Can you get in to MD/PhD programs with the bare minimum EC's?

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Full Member
Nov 27, 2013
  1. Pre-Medical
    I cannot balance a lot of extracurricular activities with my classes, I really can't. I already leave home at 8am, and get back home anywhere between 6pm-9pm, depending on the day. The only activities I am participating in are 10 hours of work as a tutor, 5-8 hours of volunteering at a research lab.

    I also don't have a car, so taking public transportation eats away quite a few hours of the day, and I am required to live off campus if I want to go to college at all.

    I will be able to squeeze in 4 hours a week next semester to volunteer at a hospital, and I might be able to squeeze in an extra 2 hours a week in between my classes to go shadow a doctor. I am taking a REGULAR class schedule, nothing heavy, but I am also taking the labs, so they eat up time.

    I am a sophomore, with a ~3.60 GPA, and I have been getting a 4.0 since last winter (I also took full time summer electives, and got a 4.0), so I suppose I am on a somewhat "upward" trend. If I keep it up, I will have roughly a 3.75 by the time I apply (after junior year). But what worries me, is that I haven't really done any extracurricular activities besides working part time, up until now.
    I have had a year of part-time work in the library, where I was the "tech help" person. It was an easy job, most of the time I just sat there and did my homework, or surfed the web when no one needed help. Right now I am working as a tech tutor, and have been so for the past 6 months, and it is pretty much the same job.

    I have had a couple months of volunteering at a research lab, dealing with enzymes.

    Over the winter break, I am planning to volunteer at a computer center, building computers for non-profit organizations, and that will probably be my only non-clinical EC I will ever do.

    So I guess my question is, if I apply with these stats, and if I apply to 20 lower tier schools (I won't even include schools that are top 30 on my list, and I might include a couple schools that are top 40, and the rest will be lower tier), how likely is it that I will have at least one acceptance?
    If I will have:
    ~2 academic years of researching
    I am also planning to do one fulltime summer research at another lab that deals more with cell biology, and I will carry out my own project and do a poster. This will add to the diversity of my research.
    ~1.5 years volunteering at a hospital four hours per week
    ~24-50 hours of shadowing
    -1 year tech help work parttime
    -2 years tech tutor work part time
    ~100 hours volunteering at the computer center
    ~3.75ish gpa?

    Do you think that these activities will get me into an MD/PhD program?

    I am also totally okay with reapplying if I don't get in the first try.

    I am just really not the kind of person who ever had many activities on my list. When I was in high school, the only two activities I did were choir for ONE semester, part-time work for a year, and dance club member for like 2 months. That was it. I was never that kind of person who does 40 hours a week of activities, I just can't. Any advice or help?


    MSTP Director
    10+ Year Member
  • Oct 11, 2007
    TEXAS (Eden)
    1. Attending Physician
      You will not rank high among MD applicants, but among MD/PhD applicants, the amount of EC's described are enough. Research, research, and research are (is) what is most important to you. once you score/are above the academic achievement cut-offs (i.e.: MCAT, GPAs) for particular programs. If you get to have presentations and publications, you will be more desirable. Don't look for further experiences, higher depth in one lab is helpful to show that you can carry out a project to fruition.

      Nationally, the mean MCAT and GPA's are published. Here are the stats for the 2012 applicant and matriculating class:
      The MD/PhD class would be published in about 3 weeks or so.

      PM me if you have specific questions...

      A MD/PhD Program Director


      Full Member
      10+ Year Member
      Apr 28, 2010
      Cowboy Land
      1. MD/PhD Student
        I suspect 5-8 hours of volunteering at a research lab is on the low side for MD/PhD applicants. Try 15-20? Although what ultimately matters are the results, I personally would never be able to accomplish anything* with 8 hours a week... That's not even enough time to run a whole Western blot from growing up cells to seeing your first bands.

        If you find that you can't balance ECs with classes, try fewer credits. Can you study/eat on the bus/train? Although keep in mind that things aren't gonna get easier in med school...

        * anything independent, I guess. If you're doing work for grad students/postdocs who prepare things for you it's a lot easier.
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        Shifty B

        Full Member
        10+ Year Member
        Aug 13, 2008
        1. Attending Physician
          I agree with the above posters. Research is going to be much more important that other extracurriculars, volunteering, etc. If you focus on that, you will have the best possible chance.


          Full Member
          7+ Year Member
          Apr 26, 2013
          1. Medical Student
            Although my research experiences are significant, I believe I have far more interviews than I would normally have if my other EC's weren't as outstanding. I think EC's with a real strongly positive impact on your community go a long way. PM me if you want more info


            Full Member
            7+ Year Member
            Oct 11, 2009
            1. Resident [Any Field]
              Although what ultimately matters are the results,

              Maybe what I'm about to say is what you really meant but I would argue even the results don't matter. What matters is the level of involvement/engagement within the project. You could be working on the most ground breaking project generating perfect data, but if all you're doing is mindlessly following someone else's orders, you'll be less competitive than the person with their own project (i.e. designing the experiments, troubleshooting, analyzing data, making scientific decisions etc.) doing less interesting stuff and without everything working as planned.
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