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Top vs. Lower MSTPs

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by johnnyrocket, Apr 17, 2004.

  1. johnnyrocket

    johnnyrocket Junior Member

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    Hi, I'm a junior at UMich and am applying to MSTPs this summer. I have a 3.82 in biochemisty, 31 MCAT (9V 11P, BS), have been doing research for the past two years, volunteered at our hospital for the last year, have been a red cross first aid volunteer at sporting events for the last two years, and have been involved in several clubs etc here. I am getting my degree in three years, I'm finishing my second year now, so i've been rushing through stuff, including having taken the MCAT the summer after my first year here. I honestly don't believe that I could improve that much on the MCAT; I suck at standardized tests. I met with a biochem advisor yesterday who used to be on the Umich MSTP committee and he told me that I'm not a competitive MSTP applicant. I'm dedicated to the MD/PhD route and was wondering how important the MCAT is to getting in and what are my options if I don't get in. Would it be better to go to a top ten school, such as Michigan and apply to the MSTP as a second year or if I get accepted to a lower school's MSTP should I go there? Am I even competitive to get into a top school (other than Mich) for just a MD? I want to pursue a PhD in biochemistry, so are there any MSTPs that have good Biochem departments that I'm actually competitive for? My advisor mentioned applying to the University of Wash WAMI program (where you do clinicals in one of the neighboring states?), becuase then I might be competitive. I'd also like to move out west becuase I'm a huge outdoors person. According to most of the people I've asked here, the school you go to is very important. If anyone else who has been in my situation could give me some advise, I'd greatly appreciate it!!!
     
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  3. Gfunk6

    Gfunk6 And to think . . . I hesitated
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    My experience is that Top 10 MSTP programs have an MCAT cut-off of around ~35. This is not a hard and fast cut AFAIK. Extenuating circumstances include an outstanding publication record (difficult and relatively rare for undergraduates) or if you are an under-represented minority.

    I would apply to a handful of top MSTPs (NIH-NIGMS supported) in addition to other MSTPs (Penn State, UAB, Iowa) that are ranked in the top 25 or lower in USNews. Furthermore, you will also like to apply to a broad range of non-MSTP MD/PhD programs (schools like Temple, OHSU, SUNY-Buffalo, Georgetown, etc). that are fully funded. Personally, I would not bother with MD/PhD programs that are not fully funded. It is not worth the investment if you have debt when you are done.

    Moving out West will be exceedingly tough for you. Though it is possible to get a slot at OHSU or one of the lesser-known UC schools, UCSF, UCLA, UCSD, and Stanford are probably beyond your reach.

    Sorry if this sounds excessively harsh, but I was in a situation similar to yours so I can appreciate your concerns.

    ADDED: I would not go to a straight MD program over an MSTP (any MSTP). MSTPs are, by defintion, funded by NIH and have high standards to maintain. Trust me when I say that competition is fierce for these coveted slots among medical schools. If you get into a non-MSTP (particularly one that is not well funded) you may consider a straight MD at a top 10 school.
     
  4. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    I agree with Gfunk6 and I think that your advisor is spoiled by the high quality of applicants that are matriculating at UMich. Do you have publications or are you a URM? If not, you might try a couple reach schools, but I bet you would have some luck with quality programs in the 20s in the USNews rankings (e.g. Northwestern, UChicago, CWRU, UAb, UVa, etc...).

    I think the cut off at most programs is ~34, which only puts you a couple points under. These sorts of things are often overlooked if they're not that bad (and a 31 is not that bad) and it's the weak spot on your application. Your GPA is good and your major and ugrad are also good. Your research experience, depening on exactly what those two years entailed and what pubs you got out of it (not that they're required) is borderline. Assuming your LORs and interviews are strong, I think you have a good shot at lower-tier to middle-tier MSTPs.

    Good luck!
     
  5. Newquagmire

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    i've said this before, and others have disagreed with me, but i'll say it again. i feel like graduating in three years does put you at a disadvantage when you're applying if for no other reason than having an entire year (or more) less to "develop" your application. as neuronix suggests, either publications or URM status might outweigh this concern.
     
  6. hockebob

    hockebob Member
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    i would suggest UW-Madison... top 10 graduate school for biochemistry, top 25/30 medical school and it's in the midwest. plus, it sounds like you'd probably be a competitive candidate (although i don't want to mislead you either). paul cook is the program administrator there and i'm sure would be willing to discuss their program and your specific application with you.

    good luck,
    aaron
     
  7. johnnyrocket

    johnnyrocket Junior Member

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    Thanks for the advise. UW-Madison sounds like a good pick. I'm definately not an URM and I have my name mentioned in abstracts that have been used at national conferences, but no publication yet. Is it recomended to take a year off and really try to go to a top school or will I be pretty much fine at any MSTP? Does anyone know about the University of Colorado and their reputation? I'd love to live in Colorado because my brother lives there and I like to Mt. bike, climb, ski, etc but I don't know about what opportunities their biochem dept can offer. As far as the three year thing, I gave up full scholarships at other schools to go to U of M, but I had to graduate in three years for financial reasons. And I came in with a lot of credits, so there hasn't been a reason not to. Thanks again,
    Mike
     
  8. Newquagmire

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    If you get into an MSTP, you've exhibited potential. It's up to you to fulfill that potential, no matter what school you end up at.

