How much research do you recommend experience for an applicant to MD/PhD?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by disque71, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. disque71

    disque71 Member
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    I will be applying for MD/PhD sometime next year. I am trying to balance my academics, ec's, part time job, and research. I am thinking about dropping a few of the aforementioned to boost my GPA. Should I continue with the research?


    What do you recommend?
     
  2. Bluntman

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    I vaguely remember the average being about 2 years of research by the time you apply.
     
  3. Thundrstorm

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    You haven't provided much detail about yourself, but my gut reaction is to tell you NOT to drop the research. However, it would be helpful to know: what is your gpa? What are your ECs and are you lacking in that area? Do you need to work? Can you drop a class? How much research experience do you have? It all depends on your particualr situation, but research experience is critical for MD/PhD admissions, so that should prob. be one of the last things to go.
     
  4. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    MSTP admissions cares much less about your ECs than normal medical school, and even normal medical school will like to see research.

    if you have to, spread everything out by taking less classes and do an extra year, if at all possible. Definitely don't drop the research.
     
  5. penguinophile

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    Research trumps EVERYTHING!!!!
     
  6. tr

    tr inert protoplasm
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    I really don't think research (by itself) trumps everything. If you have a first-author Cell paper or something, then sure. Otherwise, keep your GPA up. If you don't make it over the GPA bar, you'll never get a chance to tell the admissions committee about your fabulous research.

    I would say you should attend, in order of importance, to

    1) GPA
    2) MCAT
    3) research
    4) everything else.

    Were I you, I would drop either the part-time job or the extracurriculars. Whoever suggested taking an extra year also had a good point. MD-PhD is a long road; a year or two off beforehand (but not much more, if you can help it) is generally beneficial.
     
  7. dave613

    dave613 Senior Member
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    interesting.. the gpa counts more heavily than the mcat?

     
  8. dillanger

    dillanger Member
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    The GPA definately counts more than the MCAT...

    Also for the research I just had my Cornell Tri-I interview and pretty much the only all 6 of my interviewers asked me was about my research. Good to have a touch of clinical experience (I had one summer volunteering 10 hours a week in a public clinic) but research is big


     
  9. izibo

    izibo Senior Member
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    IMHO, there is no purpose in ranking what matters the most. The bottom line is that to be competitive, you need to have it ALL!

    You have to have the solid GPA and MCAT to land interviews. You have to have the fantastic research to actually get into a program. And, often times, you need that extra bit of 'something else' to make your application stand out.

    But, back to the original question. You need enough research experience to be able to talk about your field of research and not look like a moron. My guess would be that most people need at least one year, probably slightly more.

    Best of luck.
     
  10. Thundrstorm

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    I don't think GPA and MCAT are more important than research. My numbers are about average for MD admissions, but on the low end for MD/PhD, and I've had several interviewers comment on the depth and breadth of my research experience, my strong LORs, and my AMCAS essays as things that made me stand out. I can only speak from personal experience, and who knows how much my experience has to do with the fact that I'm a URM female, but I think research trumps numbers, and that MD/PhD committees tend to look at the whole profile of an applicant.
     
  11. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    there is a critical mass. Once you have an acceptable GPA/MCAT (i'd say 3.7/33 for top-20 type schools) then your research matters much more than any higher of a gpa/mcat.
     
  12. Thundrstorm

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    Why do you think 3.7/33 is the acceptable GPA and MCAT? Those numbers are always tossed around, but is there really any data on whether that's true? I mean, for me, it isn't. Granted, I don't have an acceptance yet, but I have a 3.5/30 and I have interviews at top 20 schools.
     
  13. izibo

    izibo Senior Member
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    You have to consider that the average at most top 20 programs (based on school provided data) ranges from 35-37 with an average GPA around 3.8

    Keeping that in mind, you would want to maintain stats somwhere in that BALLPARK (ie, somewhere in the 3.7 / 33 area). It goes without saying that if you have a 3.5 / 30 that some schools will pass over your file just due to your scores. I am in no way saying you are a poor candidate or that you wont get interviews at top 20 schools (since obviously you have), but those scores are not going to HELP your application any.

    I really think that there is no set formula. Some folks can ride a stellar MCAT (41) to an acceptance without tons of research, and some folks can matriculate at WashU or Harvard with a 28 just because of fantastic research.
     
  14. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    it really depends on the school. I think i am a case in point.... good gpa mcat but below average research experiences. some schools IMMEDIATELY sent me back an invite, others took a medium-long look and rejected me.

