necessarily lost if you don't get one of those scholarships.

Edit: Also, what does everyone think about a masters from a school like this assisting in getting scholarship money from med schools. The adcoms have been pretty clear about it not being a significant help during admissions, but what about when money's being passed around? I'm interested in this degree purely because of the skills that it will confer, but I'd still be interested to hear how it helps post admission. Thanks!
 

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It's definitely true. Though, the more I've been looking into Oxbridge today, the more I realize that there are plenty of alternative funding sources to the standard Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, Fulbright suite. Having money definitely seals the deal, but you're not necessarily lost if you don't get one of those scholarships.

Edit: Also, what does everyone think about a masters from a school like this assisting in getting scholarship money from med schools. The adcoms have been pretty clear about it not being a significant help during admissions, but what about when money's being passed around? I'm interested in this degree purely because of the skills that it will confer, but I'd still be interested to hear how it helps post admission. Thanks!
I don't think a master's will matter enough from a recruitment standpoint to make it financially sensible to pay your own way.

Some med schools also fund some masters each year for their med students, I believe. Not to mention that having the physician-in-training background might make you a lot more competitive for outside funding sources. If you feel like you'd def want a career that involves something like an MPH, you might hold off on getting that MPH until after starting med school, and for now just get a decently paying researchy gig to fill your gap year.

Edit: Oh, plus I even think some residencies have funded masters opportunities? Really might rethink paying for one now.
 
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I don't think a master's will matter enough from a recruitment standpoint to make it financially sensible to pay your own way.

Some med schools also fund some masters each year for their med students, I believe. Not to mention that having the physician-in-training background might make you a lot more competitive for outside funding sources. If you feel like you'd def want a career that involves something like an MPH, you might hold off on getting that MPH until after starting med school, and for now just get a decently paying researchy gig to fill your gap year.

Edit: Oh, plus I even think some residencies have funded masters opportunities? Really might rethink paying for one now.
That's definitely something that I've been mulling over. Right now, if I secure funding, I'll go to Cambridge or Oxford. Otherwise, I may back out. I do need the expertise that the masters will provide and there's definitely something to be said for the experience of going to Cambridge. I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. Thank you for your help though!
 
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I don't think a master's will matter enough from a recruitment standpoint to make it financially sensible to pay your own way.

Some med schools also fund some masters each year for their med students, I believe. Not to mention that having the physician-in-training background might make you a lot more competitive for outside funding sources. If you feel like you'd def want a career that involves something like an MPH, you might hold off on getting that MPH until after starting med school, and for now just get a decently paying researchy gig to fill your gap year.

Edit: Oh, plus I even think some residencies have funded masters opportunities? Really might rethink paying for one now.
Also, I'm also getting more and more interested in genetic epidemiology. A masters in epidemiology would be useful for plain clinical research, but if I find that I really love it, I may want to pursue a PhD in genetic epidemiology. If that were the case, transitioning into the PhD program from the masters program is a lot easier than applying out of medical school or fresh on my own.
 

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Also, I'm also getting more and more interested in genetic epidemiology. A masters in epidemiology would be useful for plain clinical research, but if I find that I really love it, I may want to pursue a PhD in genetic epidemiology. If that were the case, transitioning into the PhD program from the masters program is a lot easier than applying out of medical school or fresh on my own.
You sure it's easier to get the PhD first? Don't most MD schools that offer a PhD as well (MSTP or otherwise) allow their MD students to apply into the MD-PhD track? You could do something like a research year in the middle of MD, and if you fall in love with it, turn into a full fledged MD-PhD.
 
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You sure it's easier to get the PhD first? Don't most MD schools that offer a PhD as well (MSTP or otherwise) allow their MD students to apply into the MD-PhD track? You could do something like a research year in the middle of MD, and if you fall in love with it, turn into a full fledged MD-PhD.
Those programs are even more competitive than MD programs. Doing a masters a Cambridge would likely increase my chance of getting the PhD, while also giving me the bare qualification of a masters if I choose to stick with that path.

Your recommendation isn't a bad idea either though. I'm going to have to do more research into both paths to see which is most financially responsible and flexible.

