• Funniest Story on the Job Contest Starts Now!

    Contest starts now and ends September 27th. Winner will receive a special user banner and $10 Amazon Gift card!

  • Site Updates Coming Next Week

    Site updates are coming next week on Monday and Friday. Click the button below to learn more!


MD/PhD WAMC & school list: low MCAT, research-heavy, clinical-light, atypical applicant


New Member
Jul 15, 2019
  1. Pre-Medical
Hi everyone! I'm reapplying this cycle to MD/PhD programs, and I'd love some help/advice with my school list. I'm interested in psychology/cognitive neuroscience research. I went to an undergrad that didn't have letter grades, so I'm not sure how my GPA will come into play, and I don't have the best MCAT score. I have a lot of non-clinical research experience, but no clinical experience (COVID sort of ruined my plans there...) Would appreciate any help or advice that anyone has, specifically on my chances based on my limited clinical experience. Thanks in advance!

-510 MCAT
-GPA: 4.0 post-bacc, ~3.5 undergrad based on a handful of graded classes I took at other institutions, but AMCAS calculates my cumulative undergrad GPA as a 4.0 (only including the one post-bacc course and disregarding all undergrad courses, even those that were graded)
-CA resident

~4000 hours working in neurolinguistics lab as full-time research assistant: 2 first author conference presentations, 1 second author conference presentation, 1 first author paper in preparation for submission, mid-level authorship on a few other future papers (none published yet)
~1700 hours in neurolinguistics lab as undergrad: 1 year as research assistant, 2 years as lab manager, received grant to complete senior thesis project that resulted in two first-author conference presentations, spent one summer working in this lab for a summer research/mentorship grant
~450 hours in infant cognition lab as undergrad research assistant
~75 hours in linguistics lab as undergrad research technician

I was planning on spending this year and next switching my focus from neurolinguistics research to something more clinical. I started an EMT training class and planned to work as an EMT starting this summer, but my EMT certification was impacted by COVID and I don't know yet when I will be able to complete that. My current research position ends this summer so my backup plan is to find a clinical research position for the fall, and also look for clinical volunteering opportunities in the meantime/until I can get my EMT certification. However, at this point, I still have no clinical experience to list on my application, which was the main reason my last application cycle was unsuccessful.

Other ECs:
-1 year captain of college club sports team, member for 4 years
-500+ hours non-clinical volunteering
-350 hours teaching assistant/student teaching
-550 hours paid non-clinical employment during undergrad

School list (top-heavy, but mainly including schools that offer psychology or interdisciplinary neuroscience PhD options)
-U Penn
-U Chicago
-UC Davis
-UC Irvine
-U Illinois
-U Michigan
-UC San Diego

Any tips or school suggestions are much appreciated! Thanks!
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users


Full Member
5+ Year Member
Nov 7, 2015
I feel like adcoms will raise their eyebrows at a transcript most without grades, maybe the adcoms on here can comment. But I think your GPA may not be interpreted as a "true" 4.0 with many classes that are all A's. Your best bet might be to retake the MCAT since your GPA is more difficult to interpret, but I can see how that's not easy given the times. However, you're a reapplicant.. it might be worth putting off applying in order to get 515+.

Your research CV is definitely solid, and with a 515+ I think you'll be fine if you apply broadly. You might need a slightly higher MCAT since your GPA is less interpretable.

For clinical hours, it seems that all you need to do is demonstrate you have a sense of altruism and exposure to clinical medicine/patient care - but you don't need like 400 hrs. I'd try to do something to get like 40 hrs. Aren't they offering provisional EMT licenses that expire in 2021? I'm in an EMT course rn and I thought that was the case.
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users


Full Member
May 7, 2019
  1. MD/PhD Student
You should apply to more schools that aren’t in the top 20.

