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can you apply to both PhD and MD/PhD programs?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by AtmaWeapon, Mar 3, 2007.

  1. AtmaWeapon

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    Hi, I'm a third year looking into applying for fall 2007 and most likely 2008 too :laugh:. I was wondering if it's possible to apply to both the PhD program and the MSTP program for a university (especially UCs). I don't have competitive numbers so my chances of being accepted into any MSTP are slim, but I know I eventually want to complete a MD/PhD even if it means reapplying from graduate school or completing a PhD first. I plan on applying only to PhD programs this coming fall as my current GPA is way too low for MSTP. If I'm not happy with where I get accepted to, I plan on applying to some PhD programs and some MSTP programs the following year (fall 2008, by this time I've probably graduated and started postbacc research). This is when I'll be caught between reapplying to PhD programs and applying to MSTPs, so I'm wondering if I can just apply to both for some universities. That's probably too good to be true though, so I'll probably have to weigh my odds of which MSTPs I can make and which PhDs I can make. :(

    Aside from my title question, if I do get accepted to a grad school I like, I'm kind of torn if I should start graduate work if MD/PhD is what I really want. If anyone has any suggestions I'd greatly appreciate that.

    PS: for those of you who got accepted to UCSD's MSTP, can I possibly get your numbers and years of research experiences? UCSD is #1 on my list of where I want to go :)

    Thank you!!
     
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  3. move2west

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    I also am interested to know, if this is feasible. I have a low MCAT, so it is not likely that I will get into a semi-reputable MD/PhD program anywhere(unless I retake). If this was to occur, I would like to start a PhD program an maybe do the MD later (I will be very competitive in the grad school market). Is it a terrible idea to apply to the MD/PhD and PhD programs at the university at the same time? For example, I love the research at places like Penn and Cornell and I would love to do my PhD there through either of these routes.

    Along these lines, one is supposed to contact potential PIs at institutes of interested for PhD programs. Does any one have any advise on how to do this, if you are applying to both programs at a school.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  4. lovexn

    lovexn The Devil who wears Panda

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    I've talked to ADCOMs about that.......and their advice is, don't apply to PhD and MD-PhD at the same school. OF course that shows ur genuine interest in the school and provides u a safety net. On the other hand, ADCOM said that this would make you look like you are not confident about ur profile or you are not determined enough to uptake the profession of an MD-PhD....so...I'm not sure if that's the case of all schools. but then in many schools if u are rejected MD-PhD, u are given the option to be considered for MD only, and often times u could call to ask them to consider u for PhD as long as u have your GRE taken. Hope this helps :)
     
  5. Dr.Watson

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    General advice is that if you want to do an MD/PhD, apply to MD/PhD programs with MD-only as your back-up. Take the MCAT again, take a year or two to improve your research, take some post bac classes and just take the time to improve your medical school application. It's nearly impossible to transfer from a PhD program to an MD/PhD program. If you get in MD somewhere, you can reapply to their MD/PhD program and if you've done some reseach at the med school since you've started, you stand a good chance.

    If you're not a good MD/PhD applicant now, you won't be much, if any, better after a year or two in a PhD program. So, if you do go PhD first, you'll end up having to pay for the MD (hello debt! unles you're lucky like QofQuimica with a scholarship), improve your app at a later date for the MD (LORs, recent clinical experience, MCAT, etc and your ugrad gpa will still haunt you, getting you screened out of places) and you'll add on quite a few more years to your training. It's worth taking the time off to improve your app for MD/PhD now than languish around doing the degrees seperately and end up older and in debt at the end of it all. If you know you want to do MD/PhD now, don't start off in a PhD program. It's the long, hard way to go about it.

    Also, you may be confused about timelines. Summer/Fall 2007 MSTP entrance applications are winding up right now. We all started applying back in June 06 (the early ones, which is a MUST if you have lower #s). So if you started on the next application round, you'd be applying for 2008 entrance, not 2007.