    It's all about getting your foot in the door with a solid gpa/mcat. There are tons of people who have numbers similar to yourself but you stand out for the quality of your research experiences. On the other hand, there are very few people in the Summa range with an ABET engineering major, so that has made me an acceptable candidate at many top-20 programs (along with being a URM :smuggrin: .

    As an addendum, let me add it's much harder to quantify to what extent someone developed the skills needed to succeed in research from an application with letters of rec. It's very obvious based on gpa/mcat that you have the skills of analysis and integrative thinking that are needed to succeed in the research field, but not exclusive.
     
  15. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    haha that's really funny because at UCLA i didn't talk a single time about one of my research experiences (across 4 interviews!), the only research-specific questions I received at all concerned follow-up questions to my discussion of the area of research into which I am interested in going. On the other hand, I spent all of my MD-only interview at WashU talking about my research experiences. It's really funny how things work out.
     
  16. milliardo_L

    milliardo_L Senior Member
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    I agree that this should be your focus at the end of your undergrad, but your potential as a researcher is what matters the most. In order to show that the order the admisions committee rank based:

    1-Letters of recomendation
    2-Personal Statement
    3-Research (related to 2)
    4-GPA and MCAT

    The important thing is to have the full package, so I would try to distribute my time to optimize these. If your PI is cool enough not to care so much that you take a vacation for studying, just take a break and focus on the MCAT. Otherwise gracefully work less and less until you achieve the same. I agree that your main ECs is research, the others are totally secondary, so 2-3 of research are ideal. If your GPA is suffering for having a part time job, and can't quit it, make sure you explain the situation in your statement.
     
  17. Thundrstorm

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    I see what you're saying. I just wonder, really, what the range is moreso than the average. Before applying, I was under the impression that I was below the normal range for accepted MD/PhD (and certainly MSTP) candidates, but my experience thus far leaves me wondering whether I'm more the exception or the rule. Should I be surprised that I'm doing so well as an applicant with below average numbers, or is the range of acceptable stats not as narrow as I was led to believe? When I first started getting interviews, I thought I was just fortunate to come across some schools that look at the whole applicant, but so far I've gotten interviews at every school that has gotten back to me (9 so far, 6 MSTP and 3 non-MSTP) and I don't have any rejections yet (YET), which leaves me wondering if schools really take one glance at lower numbers and reject people... because I haven't gotten any immediate rejections. I'm sure there are rejections coming, but I've been complete at most of my schools for atleast 2 months, and I don't have any rejections yet. If my numbers are low enough to fall below the supposed cut-off at some schools, why haven't they cut me off yet? Of course interviews don't equal acceptances, so who knows whether I'll get in somewhere, but I'm really curious about the usual range of accepted applicants because, basically, this process has not be as much of an uphill battle as I thought it would be.
     
  18. disque71

    disque71 Member
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    If you dont mind me asking, what are your stats and which schools did you apply to? I am a computer engineering major and my gpa has suffered becasue of it. My science gpa is far higher than my regular gpa so I am hoping that will help.
     
  19. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    A recurring theme in your posts is that you're doing so well despite lower numbers, but the general suspicion is that URM status helps to forgive lower stats in general. There was once data for MD-only programs on the AAMC website to support this (URMs on average being given interviews and acceptances with lower numbers), but that data is no longer available.

    One could argue that URMs may have more diverse experience, but I'm not sure that MD/PhD committees in general care about "whole profiles" based on my personal experience as a disadvantaged non-URM applicant. I mean, if that were the case, why wouldn't extracirriculars outside of research matter more? But again, it's hard to generalize because it's going to depend on the school and just how lucky you are at different programs getting a sympathetic ear.

    I really didn't want to say this, because it's terribly un-PC and could start a flame war, but I felt it had to be said. Civil discussion usually follows in this forum, and I am wrong about these things as often as the next guy, so make up your own minds about it.
     
  20. Thundrstorm

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    Has there ever been any public data on MD/PhD programs though? I guess it's probably similar to MD-only, but I wonder if diversity is as important to MD/PhD programs.

    I don't think URMs necessarily have more diverse experiences. It's just a category people are placed into, and the only thing all URMs share is that they're underrepresented. I guess when I mentioned the whole applicant, I was thinking about the fact that non-research areas of my application have come up as positive parts of my application during interviews. In one interview I had at Tri-I, my interviewer specifically mentioned my essays/writing style and some random non-medical, non-research ECs that caught her eye. In fact, we talked about numbers vs. other experiences, and she seemed to think that the rest of my application made me stand out more than a couple more GPA points would have. Of course, an interviewer is not going to come out and just say "Look, we want you because you're brown," but I really don't believe that my race is the ONLY or even necessarily the PRIMARY reason why I have so many interviews.