Regardless, there are definitely worse places to be than debating whether I want to get a masters from Cambridge or during medical school, though I'm admittedly making a lot of assumptions about my success.

Thank you for your help. You've given me a lot to think about!
 
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MD PhD admissions are extremely competitive coming from outside yeah, but for internal apps that are already filling an MD seat and are just looking to add a PhD, I think it's a completely different story.

First thing is to see if you can get a funded gap year master's! Only have to worry about alternatives if you don't have luck there.
 
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MD PhD admissions are extremely competitive coming from outside yeah, but for internal apps that are already filling an MD seat and are just looking to add a PhD, I think it's a completely different story.

First thing is to see if you can get a funded gap year master's! Only have to worry about alternatives if you don't have luck there.
From my understanding, applying internally to a combined MDPhD program is a pretty slim bet as there's only so many "slots" for MDPhDs per year (funding). Not all schools accept internal transfers at all, and those that do typically only take 1. Especially MSTPs. Taking a break to get a PhD in the middle of med school (like the masters programs) is a different proposition and may be easier if your med school admin is flexible, as it wouldn't require them to burn an MDPhD slot, you'd basically just take a leave of absence for however long it takes to do your PhD. (you wouldn't get all the benefits of the combined degree that way as you'd still have to pay tuition lol)
 

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To the OP. I think your best bet would be the masters program (either as part of med school or not). It's not such a bench science that you'd really benefit from the PhD over the masters. And there are more opportunities throughout residency to specialize in something like clinical genetics (like a genetics residency for example) that would give you the same knowledge background in less time and more targeted to what you want to do. You can still do primarily research without a PhD! Lots of MD's do it! A PhD teaches you how to be a good scientist but those aren't skills unique to it. I think there are definitely cheaper, more time effective, and more useful ways for you to gain the same knowledge than doing a PhD and MD separately.
 

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From my understanding, applying internally to a combined MDPhD program is a pretty slim bet as there's only so many "slots" for MDPhDs per year (funding). Not all schools accept internal transfers at all, and those that do typically only take 1. Especially MSTPs. Taking a break to get a PhD in the middle of med school (like the masters programs) is a different proposition and may be easier if your med school admin is flexible, as it wouldn't require them to burn an MDPhD slot, you'd basically just take a leave of absence for however long it takes to do your PhD. (you wouldn't get all the benefits of the combined degree that way as you'd still have to pay tuition lol)
If you're trying to get the latter half of the MD paid for then yeah makes sense. If you're just trying to add a PhD, and would still cover the MD yourself/with loans, I can't imagine that being hard to do.
 

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If you're trying to get the latter half of the MD paid for then yeah makes sense. If you're just trying to add a PhD, and would still cover the MD yourself/with loans, I can't imagine that being hard to do.
From what I understand (which is very much not an in-depth understanding), in general, formalized joint programs can only accept a transfer if someone in the program drops out (very rare). Getting a Ph.D. later, like in the middle of residency, is also an option for people intending to do both.
 
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To the OP. I think your best bet would be the masters program (either as part of med school or not). It's not such a bench science that you'd really benefit from the PhD over the masters. And there are more opportunities throughout residency to specialize in something like clinical genetics (like a genetics residency for example) that would give you the same knowledge background in less time and more targeted to what you want to do. You can still do primarily research without a PhD! Lots of MD's do it! A PhD teaches you how to be a good scientist but those aren't skills unique to it. I think there are definitely cheaper, more time effective, and more useful ways for you to gain the same knowledge than doing a PhD and MD separately.
I would only get a PhD if I was interested in doing it mostly full time. I'm really interested in Genetic Epidemiology and bioinformatics. If I do a year of masters and I decide that I want a PhD, then that will be a career altering decision. I can't really make that decision without the experience of a masters first, seeing as I have little real experience with either of those things. Anyway, thank you for the advice. I really appreciate it.
 
