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Reapplying MSTP

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by 206278, May 29, 2008.

  1. 206278


    May 29, 2008
    I'm seeking some advice/comments about reapplying to MSTPs. Has anyone done this or have experiences they'd like to share?

    I applied to ~12 MSTPs (a couple top programs, most second tier) during 2007-2008 cycle. I chose schools largely based on location and my research interests, not rank or prestige. Offered 4 interviews, rejected post interview at one school, waitlisted at others. This really surprised me, since interviewing has always been one of my greatest strengths. Bottom line, I don't have any acceptances and am unlikely to get one this cycle in my opinion. Now I'm faced with the prospect of reapplying, something I really hoped I wouldn't have to do. I really thought I would get in SOMEWHERE the first time around.

    Anyway, this whole process has taken the wind out of my sails. If I reapply, will my application this year really be much more competitive than it was last year? (NOTE: see bottom of this post for my stats.) I will have another year of full-time research under my belt, a new conference abstract/poster, and hopefully a submitted first-author pub in the next month, but will that even make a difference?

    I've asked the directors at the programs I interviewed at for feedback about my application and advice about how to make it more competitive, but none of them have had any concrete suggestions. They've all basically said something to the effect of, "Eh, your application was all right, but you aren't quite what we are looking for." What does that mean? I basically feel like if I reapply, I'll be submitting almost the exact same application with only minor modifications, and if these schools didn't want me the first time around, why will they suddenly change their minds the second time around?

    That being said, I'm debating whether I should reapply MSTP or bite the bullet and apply MD-only and then find a way to incorporate my research interests into my future education/career. Honestly, at this point, I feel like I'm aimlessly spinning my wheels - I just really want to get accepted SOMEWHERE (be it MSTP or MD-only) so I can feel like I'm making progress towards my goal of earning a degree and becoming a physician-scientist.

    Please give me your thoughts.

    PS, this is me: Graduated from a top 25 school in 2007; degree in biomedical engineering. GPA: 3.52, MCAT: 34P. Undergrad research in 2 different labs, senior thesis, 2nd author pub, won a $3000 research grant, ER volunteer, president of honors engineering program, lots of leadership and volunteering in community and student organizations, etc. Took a year off after graduating to work full time as a research associate at a major medical school. I am a competitive applicant, aren't I? Are my below average GPA and MCAT really going to keep me out of these programs? Bah!
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  3. revaldo29

    revaldo29 New Member 10+ Year Member

    Aug 10, 2006
    How extensive is your research experience? Also, what are the schools you applied to this cycle?
  4. sirrileydog

    sirrileydog 10+ Year Member

    Aug 27, 2007
    Since you yielded 4 interviews out of 12 applications, your primary application is in pretty decent shape. You fundamental GPA/MCAT/research gets you in the door. It's pretty disappointing to get rejections, and I felt that I was inches away from being in your same shoes.

    It would make sense to continue expressing strong interest where you are waitlisted through the summer and plan to apply again to a slightly broader group of schools. Keep strengthening your application, but it's not like you have to get a first author cell paper to get in (probably don't even need to publish any more, but it wouldn't hurt).

    If you can't get feedback from the directors, try politely contacting the people who interviewed you. My guess is that your narrative that goes with your application doesn't quite work. You may benefit from talking with someone who could be a physician scientist role model for you. Maybe think a little bit more about what you want out of a MD/PhD program and change your purpose statement/interview answers just a little bit to reflect that. Talk with lots of people.

    You'll be a year older when you apply but you should get in next time if you learn more about the field. Also, try appling to schools that admit lots of second round applicants (I can think of OHSU, for example).
  5. redoc

    redoc 2+ Year Member

    Nov 3, 2007
    I think Sirrileydog has a very good point about creating a cohesive story about yourself and your goals with an MD/Ph.D. Writing it out on paper is one thing, but verbalizing is often more complicated. Also, I got to learn more about my interests and myself through some interviews, which helped later interviews.

    Sadly, some schools are really picky with stats so given that your GPA is a 3.52, you may want to consider re-taking the MCAT if you are confident that you can boost your score (it's also important how you scored in the individual sections since it's ideal that you get at least a 10 in each).

