blazinfury

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Since most of you are in MD/PhD programs, and pretty prestigious ones if I may so, can you please explain to me what criteria one needs to possess to gain admittance into these programs? Does or did your undergrad play any role whatsoever (in terms of its name/prestige factor) in helping to attain admittance? I do not mean to sound obsessed with the name, but the institution from where one attains their PhD plays a significant role in terms of where and how easily they can find a job, especially at the very beginning. Besides research, GPA, and MCAT, what else helped you gain admittance? What are the main criteria being looked at because it seems to me that the more prestigious institutions accept very minute #'s of MD/PhD students, which leads me to believe that they are seeking specific criteria? So does the expression hold true that "it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond" in terms of where you are in the realm of your undergrad institution? From what I gather few ivy league undergrads attain admittance into MD/PhD programs because I really have not met many or any for that matter? Can anyone please comment and/or give me some stats on the matter? Thanks.
 

revaldo29

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I do not mean to sound obsessed with the name, but the institution from where one attains their PhD plays a significant role in terms of where and how easily they can find a job, especially at the very beginning
Very questionable. This hardly holds up for MD programs and even less for MD/PhDs. Doesn't matter where you go to school, a good board score is a good board score. What you really should be looking at is what school is going to offer you the best resources and the best supply of quality mentors in the research that you are interested in. This doesn't always correlate to prestige of a school.

To answer your question, the undergraduate institution you went to has little impact on MD/PhD acceptance.
 

sluox

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Since most of you are in MD/PhD programs, and pretty prestigious ones if I may so, can you please explain to me what criteria one needs to possess to gain admittance into these programs? Does or did your undergrad play any role whatsoever (in terms of its name/prestige factor) in helping to attain admittance?
say the top 20 MD/PhD programs. You need >35 MCAT, >3.5 GPA. Solid 2-3 yrs of research experience, during the school year/summer/after undergrad. Papers preferred but not necessary. And a vision of what you want to do for your PhD. For the top 3-5 programs, you need a bit more, i.e. various awards, exceptional results from research, etc.



I do not mean to sound obsessed with the name, but the institution from where one attains their PhD plays a significant role in terms of where and how easily they can find a job, especially at the very beginning.
I disagree with the poster immediately above. Both in science and in medicine the institution matters greatly, though nobody would admit it. The chance of you getting a faculty at Harvard if you went to State U for PhD is very minimal. Whereas State U faculty is populated by Harvard PhDs. It's both correlative and causative. Famous schools have famous people, and in turn make them more famous. Medicine is the same actually. Sure if you do primary practice it doesn't matter where you went. But if you want to match in radiology at a top 5 program, who do you think the residency director is going to take? Two equivalent applicants with same USLME, the one from the name school will be preferred. If one gets into a school with more prestige, the question you might ask yourself is, why wouldn't you go there, if everything else's equivalent?


Besides research, GPA, and MCAT, what else helped you gain admittance? What are the main criteria being looked at because it seems to me that the more prestigious institutions accept very minute #'s of MD/PhD students, which leads me to believe that they are seeking specific criteria? So does the expression hold true that "it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond" in terms of where you are in the realm of your undergrad institution? From what I gather few ivy league undergrads attain admittance into MD/PhD programs because I really have not met many or any for that matter? Can anyone please comment and/or give me some stats on the matter? Thanks.
There's nothing else besides what you've listed. The quality of each, however, varies greatly amongst different applicant. Medical students @ top institutions represent a very selective small piece. They must have done well no matter where they are. "it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond" is a faulty because if you want to get into a top MD/PhD program you have to be a big fish in a big pound.

Most top programs are basically competing for the same pool of applicants. There are about 300 such students each year nation-wide. Most applicants apply to the same set of institutions with slight variations in terms of the strengths of the research programs. The application process is more of a matching process, fitting people/programs to the ones they have some small preference with regard to research/location. Everyone's looking for the same thing: excellence. I think even the URM status is becoming less relevant now. There are increasing number of excellent URM students applying as well.

We can do another kind of very simple math. 40000 students apply for med school each year. Top 20 schools get 3000 students. So you need to be roughly top 10% nation-wide to have a chance amongst the med school applicants. Now you might argue the applicants are self-selective in the first place. There are about 2 million college students each year. So 3000 out of 2 mil is about 0.1%. Suppose that 10 times as many people are as brilliant but go into different fields, like top grad schools, top literary firms, top law schools, top banks, etc. This means you have to be in the top 1% of all college grads.