    There's nothing wrong with discussing the role that race plays in admissions; I would call it realistic, not un-PC to bring race into the discussions. Otherwise, I wouldn't have brought it up. ;) I have to admit that it does bug me a little that I have to wonder how much my race has to do with my chances at admission. I'm not disadvantaged, and the color of my skin doesn't have anything to do with my success or lack thereof in any area of my application. I certainly won't feel guilty if I get into a good program b/c I'll know that I deserve to be there, but I will always wonder, as will some of my peers, I'm sure, how I would have done if I happened to be white.
     
  21. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    Interesting points. You have a good attitude on the matter! As for wondering how you would have done if you were white, you can't really make the comparison i.e. the reason for affirmative action is that under-represented minorities have been traditionally disadvantaged in many ways. Thus it wouldn't really be far for you to speculate about how your application would fare if you were a non-URM, since likely your application would be much different and likely more favorable (more wealthy, educated, or connected family, less discrimination, better public schools, etc. results in better grades, MCAT, research, etc.). You have a lot to be proud of for what you've accomplished thus far.

    With all of that said, I must echo Neuronix that I'm not sure that we can generalize your experience to the general MSTP pool. Simply put, a non-URM with interesting experiences but a 3.5/30 will not get interviews at every school they apply to, and to say otherwise may mislead other applicants.

    I post this tentatively, but Neuronix is right that this forum tends to be pretty civilized. So don't flame me.
     
  22. kassie

    kassie Senior Member
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    I think research is a critical component of any application because finishing a PhD is not easy and there's a high dropout rate, especially for MD/PhDs. The PhD is sometimes harder because it takes a lot of self-discipline that can't be feigned by passing exams.

    Admissions committees just was you to show your commitment to research 1. know you'll be able to endure the pain of getting the PhD and 2. know you're not in it for the free MD.

    Just my opinion from my experience on a committee 4 years ago - it might have changed since then.
     
  23. Thundrstorm

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    :laugh: Why does everyone seem to think I'm going to flame them?!

    I wasn't trying to generalize my experience; that is precisely why I asked my question about the range of stats for accepted applicants... to try to get a feel for how usual or unusual my experience has been.

    In any event, you're right... there's no use wondering what would have occurred had I been white b/c I'm not (well, actually I'm half-white, but this country still goes by a variation of the one-drop rule. My black half cancels out the white half according to the census bureau. :laugh: ). I would have been a different person and had very different experiences had I been white, so I would have been a completely different applicant.
     
  24. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    Sorry, I didn't mean to point you out in particular as one who could potentially flame me. Whenever the subject of AA is broached, almost everybody gets uncomfortable, and I was hoping to avoid a flame war. Again, sorry if you felt singled out.
     
  25. sharpnerd00

    sharpnerd00 Member
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    I would have to rank the criteria for interviews as follows:

    1) EITHER a good MCAT or GPA; to make sure they do more than just glance at your profile
    2) Great recommendation letters; ones that stem from your awesome research experiences
    3) Essays: demonstrating that you either a) understand what MSTP is all about and/or b) are able to translate your ECs to something useful and an ability to discuss what your research is all about.

    I'm all about being well-rounded but that would prove to be useless if you didn't understand the goal of the MSTP or couldn't do research very well. I, too, wonder what the "below average" means. I would say as long as you are 30/3.5, it wouldn't be surprising to get interviews at top 20 schools if you have the research and recs to back it up.

    Re: URM status. A couple schools MSTP FAQs on their website will mention that diversity is important to the program but they don't go out of their way to recruit URM so I think URM is less important for MSTP versus MD-only.
     
  26. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    now I don't have any numbers to back me up with this, but I think the bottom line is that there are simply few URMS with super-high stats. However, there are plenty of URMs with good stats and very impressive ECs.

    An impressive applicant has both super-high stats and super-impressive ECs, but inevitably there is a trade-off between the two. My general sense is that impressive URM apps have more of the latter and less-so of the former. Consequently, we are more cognizant when somebody characterized by this type of application gets more invites.

