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does grad school increase your chances?

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stat3113

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Does going to grad school for a few years (in a scientific field) boost one's chances of getting into med school? While the classic answer is not necessarily, I think it very well might.

Consider: John graduates college with a GPA that's sub-par for medical school (<3.5.) He does post-bacc for a year (and does very well), but he's still weighed down by his low UG gpa. Even if we assume a decent MCAT (>32), he will still have a hard time getting into ANY medical school. Best case: he will get into a bottom-tier med school.

Alternative: After doing his post-bacc, John enters a PhD program in a scientific field at a top tier university. He does very well in his studies, is able to participate in advanced-level research, etc. After 1-3 years in the program , John applied to medical school. Instead of being a subpar student desperate to get into med school, he has demonstrated his ability to excel in a difficult scientific field. His chances of getting into medical school are now significantly enhanced. Also, if his graduate program is closely affiliated with his own school's medical school, it's not hard to imagine him gaining serious consideration there, due to connections, etc.

Now obviously, this scenario only makes sense if the applicant LIKES the idea of going to graduate school in the selected field, etc. If he can't stand the thought, then maybe an SMP would be better for him. But in my analysis, John is someone who has a long-term goal of going to medical school, but is also interested in graduate studies.

Its interesting that of all the PhDs who go to med school, I don't think you'd find many Ivy League PhDs sitting at Nova Southeastern D.O. school. Graduate studies at a top-tier school seem to mark you as a top caliber student. But, you may well find some kids at Nova who had the potential to do graduate studies at an Ivy League school.

It's exponentially easier to gain admission to a top-tier science graduate program as opposed to a top-tier medical program. Thus, for someone who likes the field, it may be a good decision to put in some years there, to greatly boost chances of admission to med school (as well as to learn material they love and enjoy.)

I realize that the scenarios I've discussed may apply to only a small subset of med-school aspirants. But they seem to make sense for that group. What do you guys think of my analysis?
 
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If you are serious when you say you are excited to "learn material [you] love and enjoy" and want to complete the Ph.D., then I'd say go for it. While graduate GPA's don't help, a doctoral level degree in a hard science will certainly garner some attention from admissions committees as they discuss your ability to handle the course load in medical school. Do you intend to use your Ph.D. after your MD (i.e., do you want to conduct medical research)? I think you'd be just fine doing this provided you are up front with your graduate department about your intention to complete the degree and apply to medical school during your program. Many graduate schools are loathe to admit (or fund) students who just want to elope into medicine. Good luck!
 

Nasem

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If I was you, I would scratch out the Ph.D idea, go complete an SMP in 1.5 to 2.5 years and apply.... If you keep a 3.5 or higher GPA in your SMP and get a 30+ mcat, then you'd have a pretty much guaranteed spot in one of the many allopathic schools you apply to...
 
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If I was you, I would scratch out the Ph.D idea, go complete an SMP in 1.5 to 2.5 years and apply.... If you keep a 3.5 or higher GPA in your SMP and get a 30+ mcat, then you'd have a pretty much guaranteed spot in one of the many allopathic schools you apply to...

No one has a "pretty much guaranteed spot" in any medical school, allopathic or otherwise. I agree that a Ph.D. is unlikely to make the applicant shine much more than completion of an SMP, but if research is in the OP's future, they can complete the Ph.D. If OP doesn't want to do medical research, then I agree that an SMP is the best, most direct route to medical school.
 

littlealex

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Well, most medical schools require you to finish your PhD if you're currently enrolled in one. The few that does not require it requires a letter from your PhD committee to say they will allow you to apply for medical school and break your contract.

The point is if you start your PhD, finish it.

As for getting into a competitive PhD program, you've evidently not done research into it. Most PhD students I know in top10 research schools have easily a 3.5+ GPA. A low GPA without strong research background doesn't bode well for PhD admissions.

A real question Case Western asked a friend of mine during PhD interview this year: "It says here that your GPA is only 3.6. Why do you think you deserve to be admitted over all the students who worked harder than you?
 

PseudomonasPAO1

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This thread reminds me of a conversation a group of us had with an associate dean from Harvard Med School (~ 7 years ago). Interestingly, he said they could easily fill their class with ALL PhDs (imagine that class :)). I wouldn't be surprised if most schools could do the same, yet the #s are pretty low for matriculants w/grad degrees.

As for the OP's question, I think grad school demonstrates a level of commitment and the ability to handle advanced science. It also gives you a chance to develop more meaningful ECs. I know I'd be noncompetitive without my grad school experiences. But for straight up med school admissions, SMPs are probably more useful.
 

Haemulon

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Do not do a grad degree just to help you get into medical school. Getting a grad degree in the sciences is hard. Research can be miserable if luck is not on your side, and you can go insane battleing your thesis or dissertation committee to graduate if an adversarial relationship developes. Do graduate work and research if you are interested in and love the field. It looks good on a medical school app, that's true, but it doesn't help quite as much as you think. There are tons of applicants out there with grad degrees (I have 2). And adcomms usually focus more on your undergrad performance (leaving your grad work as being considered just as a really good EC in some instances). So just make sure that you do it for the right reasons. :)
 
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Do not do a grad degree just to help you get into medical school. Getting a grad degree in the sciences is hard. Research can be miserable if luck is not on your side, and you can go insane battleing your thesis or dissertation committee to graduate if an adversarial relationship developes. Do graduate work and research if you are interested in and love the field. It looks good on a medical school app, that's true, but it doesn't help quite as much as you think. There are tons of applicants out there with grad degrees (I have 2). And adcomms usually focus more on your undergrad performance (leaving your grad work as being considered just as a really good EC in some instances). So just make sure that you do it for the right reasons. :)

Agreed. I have a graduate degree as well. (Of course, I'm not sure how often I'll be writing criminal profiles while in medical school, but you never know!) I'm not expecting it to be much help, especially since mine isn't in a hard science. Good luck.
 

Nasem

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No one has a "pretty much guaranteed spot" in any medical school, allopathic or otherwise. I agree that a Ph.D. is unlikely to make the applicant shine much more than completion of an SMP, but if research is in the OP's future, they can complete the Ph.D. If OP doesn't want to do medical research, then I agree that an SMP is the best, most direct route to medical school.

I guess that didn't come out right....
I didn't mean it like if you do the SMP path your pretty much 100% guaranteed a spot.... what I simply meant was that if you do well on an SMP program, your chances of getting into an allopathic school increases dramatically.... there that sounded much better
 

kidthor

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I disagree with this a little bit. It's true that PhD students at good schools had high gpas, but a strong research background can be a really significant factor in getting someone into a good PhD program, even with a weak GPA. It probably depends on the school and their attitude toward selecting students... (I speak from personal experience).

In response to OP's post, a forray into grad school won't help one's med school prospects per se, unless it's an SMP (and one does well) or if you really kicked butt in a science program. Another degree might help you in your ultimate career goals or in personal enrichment, but probably wouldn't add much beyond the more "traditional" admissions factors.




As for getting into a competitive PhD program, you've evidently not done research into it. Most PhD students I know in top10 research schools have easily a 3.5+ GPA. A low GPA without strong research background doesn't bode well for PhD admissions.

A real question Case Western asked a friend of mine during PhD interview this year: "It says here that your GPA is only 3.6. Why do you think you deserve to be admitted over all the students who worked harder than you?
 
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