MD/PhD admissions: Beyond the test scores

Posted by The PhD Perspective on 5/14/13 9:45 AM

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As MCAT season kicks into full gear, many are beginning to think about their next steps.  For those interested in a career in research, the MD/PhD program seems like a likely path. 

Before going down this road, make sure this is the path for you.  For more information of what it is and if it’s the right choice for you, see our previous post: What are MD/PhD programs and are they right for me? 

After making the decision to begin this long and arduous process, the next question is: how do I ensure acceptance?  These programs are highly competitive, and so the key to ensuring acceptance is setting yourself apart from the crowd.  Everyone has great test scores, stellar grades, and extensive research experience. 

In this post, we’ll talk about some ways to make an impression, and secure acceptance to the MD/PhD program of your dreams.

After focusing on being a stellar student, and spending countless hours working on that research project, there are several ways to make yourself stand out with admissions committees:

  •  Be Yourself!

The most important thing you can do is to be yourself.  The admissions committee wants to know that the person sitting in front of them is a real person.  Despite the stereotype that scientists are boring, socially awkward individuals, a successful applicant will be personable and warm.  Your future career will involve not only pipetting and playing with cells, but also mentoring students, teaching, and comforting patients.  In order to inspire confidence, let your personality shine through.  Its a lot easier to talk to a real person, than to a carboard cutout saying what you THINK the admissions committee wants to hear.  A warm, personable Individual is always more memorable than an applicant who gives the stock answers to a question

  • Extracurricular Activities

Do something interesting outside of science and studying.  Our lives can be full or rich experiences and you owe it to your self to be a part of as many of them as possible.  During an interview/application process, having interests outside of medicine, science, and studying demonstrate a passion for life.  Additionally, these experiences can serve as interesting talking points during your interview.  Be sure to highlight these activities to show that you’ve found a balance between academics and life!

  • Be honest

Be honest with yourself about your motivation for pursuing an MD/PhD program.  Admissions committees can spot that student who gives the stock answers to questions from a mile away.  This often leaves a bad impression with the admissions committee, and is sure to work against you in your quest for a seat in an MD/PhD program.  Be ready to articulate why you’ve chosen to pursue this degree, and to do so in an honest way.

As you progress through the admissions process, your tutor/consultant can help you prepare further.  Just remember that your competitors are as good as you when it comes to test scores and its important to set yourself apart from your peers.  Be yourself, warm, genuine, and you are sure to gain favor with the admissions committee.  

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Tags: MD/PhD admissions