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Determining the # of schools to apply

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by Mountain Cow, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. Mountain Cow

    Mountain Cow 2+ Year Member

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    Mar 31, 2007
    Hey all,

    I have been putting a lot of thought into which programs I should apply to. There are about 20-25 that I feel would be a good fit for my research interests in locations that are acceptable. I feel applying to this many schools is a bit excessive in terms of money and time filling out secondaries.

    What is a good ballpark in terms of numbers of schools to apply to to keep from being too busy/expensive and to maximize the possibility of at least 1 acceptance?

    Thanks!
     
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  3. vector07

    vector07 Junior Member 5+ Year Member

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    Apr 6, 2006
    This is a really hard question to answer. It would help knowing your "stats", and where you're interested in going. If your goal is to get into a single program then you don't need to apply to 20-25. However, if you have preferences among those schools, then certainly applying to more will increase your odds of getting into the "better" schools on your list.

    I can tell you that based on my original thoughts of where I'd get in, and where I wouldn't.. well.. I was completely wrong!

    I applied to 22 MD/PhD programs, and didn't complete the secondary on 2 of them. It wasn't too overwhelming. Probably about the same as undergrad, and I applied to significantly fewer schools for undergrad (10 I think?) .. Most schools' additional essays are pretty straightforward: like 'why do you want to come to our school?' You should be able to answer that question if you've looked at their research strengths.. Naturally there are exceptions: stanford, DUKE, usc had lots of essays. The latter two were the secondaries I didnt complete!
     
  4. Dr.Watson

    Dr.Watson 2+ Year Member

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    Oct 11, 2006
  5. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member 2+ Year Member

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    Jun 13, 2006
    I think this also depends on your personality. I applied to "only" 11, and I was annoyed at doing that many secondaries as it was. Of course, I applied later in the cycle (primary submitted in late August), and was therefore more rushed; actually it wasn't the secondaries that were the most annoying, rather it was the repeated phone calls to ask about the completeness of my application that really irritated me. So many places misplaced LORs (from different PIs, so I'm fairly certain the problems weren't on the PIs ends), and I kept having to get different letters resent/faxed/emailed etc. I ended up with several acceptances and a wait list position, but my stats are pretty good. (35+ MCAT, 3.9+ GPA, a couple non-first-author pubs, a first author abstract, lots of research experience, a little clinical experience).

    Also, only one place I applied to provided travel reimbursement for interviews, so I had a different experience than Dr. Watson in that regard as well. I'd suggest saving up some cash, I think I ended up spending ~$2500 when it was all said and done.

    As for being busy... heh. January through mid-Feb I had a 2-day interview every single friggin' week. It was nearly impossible to do anything else between traveling and interview prep -- but it was pretty cool to meet so many top-notch scientists and all-around interesting people.

    Finally, my priorities changed a lot over the months-long process. I'm probably going to end up enrolling at a school where I was initially applying only to mollify other people in my life, and I'm actually really excited about it now. :laugh: Contrary to the rest of my post, this last statement is an argument for applying broadly so that you have some options in the end.
     
  6. Mountain Cow

    Mountain Cow 2+ Year Member

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    Mar 31, 2007
     
  7. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

     
  8. Mountain Cow

    Mountain Cow 2+ Year Member

    169
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    Mar 31, 2007
     
  9. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member 2+ Year Member

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    Jun 13, 2006
    Caveat: Most schools begin making offers before they've interviewed all their applicants, whether they advertise their admissions as "rolling" or not. So emphasize your preferred schools the more when you are choosing which secondaries to complete... and you may also want to complete the ones for the more competitive schools first, as their interview schedules can fill up quickly.

    Of course, it also helps to have your first interview or two at perhaps a less competitive place, so you can get comfortable with the process and get some real practice dealing with that sort of grilling.
     
  10. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    :thumbup:
    YES- this is very important. Don't line up your number one school first- there is a great chance you will be very nervous and screw it all up.

    PS- I asked about your undergrad because the GPA has to be looked at in that light. Many top-tier schools are biased in terms of your undergrad affiliation and will weigh your GPA accordingly. U of M is considered one of the better public schools out there, so that may reflect positively on your GPA of 3.74. Not all schools do this, obviously, but the Ivys definitely do.
     
  11. jeniffer lopez

    jeniffer lopez La butifarra 7+ Year Member

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    Apr 23, 2003
    Completely agree! I was quite nervous during my first one, but after surviving it the rest seemed really easy (I had a really tough first interviewer...she made every other scientist sound mellow). I requested my top choice school to schedule me later than they had offer so that I could get some exposure, and I am very glad I did. I even told them that was the reason I wanted to reschedule, and they understood.

    If you do decide to apply to 20-something schools (like I did), just realize that you will be wasting money at the end because you cannot possibly go to all those interviews (I think I made it to less than 10 and cancelled all the rest). I wish that money was gaining some interest right now :(
     
  12. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I don't think it is necessarily a waste- you'll have more options for interviews, assuming you get lots of them. I applied initially to 18 schools, and returned 15 secondaries. I got 12 interviews and went to 10. Of the interviews I got, there were scheduling conflicts that prevented one and the other I cancelled because I was tired and broke- it was also in the same city as another program that I thought I liked better.

    I'm not sure I would have done things any different if I had to do it again. First, I got to see lots of programs; second, I saw (and was very impressed by) programs that I may not have even applied to had I limited myself to 5-10 schools.
     
  13. jeniffer lopez

    jeniffer lopez La butifarra 7+ Year Member

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    Apr 23, 2003
    I guess it also depends on when you apply. I did not have much scheduling conflicts because I applied rather early and could pick which weeks worked better for me, given my other interviews (I had a rough idea of when each school gave interviews).

    Applying to a lot of schools does give you more options, but more does not mean better, or at least not to me, given that I had a very tight budget. If you can afford it, by all means apply everywhere. It also depends a lot on the strenght of your application, so it is very hard to compare...some people apply everywhere and only get interviews from the bottom part of their list, and some apply to only a few places and get accepted in every single one. If you are strong, then you don't have to apply everywhere. However, you don't know how strong you are until you start interviewing...so it becomes a never-ending cycle.
     
  14. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Yeah, this is a problem, but you can limit it by scheduling your interviews wisely. Planning all east-coast programs back-to-back can limit travel expenses. Most programs pay for the hotel stay, and some programs even paid for my flight when I interviewed. You can really use this to your advantage. For example, WashU paid for my flight, so I booked my return flight to Boston for my Harvard interview. That way I got to visit two programs essentially for free. Of course, this was like 8 years ago, so I don't know if you could pull this off anymore. Also, if money is a problem, you can ask the administrators if they have funding for applicant travel. Many programs do but don't advertise it.
     

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