    Whether or not there is something general to be said about stellar numbers/ pretty good EC vs. pretty good number/stellar EC relative invites, I don't know, and I imagine it's something that's pretty school specific.

    edit: as a caveat please i'm not trying to be un-PC and i have no numbers to back up my comments; the basis of my comments is the fact that i'm such an SDN junkie and my exposure to med students/ the med program/ premeds at my undergrad campus.
     
  27. Hurricane

    Hurricane Senior Member
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    While it's true that MD/PhD programs look at "the whole applicant," the MSTP programs have to report stats like GPA and MCAT scores to the NIH in their funding renewal applications. So those are important. Programs also have to report their attrition rate, so it's also important that the candidate has had enough research experience to demonstrate that they "get" what research is like and won't get overwhelmed in grad school and quit for the straight MD.

    Anyway, as far as the original poster's question, I'd say cut back on the ECs before research. You've already done the EC, so it will go on your application and show you're an interesting multidimensional person, etc. Continuity isn't as important for ECs. People don't care how many years you've done a particular EC as much as they care how many years you've done research.
     
  28. tr

    tr inert protoplasm
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    I wouldn't say there is an inevitable trade-off. As a couple of other posters mentioned, there are plenty of people out there who have both. For applicants who have only one or the other, URM status can tip the balance in their favor.

    (Again, no flames; I support affirmative action in general, and I don't see a problem with this state of affairs. But I don't think it's accurate to say that URMs in general make up for lower stats with better ECs. I think they more commonly make up for lower stats with their URM status. Which, again, is fine with me, though I won't lay out my reasoning here.)

    I do agree that URM status might be slightly less of a boost for MSTP than for MD-only, since the MSTP has more of an investment in the student and takes a much more careful, holistic look at each application. On the other hand, there are very few URMs applying MSTP in the first place (I think something like 70% of the MSTP applicant pool is male and non-URM).
     
  29. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    I guess it depends on how you define "super-high stats" and "super-impressive ECs". To me those sorts of terms refer to 3.9+ and 38+ in addition to extremely impressive ECs (a ton of clinical experience, founded and presided over a student group, and soloed at Carnegie Hall). If you mean ECs to primarily involve research, then I think there are actually a good number of applicants with that kind of profile. But if you are talking about ECs as entirely extracurricular i.e. what I listed above, in that case I think he's right that there are very very few.

    To the OP, the safest bet is to have a very high GPA and MCAT and have a ton of research experience. (Of course letters of rec and essays to back that up.) If you have all of those elements and a bit of clinical and EC experience, there will be very few individuals out there who can trump you.
     
  30. hawkeey

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    If you truly want to be a MD/PhD then there should be some strong internal motivation to pursue it. Why in the world would anyone want both a degree to practice medicine and one that qualifies him or her for advanced independent research?

    In terms of research experience, the key is to get as much of it as possible. It would be great if you had at least a year or probably more. The ultimate culmination of this could result in a paper, but not everyone is going to be able to publish something. Science does not work that way as you will or are finding out.

    The problem is how are you supposed to do research, take difficult classes to prepare yourself for graduate school, volunteer in a hospital, demonstrate leadership in student organizations, do well on the MCAT, and write a dozen or more application essays all at the same time? The answer is that you probably cannot; what you choose to do and not do is what differentiates MD/PhD candidates from each other.

    So in the end, the answer is how much research do YOU want to do? OR would you rather spend most of the time attending to patients in a hospital? Answering these questions will also tell you to what programs you should apply (MD, PhD, or MD/PhD). There is a balance, but the answer to these questions must come from within.
     
  31. CaipirinhaQuinho

    CaipirinhaQuinho Senior Member
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    Great comment. I was thinking the exact same thing. I think this is absolutely the case for the top programs. They are judged by the quality (term used lightly) of students they accept based on their GPA and MCAT. Money/funding rules the world. As physician-scientists we should learn this lesson very quickly. I would say money/funding concerns dominate any URM status.
     
  32. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN
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    yeah, ditto what he said. I have seen literally no one (on mdapplicants anyway) who has 3.9 & 40 type numbers with tons of research and some incredible story to tell like "I was first chair in a symphony". I think it's safe to say that for most/all of us here to get where we are today we had to put blood, sweat, toil and tears into obtaining a couple of lame numbers and letters of rec. There's no way in the world I would have been able to do that + something like intercollegiate sports or the like. If you can I tip my cap, you are superman in my book.
     
