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How Important Is It To Get a First Author Paper?

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greentealeaves

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If I have two publications with a fourth author position, how hard should I push to try to get a first author pub? When I look at relative ranking of different things of importance in the application it seems like Step 1, third year grades, and letters of rec are relatively more important than research. I'm thinking that I will try to do the best I can on the research front without putting risk on my Step 1 score / third year grades. Is this the right approach?
 

asmallchild

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If I have two publications with a fourth author position, how hard should I push to try to get a first author pub? When I look at relative ranking of different things of importance in the application it seems like Step 1, third year grades, and letters of rec are relatively more important than research. I'm thinking that I will try to do the best I can on the research front without putting risk on my Step 1 score / third year grades. Is this the right approach?

Yes, in general, being a first author means making a significant contribution to the publication which means you either took a year (or more) off or dedicated an extraordinary amount of time to the project without taking time off.

Some students are that brilliant to be able to accomplish the latter.

For the rest of us, the recommendation is get good grades, ace Step 1, do research when/where you can (if you are that brilliant where you can do research as an MS1, in the summer between MS1 and MS2, as an MS2, in the summer between MS2 and MS3 without compromising your Step 1 preparation, during light rotations of your MS3 year, etc... more power to you), make good connections, and get good letters from those connections.
 
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