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You sure it's easier to get the PhD first? Don't most MD schools that offer a PhD as well (MSTP or otherwise) allow their MD students to apply into the MD-PhD track? You could do something like a research year in the middle of MD, and if you fall in love with it, turn into a full fledged MD-PhD.
Those programs are even more competitive than MD programs. Doing a masters a Cambridge would likely increase my chance of getting the PhD, while also giving me the bare qualification of a masters if I choose to stick with that path.
There are various PhD funding opportunities available for UK study outside of the traditional "prestigious" scholarships. I believe the Wellcome trust has several studentships available for overseas students. Cambridge also has a lot of internal scholarships - especially if you belong to certain target groups. For instance, they'll have scholarships earmarked only for students from certain countries.

An advantage of doing a PhD at Cambridge specifically is that it's shorter than it is in the U.S. Most PhD programs in the sciences are 4 years there, as opposed to 5-6 here. So you shorten your time of study and still get the PhD. Other British universities award the DPhil, which is actually seen differently in the academic community here in the U.S. for job purposes.
 
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There are various PhD funding opportunities available for UK study outside of the traditional "prestigious" scholarships. I believe the Wellcome trust has several studentships available for overseas students. Cambridge also has a lot of internal scholarships - especially if you belong to certain target groups. For instance, they'll have scholarships earmarked only for students from certain countries.

An advantage of doing a PhD at Cambridge specifically is that it's shorter than it is in the U.S. Most PhD programs in the sciences are 4 years there, as opposed to 5-6 here. So you shorten your time of study and still get the PhD. Other British universities award the DPhil, which is actually seen differently in the academic community here in the U.S. for job purposes.
In what ways is the DPhil differently regarded?
 

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In what ways is the DPhil differently regarded?
You might browse other graduate forums for more information on that, but the question is whether it fulfills the job requirement of having a "PhD." PhD/DPhil programs in the UK are less rigorous than they are here - the programs focus entirely on research and not on didactic instruction. So from day 1, you're in the lab doing research and that's what you're doing for the next four years. You're expected to learn whatever you need in order to successfully carry out your research. In the U.S., on the other hand, PhD programs have a course component which makes PhD candidates genuine experts in their field. You take courses for 1-2 years and then do intensive, full-time research for the next four years.
 
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So, if I have a PhD from Cambridge, I'm considered a full PhD and that isn't necessarily the case with DPhils? @Goro, are you familiar with this?
 

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So, if I have a PhD from Cambridge, I'm considered a full PhD and that isn't necessarily the case with DPhils? @Goro, are you familiar with this?
Yes, Cambridge is one of the few UK institutions that awards the PhD instead of the DPhil and so that gets around this little technical issue.
 

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So, if I have a PhD from Cambridge, I'm considered a full PhD and that isn't necessarily the case with DPhils? @Goro, are you familiar with this?
Nope.
 

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Acceptance rate at Cambridge departments can be misleading. Like others have said, there's a lot of self selection. The most important thing is 1) ur grades are really good and 2) ur research background related to the department is strong.

You need at least a 3.5 to be seriously considered (most degrees require a US 3.5 GPA for entry). Whether or not you get admitted depends on your interview if you are offered one. If one or more of the PIs you interview with think you are a good fit for their group, you will likely be recommended to the Department and admitted.

I got to the semifinal round of Gates, was admitted to the Department of Chemistry but didn't get the scholarship (I was not ranked highly enough to receive a Departmental scholarship even with a high GpA and 4 years of research in physical chemistry) . My advice to you if you apply is to really do your research on the different colleges at Oxford or Cambridge -- their funding opportunities in general, and in the different subjects, are not equivalent, so applying to the right colleges will increase your chances of receiving other funding.
 
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Acceptance rate at Cambridge departments can be misleading. Like others have said, there's a lot of self selection. The most important thing is 1) ur grades are really good and 2) ur research background related to the department is strong.

You need at least a 3.5 to be seriously considered (most degrees require a US 3.5 GPA for entry). Whether or not you get admitted depends on your interview if you are offered one. If one or more of the PIs you interview with think you are a good fit for their group, you will likely be recommended to the Department and admitted.

I got to the semifinal round of Gates, was admitted to the Department of Chemistry but didn't get the scholarship (I was not ranked highly enough to receive a Departmental scholarship even with a high GpA and 4 years of research in physical chemistry) . My advice to you if you apply is to really do your research on the different colleges at Oxford or Cambridge -- their funding opportunities in general, and in the different subjects, are not equivalent, so applying to the right colleges will increase your chances of receiving other funding.
Did you contact the scientist you were interested in working with prior to applying for the scholarship? I know who I want to work with and I've been debating with myself about emailing them.
 