Now there is a noticeable difference btw students from top 5 and from #15-20. This probably has to do with the rapid decay of the normal distribution. At the far end of the tail, people are so unbelievably amazing it's kind of easy to see the difference. But the difference of the quality of teaching is actually minimal btw top 5 and top 15-20.
 

revaldo29

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If one gets into a school with more prestige, the question you might ask yourself is, why wouldn't you go there, if everything else's equivalent?
Yes, if EVERYTHING else is equivalent, then go to the more prestigious school. Just make sure you're considering all aspects that can impact your success at a given program.
 
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blazinfury

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So the impression that I get after reading the previous posts is that if one has a shot to transfer to an ivy league institution for undergrad, that individual should take it to ensure that he has the most optimal chance of getting into the top programs. But lets say that individual stays in his state school, but is able to shine through everyone else and attain good LORs, high GPA, and MCATs in the range of a 35. Is that applicant still at a disadvantage b/c he is coming from a state school and will thus probably not receive an interview from an ivy MD/PhD program? My concern is that isn't MD/PhD admissions (although a lot tougher) similar to undergrad admissions in the sense that they want well rounded students who are set apart from the rest of the pack? So if one can do that in a state school, is that individual still deadlocked. I mean when selecting applicants, each MD/PhD program can select just so many from one school, but I do understand what you mean because if there are say 10 seats, those seats will probably be filled up by students from the ivys first, before looking at the rest of the applicant pool from lower tier institutions. Is that what you mean?
 

gbwillner

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So the impression that I get after reading the previous posts is that if one has a shot to transfer to an ivy league institution for undergrad, that individual should take it to ensure that he has the most optimal chance of getting into the top programs. But lets say that individual stays in his state school, but is able to shine through everyone else and attain good LORs, high GPA, and MCATs in the range of a 35. Is that applicant still at a disadvantage b/c he is coming from a state school and will thus probably not receive an interview from an ivy MD/PhD program? My concern is that isn't MD/PhD admissions (although a lot tougher) similar to undergrad admissions in the sense that they want well rounded students who are set apart from the rest of the pack? So if one can do that in a state school, is that individual still deadlocked. I mean when selecting applicants, each MD/PhD program can select just so many from one school, but I do understand what you mean because if there are say 10 seats, those seats will probably be filled up by students from the ivys first, before looking at the rest of the applicant pool from lower tier institutions. Is that what you mean?

It's never so cut and dry. Top programs are made up of people from all over, although it is true that the name of your undergrad institution is a small factor in the equation (moreso at some specific institutions than others). Shining above others at Sucko State is great, but shining above others at an Ivy is better. Both are good enough to get you in, so don't worry so much. And if you are a total tool, you won't get in anywhere, regardless of your scores, so keep that in mind.
 

JHopRevisit

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I disagree with the poster immediately above. Both in science and in medicine the institution matters greatly, though nobody would admit it. The chance of you getting a faculty at Harvard if you went to State U for PhD is very minimal.
You mentioned the self-selection bias, which plays a big role. I would say that on the whole being a Harvard grad helps with getting a Harvard position, but there's two caveats to this:
A) some places are more "in-bred" than others, Hopkins and Harvard both like to select their own graduates, other top institutions don't have this reputation as much
B) While on a total-faculty level those numbers might matter, the trends aren't strong enough to be very applicable on an individual level. You can go to a less prestigious institution and still have a very good chance of someday getting an appointment at a more presitigious institution, the differences are not that large and only become apparent when you're talking about the entire faculty.

From what I gather few ivy league undergrads attain admittance into MD/PhD programs because I really have not met many or any for that matter?
Really? MD-PhDs lean heavy on the Ivy's, there's generally a good mix of students from all over but most programs I've seen, including ours, have a pretty solid representation from so called "top schools," including Ivy's. But just as I mentioned above, self selection skews the numbers and on the whole I don't think the effect is significant enough at an individual level to override many other factors in choosing a school. Wherever you go you'll have to do well, so pick a school where you think you can learn, wherever that may be.

There's nothing else besides what you've listed.
I would add one more thing. Our program, at least, values ability to communicate your research experience during the interview and letters of reccomendation very highly. That is, they don't value your past production so much as what other scientists think you can do and what they think you can do after interviewing you and looking over your app. It's very subjective and it's not to say that the students here didn't do well in school or lab, I just think what it takes to get into our program is sometimes overblown. I had no pubs, no real major awards, etc., my interviewers just liked me and my letters were good. Then again, other students were Rhodes scholars and stuff, but its not a prerequisite my any means. In any case, it varies program by program, and maybe other programs are more prestigious and require stuff like that, but ours certainly doesn't.