What are your admissions chances?

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

If you’re in this years application pool, chances are that your interview schedule is becoming more and more clear.

An analysis of a subset of the 2007 AMCAS data showed that of the 1,698 MD-PhD applicants, slightly more than half (898, or 53%) received invitations to interview with at least one program (some programs did not participate in data collection).  Those invited to interview had better MCAT scores  33.9 (3.1 sdev) vs. 28.1 (6.0 sdev) and better grades (3.77 vs. 3.59).

So, once you have an interview, you may ask, what are your chances of receiving an offer?

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12 questions to for an MD/PhD interview

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Perhaps you’re nearly finishing your MD/PhD interviews.  Or perhaps you’re getting ready for a busy January and February visiting potential schools.  Either way, preparation is key. As my basketball coach once said, “Prior practice prevents poor performance.” So, here are some sample questions that you are likely to encounter on the interview trail.  Preparing for these questions with mock interviews with your friends, graduate students in the lab, or a career counselor will certainly help you prepare for the big interview.  Remember, it just takes one school.  Good luck.

1. Describe your research.
2. Why are you interested in a combined program, versus one or the other?
3. Describe your solution to the US Health care crisis.  Is Obama/McCain’s solution likely to work?
4. What can physician-scientists do to contribute to your solution for the US health care crisis?
5. Have you had any leadership positions? Please describe your experience.
6. Do you follow or learn more about cancer biology through texts or primary literature?
7. Please tell me about 2 articles in the past year that were most exciting to you.
8. Tell me your knowledge of the research I am currently involved in (rare: only if you chose the specific investigator). 
9. Role play: Act like I am a 5 year old child who has cancer and explain what is wrong with me.
Explain it as though I am the child’s parent. Alternate: explain to an adult patient they have a terminal disease.
10. What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
11. Why would you convince someone not to pursue medicine? Despite these reasons, why are you
pursuing medicine?
12. Why are you interested in our MD-PhD program, in particular? Alternatively, tell me everything you know about this program.

P.S. We are interested in comments from blog readers about other good questions that interviewees could benefit from. Comment posting requires registration (in order to prevent boat loads of spam–sorry).

The information you need to ask on an interview trip

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Due to the anxiety and competition of just trying to get into a program, many students don’t focus enough on finding the right program for them. The MD/PhD is extremely competitive; nevertheless, many applicants with a realistic application strategy will find themselves with multiple offers for admission in March or April (if not sooner).

Interviews are a two way street; to gain the respect of the institution, you also need to ask intelligent, honest questions that will guide you towards the right program.  It’s important to find an realistic criteria that you would use, if you receive multiple offers.  You have the right to ask specific questions and receive specific statistics that will provide objective information about the job you may be working at for the next 8 years.

  1. Ask about the the average graduation time and the program completion rates. Almost every program will show a boiler plate powerpoint slide that steps you through the 7 year curriculum.  This is often unrealistic. Ask for real data for the past several years.  If the number is high (ie 8.9 years), it’s worth asking whether the program sees change in this area as a priority.  Also, completion rates/drop out into MD-only programs are worth considering (and whether dropouts are factored into the average time in the program).
  2. Ask for a list of residency match information for the last several years. This data can be difficult to interpret in smaller programs, but it’s a useful tool to have the hard data in from of you when you leave.
  3. What is the funding status for the MD/PhD program? I just found out that my current program is up for grant renewal, and some people in our program are a bit nervous (I’m not–I like the direction the director is taking things).
  4. Programs are always in flux. Busy MD/PhD directors have competing demands on their time and often focus on other aspects of their job (clinic, research, other administrative position).  It’s worth asking about the program direction, where the dean seen the MD/PhD program heading, and what priorities the school has for change.
  5. Talk to multiple students at various points in the program. The number of students involved in the recruiting process can be a measure of the student’s satisfaction and pride in the program.  Also, it’s a reflection that the school has nothing to hide and that they value the input of their students in making decisions about the direction of the program.
  6. Look at the coursework class-by-class. Ask to see the MSTP curriculum compared with the regular MD and PhD curriculum.  By looking at things side by side, you can get a real sense of the level of integration.  This also is in indicator of flexibility of the program and the political sway of the MSTP committee.

Good luck!