  33. Thundrstorm

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    Because fewer URMs apply to MSTP programs, schools who want to diversify accept a larger (read: lower) range of stats form URM students. For instance, if there are 500 MD/PhD applicants in a given year and 50 of them are URMs, you might have 250 of the 450 non-URM applicants with >3.7 and 33, and 30 of the 50 URM applicants with >3.7 and 33, but because programs want to have a diverse class, the 20 remaining URM applicants with "lower" stats have more of a chance of getting into a top program than the remaining 200 non-URM applicants with "lower" stats. This is quite different than saying that URMS students don't have high numbers. Even if the numbers are proportionate to the overall applicant pool, URMs, by definition, make up a small portion of that pool and, thus, are given more leeway in terms of numbers. I just think it's important to point out the difference between saying "There are few URMs with stellar numbers" and "There are few URMs applying, thus even URMs without stellar numbers can get in."



    And really guys, you don't need to end every post with a disclaimer that you're not trying to be un-PC. Real dialogue begins when we stop trying not to offend, and start giving our honest opinions.
     
  34. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    I actually do know a few. But I agree that it's ridiculously hard, and I certainly couldn't do it. I have enough trouble and too little personal life as is just trying to maintain GPA and research and a modicum of ECs. I've already sacrificed most social time--I just don't have the time in the day to pick up world-class EC's unless I stop sleeping altogether! The few people who can do it, in my opinion, are those that are just smarter than the rest of us, and don't need to put as much time into schoolwork as others. Two that I know were named Rhodes Scholars this year, which tells you just how rare these types of people are.
     
  35. 1Path

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    I think it's a hellava lot easier to say that an applicants' URM status helped them get interviews/acceptanances than to say that some if not most MD/PhD programs give points (as in Mayo) for the major admissions criteria and that a particular URM made the cut. For example, MCAT is just one of the "big 5" criteria mentioned before. If equal points are given in each catergory as they should be, then it's more than conceivable that a person with a 30 on the MCAT (which is NOT a low by any strecth of the imagination although low for MSTP MD/PhD) can get interviewed/accepted by many programs including top 5 programs if they are outstanding in ALL other areas.

    Ya know, I don't think being a URM has EVER come up when a lack of research experience is spoken of. :confused:

    And Thunderstorm, let me be the first to congratulate you on your future acceptances. ;)
     
  36. Trojan-LY

    Trojan-LY New Member
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    ^ To what extent would a "URM" status help an application? I am asking because next year I will be applying, and I have the option todo so as a URM.
     
  37. CaipirinhaQuinho

    CaipirinhaQuinho Senior Member
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    You're asking the wrong question my friend. You shouldn't apply md.phd if you need "help" getting in.

    ignite the flame, this guy hasn't been paying attention to anything this post has been saying.
     
  38. tr

    tr inert protoplasm
    Physician PhD Faculty 10+ Year Member

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    If ya got it... flaunt it! ;)

    j/k - but seriously, it can't possibly hurt you.
     
  39. Trojan-LY

    Trojan-LY New Member
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    I don't know how you jumped to the conclusion that I needed help to get accepted into an md.phd program. May be I need to explain things a little more slowly for you, all I was asking was would a URM classification have a positive effect on my application, since this is a competitive process and I can use any "edge" I can get.
    Again I don't know how you concluded from my previous one line post that "I need help getting in", and more astonishing was the advise you gave :"You shouldn't apply md.phd.". with your astounding analytic ability I am sure you are going to make a great scientist!
     
  40. 1Path

    1Path Membership Revoked
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    You haven't been around these here parts long enough to know that URM = need help getting in. :mad:

    FYI, people use all sorts of things to get in. Legacy, Daddy's golf buddy's, working for an adcom (my personal favorite ;) ) ect, so use any and everything you can that helps make you a unique applicant. :thumbup:
     
  41. CaipirinhaQuinho

    CaipirinhaQuinho Senior Member
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    listen buddy, i didn't mean to hurt your feelings. i didn't realize you would be so sensitive about it. I just think you should think before you post. You asked a stupid question and you got a stupid response.

    You asked if applying as a URM would "help" your application. I will answer with the obvious response: of course it will help. and now i will give you an obvious explanation: Since schools would like to provide and showcase their diverse environment, they tend to accept well qualified URMs more so than similarly qualified non-URMs.

    If you want any edge you can get, then why are you even asking this silly question? The only response you're going to get is "yes it can help" or your going to spark an affirmative action debate. As a latin-american applicant, i would rather not read a series of posts about why minorities are less qualified.

    I'll ignore the personal attacks because I'm a nice guy and I know people feel empowered by the anonymity of this site.
     

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