There are a lot of other schools that have strong neuroscience programs. If you can only apply to 15 schools then you are correct in your assessment that your list is top heavy. You need to be practical if your main goal is to get into an MD PhD program. limiting your application to schools that are the “best” for neuroscience won’t increase your shot of getting into one of the most prestigious programs. Look into OHSU, UTs, maybe Colorado, and other programs that’s will be more understanding of your mcat score given your strong research experiences.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
About the Ads


The dog is always the real hero.
2+ Year Member
May 24, 2017
Your school list is far too top heavy given your MCAT score of 510. Most, if not all, of the schools you listed have 10th percentiles well above 510 for the MD program alone.

I have no idea why you think AMCAS would calculate your GPA as a 4.0 - every single course you took at the undergraduate level is going to be included in calculations including the ones taken at other institutions. I have no idea how an undergrad without letter grades will work for admissions, but I suspect you won't even meet the requirements to matriculate (most schools require you have taken their prerequisite courses for a letter grade).

Almost every single MD-PhD program will offer Neuroscience options, so I'm not sure how you're deciding which schools to apply to (for example, you omit OHSU, Ohio State, University of Cincinnati)...

Aiming for T20 only like it looks like your list is will not work out for you. Your MCAT score is unfortunately not competitive for those programs.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user


New Member
Jul 15, 2019
  1. Pre-Medical
Thank you all for your feedback! To clarify, I’m not looking at schools with “better” neuroscience programs—my research interests fit better with a psychology or cognitive science program than a pure neuroscience program, so I’m looking mainly at schools that have options for non-biomedical PhDs. But I looked at some of the schools suggested here and I will definitely be adding to my list!

As for my GPA, I was surprised about it as well but on my AMCAS application the last time I applied (with these exact same courses) the GPA section shows up as a 4.0 from 12 hours of post-bacc coursework, and the freshman-senior undergrad rows are empty, even though all my courses are listed in the transcript section with the appropriate grades. But I did make sure to take all my science prereqs as graded classes, so hopefully if schools do look at my transcript and not just my AMCAS verified GPA I won’t be automatically rejected based on that.


Full Member
2+ Year Member
Feb 11, 2019
  1. MD/PhD Student
If you haven't already, I would suggest looking through individual PIs at schools rather than just if they offer non-biomed PhDs. There's probably some who do research you're interested in but are within biomed departments. Unfortunately, you're running into the fact that the programs that are open to non-trad PhDs are at top schools which you aren't that competitive at given your MCAT (no idea about your GPA situation). Your research is very solid but I'm not sure if it's outstanding to the point of making up for significantly lower stats at those schools.

This is just my own experience but I've seen plenty of grad students work in labs that weren't perfect research fits. They just made sure to work with the PI to come up with projects that mixed the lab's focus with theirs.

Sent from my Pixel 3a using SDN mobile


Full Member
10+ Year Member
Apr 20, 2008
  1. Resident [Any Field]
I wouldn't say that cognitive neuroscience PhD is really a non-traditional PhD for MD/PhD's anymore. When I graduated from my program there were 5 or 6 of us in my relatively small (~40 total students) program. I applied to psych residencies this year and it seemed like 30-40% of folks I met on the research track trail were fellow neuroimagers. Look at schools where you have multiple PI's that you'd be interested in working with; if they're primarily in the psychology department or something like that, ask your program director to help you/them figure out an adjunct appointment in neuroscience (or another similar medical school department) so that you can work with them. There isn't really any money involved with adjunct/volunteer faculty status so my experiences at two institutions now were that it wasn't really very difficult to get that sort of thing.
Last edited:
About the Ads
This thread is more than 1 year old.

Your message may be considered spam for the following reasons:

  1. Your new thread title is very short, and likely is unhelpful.
  2. Your reply is very short and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  3. Your reply is very long and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  4. It is very likely that it does not need any further discussion and thus bumping it serves no purpose.
  5. Your message is mostly quotes or spoilers.
  6. Your reply has occurred very quickly after a previous reply and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  7. This thread is locked.