    Oh and I had an interview at UCSD (though I turned it down b/c of other acceptances). My numbers were 3.6overall/3.3bcpm (low-end for sure) and 35S. But I think I made up for it because I had a LOT of research with rec letters from some well-known people, good ECs/clinical experience, and a good understanding of what MD/PhD is all about. That's not to say my app wasn't screened out of places pre-whatever especially when they have office drones or a computer program thinning the herd (cough, Wake Forest), but personally I think if my application was read by an adcom, I stood a good chance at getting an interview. So, lower numbers aren't the end of the world!
     
  6. Circumflex

    Circumflex Junior Member

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    I agree with Dr. Watson. If you know you want to do the MD/PhD, then go for it. Applying for a PhD at the same school might raise some red flags. Also, once you start your PhD, you almost have to finish it. Otherwise, it doesn't look good. Sure, you can stop after a couple of years and get the MS, but then you end up screwing over your advisor (if he/she did not know of this plan), and you may not get a good letter of rec.

    If you know now that you want to be a physician, then do what you need to do to accomplish this. A PhD will not make up for a low MCAT - you still have to have the numbers. Think about either doing a Master's or getting a job in a lab that will allow you to get experience, maybe publish, and have time to study for the MCAT.

    Plus, you don't need the PhD to do research. If you are not competitive for the MD/PhD, think about MD only. There are a variety of things you can do in med school to get some research experience. A friend of mine took a year off after 2nd year to work at the NIH in the Cloisters program - he loved it.
     
  7. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved

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    I agree too. Apply MD-only if you think you won't be competitive for MD/PhD. It's a lot easier to do a PhD as an MD student than it is to do it the other way around. :)
     
  8. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member

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    I wanted to ask the same exact question. My situation is that I'm an international student, and if I don't get accepted into MD/PhD programs, my only choice would be a PhD, since intl students aren't accepted into MD programs (and I don't have the money anyway). I didn't take the MCAT yet, so I don't know how competitive I'll be (though I do have a 3.9 GPA and independent research experience), but I definitely prefer to apply for both as a safety backup. Does that sound bad too? I guess it would be better to apply for PhDs at some schools, and MD/PhD at others.
     
  9. AtmaWeapon

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    I feel that going MD only may be weaker than going MD/PhD because I have no clinical work while I currently have 1 school year + 2 summers of research (no pubs though). It's not that I was lazy about the clinical work, but I haven't had a chance to since I started off college as a computer science major planning on a neurobiology minor. It wasn't until the end of 2nd year that I realized I wanted it the other way around and to go MD/PhD. If I were to do clinical work I can only do it during summer because I have no car at school to get myself to clinics/hospitals.

    Anyway thank you for your insights. By the end of 4th year I'll hopefully be looking at a GPA in the 3.5 range. During my 4th year I'll also study my balls off for MCATs. My plan is to take that summer to do clinical work as I already have research plans for this summer, and do a year of postbacc research full time at NIH or something. Or if I do manage to get my GPA to 3.5, would it be worth staying a 5th year to get it to 3.6 for possibly reapplying? I could do research at school too, although it's part time (~10 hours a week). Kind of expensive though, so I don't really want to do this.

    I am kind of confused about the application cycles. So I plan on applying to MSTP after my 4th year in 2008 to start med school for fall 2009, is that right? During the application process I would either be doing my postbacc research or still in ugrad bumping my grades up while researching part time. But the postbacc research or the ugrad classes won't be included for the 2008-2009 application round, and if I don't get accepted anywhere I'll be applying in 2009 for fall 2010? yikes, it sucks I messed up during my computer science years :(
     
  10. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member

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    My words of wisdom: Do NOT try to juggle too many things at once. If you are still trying to bump up your undergraduate GPA and trying to get more research experience WHILE going through the application process, you might end up not giving great interviews, not getting any results out of experiments, and actually lowering your GPA. And of course during the last year there are not only scholastic concerns, but also personal life issues -- I generally don't recommend sacrificing friendships/relationships...

    I myself took and have been doing research, and even that has been tough to balance with hitting the interview trail. When you have to check up on mice everyday but you have 5 consecutive weeks of 2-day interviews (plus more time for travelling!), it can be hard to get anywhere for a while.

