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WAMC + apply this cycle or take a gap year?



Currently a junior at an Ivy. 3.97 GPA and >520 MCAT with ~100 hours each of clinical and nonclinical volunteering and adequate shadowing and ECs, but nothing special.

I have ~2500 hours (400 hours in one lab, 2000 hours in second lab, and 100 hours computational/data analysis) of research, with a 5th author pub in low impact journal from first lab (unrelated to my field of interest), 4 presentations (2 national) in second, and expecting a 2nd author pub in medium impact journal from computational research (also unrelated to my field of interest).

All of my letters should speak to my ability to conduct independent research. Unfortunately, none of my projects from the second lab (in my field of interest) have yielded any publishable/major results, which is my main concern. Given COVID, also not expecting to make significant progress in the next year.

Would I have meaningful chances at top 20 if I were to apply now? Currently my list is 15 of the USNWR top 20 + 15 mid tier schools (between top 20 and 50). All schools I'm applying to have faculty in my field of interest.
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Full Member
2+ Year Member
Aug 20, 2018
Quite honestly, could you a bit more specific with the MCAT? Getting a 521 vs a 526-528 certainly makes a diff. for your chances at the "top 20" programs you want to attend. I would honestly say your research is below average for most MSTPs and definitely "T20 USNWR" MSTPs. I would recommend taking a gap year to get more research. Currently, I would imagine your chances at a T20 MSTP to be low. Overall though, I'm sure you could get into a MD-PhD program this cycle.


Full Member
May 7, 2019
  1. MD/PhD Student
I respectfully disagree with the above. Obviously, getting into a T20 is difficult at baseline, but my observations (from the people I know who have applied over the past serveral years) are that those who get interviews at some of the larger T20 programs: they will take less than average research hours if the student has great stats (I consider 520 + 3.97 at an ivy to be an ideal situation to be in). On top of that, having publications and good letters will definitely make up for lower research hours. IMO 2500 is greater than average for a college Junior (when I graduated I had around 2500 hours).

That being said, I also believe a gap year can only help you become a stronger applicant. Maybe find a lab with a project that is in your research area of interest. I personally took two gap years because my GPA was lower than average and I wanted to increase my chances of MSTP.
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Full Member
Apr 16, 2020
  1. Pre-Medical
This raises the question if the number of research hours will be taken into context considering how many years you've had to work in a lab. Is 2500 hours looked at any differently if it came from a current Junior vs someone who did a 2 year post-bacc?
Oct 14, 2011
  1. Academic Administration
As a rule of thumb that I take, 2000 hours is roughly one year of full-time work (50 weeks x 40 hours). If you've racked up 2000 hours as a junior in research, that's a ton. I would want to know how you balanced it with clinical exposure and insight into clinical/translational medicine because you don't have a lot of hours it seems to spare. I also always wonder why not just a Ph.D.?

Also if you are applying MSTP, there is no such thing as a Top-20. There is all 40 MSTP programs, and they all often compare notes.
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