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I'm guessing I'm not the only one who needs to make this decision soon, so I thought I'd throw it out on SDN and get some opinions. This forum has been really useful, I just wish I had found it earlier in the process, and I'm interested to hear what others think about this scenario:

Say you have two programs: one with very strong and universally respected research but a somewhat disorganized program administration; the other with solid, not amazing, research but an incredibly well-organized MSTP and a very committed and responsive administration.

I guess the question is: what do you all think is more important - the research opportunities available or the program itself (i.e. organization, administration...etc)? Sure, it comes down to personal preference, but I wouldn't mind hearing some other opinions, especially from those who are already in an mstp.

thanks in advance


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I think that to go to a program where the research you're interested in is missing or one of the weaker departments carries significant liabilities...what are you going to do with a PhD in a department you don't want to stay in? However, if the research is good (albeit not spectacular) and you can find a handful of labs who do what you want...

My vote goes for organization. I thought all MSTP programs would be run with more or less the same efficiency, organization, and treatment towards their students...wow, I was wrong. After interviewing, I have a tremendous respect for those which are will run. Personally, I'd like to be able to get advice when I need it, to have an administration that cares what the students think, to participate in activities set up for MD/PhD students, etc. I also really wanted a program that was well-integrated, not one where problems like conflicting schedules for med. and grad. school classes are not addressed.

I'm entering one this summer so I don't have experience yet, but I saw a lot of different ideas about what it means to run these programs on the interview trail.


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i'll echo a bit of what neurotiger said - it would hinge upon how great the differential in research seemed to me.

being part of a program that is well run really makes a world of a difference - from everyday beaurocratic matters, advice/guidance, interaction between the med/grad schools [this is in comparison to a program i know well in the vincinity that is quite disorganized]. though some of these things aren't quite as important for a 1st year, it seems like they are appreciated more as one advances in their program. the program office here is amazing in that respect - but they are also lucky that the relationship between the 3 institutions is as fluid as it is.

i do think that if one is tenacious, has the smarts to deal with the system that is in place, and is self-directed - many of these things won't matter in the end [almost a direct quote from a student in the aforementioned program, though his frustration was apparent - 7th year]. it will, however, make ones life a lot easier. it's a long time, and there are a few transitions to make and quite a few things to keep track off along the course.
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