    I'm not sure taking a year off is really going to make an application all that much better unless you stay in A2 and continue to persue the same activities/research. Let me clarify my earlier statement by saying that many successful applicants do apply between junior-senior year of college, but some have spent a year or more after college doing research. If you look through other threads, you'll see the general consensus is "quality over quantity," so you'll have to decide for yourself how competitive your application is. Colorado is a great place, but I can't comment on their biochem dept.

    It's interesting you mention giving up full-rides for undergrad to go to UM. My wholly rhetorical question is why? In light of your earlier question about a 'lower' mstp versus a 'top ten' md program, it makes me wonder which one you would choose. In any case, if financial burdens are overwhelming you with UM, having to pay for an md program will exponentially increase your problems.
     
  9. bailey39

    bailey39 Member
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    Actually, I would say that biochem is definitely one of (if not the most so) Colorado's strongest departments. Tom Cech (Nobel Laureate, catalytic RNA--actually discovered by an undergrad!) is based there, although he's currently the head of HHMI, and the rest of the department is extraordinarily impressive as well. Biochem is based at the Boulder campus (to my knowledge), but is definitely something to look into. I can't recommend Colo for other things (other than immuno which is great because of the rship with National Jewish) because of my limited knowledge, but I'm sure some other people on this site will know more. It seems like a great place! good luck
     
  10. johnnyrocket

    johnnyrocket Junior Member

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    Ok, so this is the whole story. I went to a crappy highschool in po-dunk MI. I had always wanted to go to U of M because I've always been interested in medical research and I knew U of M was the place in Michigan, but I never really grasped the extent until I came here. In Michigan, you can take college classes at the expense of your highschool if you have taken all the advance classes there (dual-enrolment). So I planned pretty well and ended up taking one highschool class my senior year, meaning I took 33 credits at U of M Flint for free. So that was a year of college, but I was in highschool, so whatever. I did get enough funding to pay for my first year flat out, and I have Michigan educational trusts for two years, so on one hand it is rushing it, on the other its not. My parents have taken the stance of its not and we don't really want to pay for another year of tuition for you. for example, I have a year to go and 23 creits to graduation, so next year is going to be easy and I will be able to concentrate on my honors biochemisty thesis, which is on HIV-1 Tat transcription inhibition. The only thing I don't like is I haven't had a lot of time to get a publicatoin, but I will be working 40+ hrs a week in my lab this summer, so who knows what could come of it. As far as the scholarship, it was at Michigan Tech. I only applied there and Michigan and Tech doesn't have any medical research at all. I was personally coresponding with the biochem director and he told me I couldn't touch a project until I was a junior and they didn't have anything that interested me. I was also told by numerous people that u of m would open a lot of doors for me. I can honestly say it was hard as hell to turn down tech, but I think it was definatly the right decision in the long run, espeacially since I probably wouldn't be able to get into anything with such little research from Tech. I'm extatic about U of Wisconsin. That sounds awesome. I had no idea they had such a great biochem dept. I've heard great things about that school in general, so I have to really thank you aaron. I definatly going to get into contact with paul cook. Thanks again for all the posts,
    Mike
     
  11. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    No matter what one program director tells you, remember to apply to a good number of schools. Program directors tend to be very positive when they talk to you, and this can lead you into thinking you're golden at a specific place. Spread out your applications (12+ schools I think), and see what happens. It's also good for you to be able to see what the different programs are about.

    Good luck!
     
  12. BandGeek

    BandGeek Member
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    If you know what you want, go for it. I am from a little town in ND, and I go to ND State. I wanted MSTP, even though my advisors here had never had a student enter it. I have two abstracts, two professional presentations, and a manuscript in submittal. I have a 4.0 GPA (double major in Biotechnology and Zoology, minor in Chemsistry and Microbiology) and had a combined 31 on my MCAT (I took it twice, and got a 29 both time...when you take the best from both it equals 31, which is what on ACOM told me they do.). I interviewed at 6 schools, was waitlisted at 2 of those, and accepted at one. I applied to 22 schools. Being from the Midwest, I got interesting questions at a few of my interviews out west and in the east, but it can be done. In fact, I am moving to UCONN. As far as the U of W, it is top of the line. The University of Minnesota isn't bad either....but I am a stem cell geek and don't know much about Biochem. All I can say is ignore you advisor, apply where you think you have a chance, be confident, and Good luck!
     
  13. foo

    foo Junior Member
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