LovelyChicken

2+ Year Member
Sep 6, 2015
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Hi there!

I am currently trying to figure out a list of which schools I should be applying to. After talking with a program coordinator at my school, I was told to apply to around 30 and interview at 10-15 . However, I've been hearing that this seems like too many. With regards to the types of schools, it was suggested I could reach for some of the top ones to see if I get interviews, but didn't really specify how many would be appropriate.

My biggest question is that I don't know how my MD/PhD will be perceived in terms of ranking me against other applicants, particularly at the bigger academic institutions. Because of this, I'm not sure if I should apply to mostly middle tier schools with a few top tier thrown in or apply mostly to more higher ranked schools in addition to the local programs that may not be as competitive.

Other info:
-Step 1: 224 (taken 2010 avg 221); Step 2: no score (took late Aug)
-Grades: Mostly Bs 1st and 2nd year; all Bs during clinical clerkships with slightly below avg shelf grades but great evals (my school doesn't do H/HP/P)
-Research: PhD Cell Biology with 2 first author manuscripts and 5 other peer reviewed publications; 20+ first-author abstracts (national and local meetings); individual fellowship (F30) funding from the NIH; currently doing peds research as an MS4 aiming for at least an abstract
-Extracurricular: tutoring, several committee and student leadership positions
-LOR: 2 peds (research in peds and department chair letter likely strong), 1 strong from IM attending, 1 strong from PhD mentor

Thanks in advance for your help!
 

Rumalum

7+ Year Member
Apr 28, 2012
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looks like you have a great resume, but in their eyes, your clinical skills are probably average to above average. I'm not sure how much top programs value research over day to day patient care so if you want to go to one, just apply to all that you could see yourself attending and see who gives you an interview. In the meantime, apply to safer, albeit still competitive schools too
 

physicsnerd42

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Feb 26, 2006
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The PhD is worth a lot (and worth more at the big name research-heavy places). Apply to maybe 20 places and include a lot of big names with a few less competitive programs. The step 1 score will hurt you at some of the bigger name places but the PhD will likely make up for it.
 

mvenus929

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Jul 6, 2006
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If possible, I would get another clinical Peds letter. Peds in general is okay with letters from other specialties, but it looks like you currently have 2 research letters, a departmental letter, and an IM letter. That doesn't really tell me how you interact with kids/parents or how you fit into the specialty.
 

Siverhideo1985

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Jun 6, 2008
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The research will be an asset, as stated by others. Step 1 around average might throw you off the list before some of the bigger places even see your application though. I would add the Step 2 (as long as its a strong score) to your application as soon as it comes out. Maybe tell your favorite programs in a letter that also describes why you like them so much and why you have so much to offer.
 

BigRedBeta

Why am I in a handbasket?
10+ Year Member
Nov 1, 2007
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If you are still committed to research (I know quite a few PhD's that get so burned out by the research grind that they completely give it up), then I think you'll have a pretty good angle that is worth applying to the top names that interest you most. The research output by faculty members at places like Boston, CHOP, and Cinci probably puts research output on their radar and something they enjoy talking about.

I don't think applying to 30 programs is unreasonable. While your research MIGHT help you into those big name places, your scores might be limiting, so it seems unwise to me to artificially limit your possible options. If you get 30 interviews, great, you get to make the decisions. But I worry that if you only apply to 20 programs (10 of which you're hoping are going to bank on your research) and only getting 8 or 10 interviews because things didn't break the way you expected.

I think you should also look for places that may not have the "name" but will be interested in getting residents research opportunities - for example, the University of Utah used to have a second continuity clinic day each week during intern year, which in the second and third years could be changed to research time each week (I think they still do this, but it might have changed). Utah is a great place, but it's not one that people would necessarily think about when talking big name locations, right?
 
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LovelyChicken

LovelyChicken

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Sep 6, 2015
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Thanks everyone for your advice :)

I ended up applying to 24 total schools with a mix of some less competitive ones, particularly those close to home. Unfortunately my step 2 wasn't awesome and I wasn't able to get another clinical letter that would be stronger than what I have. I have been assured that the dept chair letter has the input from attendings I worked with on the wards, which is better than nothing I suppose. Also, I have quite a few volunteer activities with kids as well as some other things that I talk about in my personal statement. Guess I'll just see how many interviews I get in the next several weeks!