    I hope you get off a waitlist in June, but if not, best of luck in the second rounds.
  6. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 14, 2002
    the beach
    Truth: interview doesn't matter much. A great interview can help, and a poor interview can hurt. Most applicants fall inbetween and in the end it doesn't do much. There's this myth floating around that once you interview numbers and such don't matter anymore. This is false for everything I've seen.

    I think it will. There's also something to be said for the tenacity to say, you know what, I want to do this so bad here I am again. Some adcoms are going to see this imo.

    I'll be blunt and honest cause they won't be. Your app is pretty borderline. It just didn't nudge you in last year, but it's not terrible. It's just not easy to raise a GPA and your MCAT is already high enough that it's not clear retaking would help you. Think about a decent girl (or boy, I dunno your gender) that's interested in you. Their personality is ok for you but nothing amazing, their looks are ok but nothing amazing. You can't say anything really negative about the person, there's just so many other fish in the sea. If you did say anything you'd hurt their feelings and besides, there's nothing really wrong with them anyways. That's roughly where you are. You will have more research experience this time and more to show for your research, so it will likely tip you over.

    In your case it may not be a bad idea to apply to both. I don't know how much money and time you have. You have a good reason to apply to both. You really want to go to MD/PhD but you didn't get in last year. What else can you do except try again but hedge your bets?
  7. delirium81

    delirium81 7+ Year Member

    Mar 19, 2008
    I totally agree with the people who said that you should re-consider your narrative for your primary and secondary apps. Neuronix was right that your app is probably borderline. Mine was probably about the same. My MCAT was worse than yours although my GPA was better. I had about as much research and volunteer experience as you had. I had 8 or 9 interviews and was accepted at about half. I felt, although I could be wrong, that having really stellar essays boosted my app a lot. I had a lot of people complement me on them throughout my interviews. I'm not sure how you went about writing your essays, but in my case I spent a long time perfecting them, had a ton of people look over them and give me feedback (pre-med advisor, PI, post docs, family, friends, etc. etc.) and went through several drafts. Give them an idea of who your are and show your passion for medicine and research. I agree with Neuronix that interviews aren't necessarily the end-all-be-all that some people make them out to be, but the other thing to remember is that having at least one of your interviewers in your corner really rooting for you at the admissions meeting can go a long way, especially if some of your numbers are borderline. So it's important to make them believe in you, and I think if you show passion and excitement in your essays as well as convey that in your interviews, you can't go wrong. You'll get in *somewhere*. Good luck re-applying!
  8. mercaptovizadeh

    mercaptovizadeh ἀλώπηξ 10+ Year Member

    Oct 15, 2004
    I feel like I had a similar experience. The first time I applied MSTP was in the last year of college. I had a 3.5 GPA, 34R MCAT (V9, P11, B14), double major in two sciences, and went to an Ivy school. I had research experience from summers working in a lab and also part time in the school year. Other extracurriculars, excepting one international experience, were somewhat lacking (no clubs really, some activities in the arts, not much else). I had no publications. I applied to 17 MSTP's, the vast majority being top 15 schools. I got two interviews, a rejection and a waitlist.

    I reapplied two years later and things turned out rather different. The GPA was the same. I retook the MCAT and got a 40T (V14, P13, B13). I got two extra years of research experience going towards a master's degree in physical science. I did not have publications at the time I applied nor when I interviewed. I applied the second time to 37 schools (!). This time I got interviews at 2 of the top 10s, most of the 10-20 schools, and all of the 20+ schools. So, the outcome was considerably different this time around, both considering the number of interviews (18 invites, but only went to 6) and also in terms of being admitted.

    So, my advice is that if you believe you can significantly boost your MCAT (to high 30s to 40+ range), retake that MCAT. Devote a month of study to it and take it this summer. Don't work a job/research at the same time - it requires full focus, if possible. Also, since you can't change your GPA, I would try to get full time research experience for preferably 2 years (perhaps 1 year would be enough, not sure), either through a job as a laboratory tech, through one of the programs the NIH has, or a master's degree at a university. Experience and recommendations are more important than publications. Also, write up a coherent, succinct, no-nonsense essay (my essay 1st time around was poeticized crap and the second time was actually a statement of career goals), and apply and interview broadly. I think you'd have a great chance at getting into most 10-30 schools and possibly a top 10, although I think your GPA will still hurt you a bit at the very top schools, and I think that is what continued to work against me most in the 2nd application as well.

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