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Did you contact the scientist you were interested in working with prior to applying for the scholarship? I know who I want to work with and I've been debating with myself about emailing them.
I don't see the harm in it. I did not do it
 
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Did you contact the scientist you were interested in working with prior to applying for the scholarship? I know who I want to work with and I've been debating with myself about emailing them.
If you're applying for a scholarship in which the department ranks and shortlists the applicants, then you need to reach out to the professor and work with him or her to develop your proposal, even if it's just him or her giving you the green light for it. You don't want to have them read a proposal that is good in theory but which they wouldn't be able to support in their lab. You also want to have that advocate on the departmental committee that will say, "Yes, I've talked to this kid and he or she has potential. Let's shortlist them."
 
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If you're applying for a scholarship in which the department ranks and shortlists the applicants, then you need to reach out to the professor and work with him or her to develop your proposal, even if it's just him or her giving you the green light for it. You don't want to have them read a proposal that is good in theory but which they wouldn't be able to support in their lab. You also want to have that advocate on the departmental committee that will say, "Yes, I've talked to this kid and he or she has potential. Let's shortlist them."
Is an email inapproriate? Calling them would be difficult because of the 8 hour time difference, but it wouldn't be impossible.
 

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Is an email inapproriate? Calling them would be difficult because of the 8 hour time difference, but it wouldn't be impossible.
Yeah, I find calling PIs to be generally strange. They're busy people and there's no guarantee they'll be in their office anyway. Even if they are, you don't know if it's convenient for them or not. But on the flip side, it's easy to ignore an email or have it get buried in the stacks of emails PIs get on a daily basis. But I still think email is the way to go. Follow up if they don't answer the first one in a reasonable time frame. If they don't answer that one either, then perhaps reconsider.
 
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Yeah, I find calling PIs to be generally strange. They're busy people and there's no guarantee they'll be in their office anyway. Even if they are, you don't know if it's convenient for them or not. But on the flip side, it's easy to ignore an email or have it get buried in the stacks of emails PIs get on a daily basis. But I still think email is the way to go. Follow up if they don't answer the first one in a reasonable time frame. If they don't answer that one either, then perhaps reconsider.
That's fair. I've emailed PIs before, but this is seems different because they're in another country and I have absolutely no connection to them or their institution. Thanks for the advice.
 

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That's fair. I've emailed PIs before, but this is seems different because they're in another country and I have absolutely no connection to them or their institution. Thanks for the advice.
Ask the PI you're currently working for or post-docs in your lab. Chances are, if the Brit is a big name, people will have met him or her at conferences and can send an introductory email linking you.
 
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Ask the PI you're currently working for or post-docs in your lab. Chances are, if the Brit is a big name, people will have met him or her at conferences and can send an introductory email linking you.
I doubt it actually. I work in purely clinical neuro-oncology and neuro-surgery research, while this guy does genetic epidemiology and bioinformatics, with a focus on breast cancer. It is possible that one of my summer PIs knows him though because he also does breast cancer work. Anyway, thanks for the advice.
 

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I doubt it actually. I work in purely clinical neuro-oncology and neuro-surgery research, while this guy does genetic epidemiology and bioinformatics, with a focus on breast cancer. It is possible that one of my summer PIs knows him though because he also does breast cancer work. Anyway, thanks for the advice.
Dr. A (if I am correct in assuming this is who you are thinking of) is actually a very kind, laid-back person. I don't work with him but have contacted him for other reasons, and he always responds within the span of a few minutes (even past their working hours). Don't hesitate to email him if you have questions.
 
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Dr. A (if I am correct in assuming this is who you are thinking of) is actually a very kind, laid-back person. I don't work with him but have contacted him for other reasons, and he always responds within the span of a few minutes (even past their working hours). Don't hesitate to email him if you have questions.
I was planning on emailing the department head. Go big or go home, right? But if Dr. A really is a good guy, it may be better to contact him first. Thanks for the heads up!
 
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