    My advice would be to get your undergrad courses and grades squared away, try to do some research while you're doing that, and then do another year of research while you're applying. While it will be hard to juggle experiments with interviews, it's much more feasible than juggling course work and interviews; you can choose when to begin an experiment and you can work through weekends to get other time off, but it's harder to reschedule exams that a professor is giving to coincide with the appropriate coursework. Plus, it'll give you something easy to talk about during interviews too -- your current experiments and how awesome they are!
     
  11. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member

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    Oh, also, your CS background could give you some really good credentials for certain things in neurobiology, so don't feel bad! It'll all work out for you, it seems like you've got the determination you'll need.
     
  12. AtmaWeapon

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    ohhh I totally spaced out about interviews, I'm so negative minded right now with my current GPA:(. I guess I'll stick to doing postbacc research and hope for the best with my GPA then :) thanks

    or wait...is 3.5 okay if i apply broadly? I know it depends a lot on MCAT/other factors as well. By the time I apply I'll probably have 2 years of research with 1 year of ongoing research, and I have no idea what I'm looking at for MCATs right now...I've been studying for GREs.
     
  13. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member

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    I'm pretty sure I've heard of people getting into places with a 3.5 GPA. Applying broadly and making sure you shine in all other aspects of your application is going to be important. Rock out the out MCATS, for sure, but you needn't worry about GREs so much, I think. (I took them myself, back when I was thinking of PhD-only, so I'm not sure, but I think most places don't require them).
     
  14. move2west

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    Sorry AtmaWeapon at taking over your thread. I am planning to apply this year. I have already taken two years off to do research, so taking more time off is not an option. I really want to do the MD/PhD program over a PhD program, but I completely screwed up my MCAT. I had a high fever that day in addition to AAMC messing up the verbal section, which in combination greatly impacted my score (mid 20s). I was consistently scoring in the mid 30s on practice tests, so I could probably retake and probably do well fine. Unfortunately, a retake is not a good option.

    I currently doing a fellowship with an established, successful, and very famous scientist that loves to mentor. Re-brushing up on MCAT material for a retake greatly impacts the time I can devote to research. One rarely has the opportunity to study with someone at the level of my PI, so in terms of my future career as a scientist it is something I cannot pass up at this time. Additionally, my PI would get really mad about a retake (was mad about be studying the first time since I can’t spend 80+hours in the lab) and this would probably result in a lower quality recommendation.

    I doubt there is a chance that a mid-twenties scorer can get into MD/PhD programs. Hence my desire to apply to PhD programs too. If anyone has any advise I how to realistically get around this issue of applying to different programs at the same institution that would be great. I thought that you often have to apply to the PhD programs after being accepted anyways. Is there a way to twist this around and use it in my favor? I imagine that I will have a fair number of MD/PhD rejections at the time grad school applications are due, so it may not be that large of a problem.

    I still would like to apply to the combined program in hopes that my five years of research in different labs (no pubs) and good letters of rec. will give me a shot. Realistically, this will probably not happen. If anyone has any advice on if there is a way to attenuate a schools view about poor academic preparation with a person with a low MCAT score (I have an okay GPA but my degree is from an unknown LAC) that would be great. AAMC is sending a letter with the test scores describing the un-standard testing conditions, but they will not know about the illness. Do adcoms actually consider these AAMC letters when looking at test scores?

    Would it be wise to contact directors of the MD/PhD program to see if my application would be realistically considered at their institution with the current MCAT score?

    Thanks again for all your help and again sorry to AtmaWeapon
     
  15. Circumflex

    Circumflex Junior Member

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    With your MCAT score and GPA, you most likely won't get any interviews for MD/PhD spots. You didn't mention applying as MD only - why not? Getting into a MD/PhD program is much more difficult than MD only.

    The advice of not applying to MD/PhD and PhD programs at the same school is with regard to the MD/PhD admission committee - not the PhD side. Depending on what schools you apply to, I wouldn't worry about the PhD application. It sounds like you enjoy research, so a PhD would serve you well.
     

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