My MCAT Score--Good enough for Harvard/MSTP?

Discussion in 'Community' started by themadchemist, Oct 12, 2004.

  1. themadchemist macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    I'm just looking for an informed opinion...I'd like to do MD/PhD (MSTP), esp. at Harvard, Hopkins, Duke, or Wash U (probably in that order). I just got my august mcat, and I want to know whether people think it will be competitive.

    I know those MSTP's, everything paid, are super-hard to get into. I'm just wondering whether this MCAT will give me an edge, hurt me, or do nothing much.

    Also, how will it help/hurt for getting into just MD programs at the schools above?

    Overall: 38T
    Percentile Rank: 98.7%-99.2%ile

    Verbal: 12
    Percentile Rank: 95.3%-98.4%ile

    Physical Sciences: 13
    Percentile Rank: 95.7%-98.1%ile

    Biological Sciences: 13
    Percentile Rank: 95.7%-99.3%ile

    Writing: T (perfect)
    Percentile Rank: 99.3%-99.9%ile

    edit: Clearly I'm getting a lot of flack for this thread, but I'm serious! I know these programs are supercompetitive, but I don't know whether it's that the applicants have amazing everything, including 40+ mcat scores. With 2-5% admissions rates from a pool of self-selected top applicants, who knows!
  2. Dros macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2003
    The MCATs matter to medical schools, but the MSTP programs will look at other things. Bad scores will keep you out, but good scores won't get you in. MSTP programs want to know if you want in because 1) it is paid for, or 2) it is super competitive and you are super competitive, or 3) you have the makings of a future star biosciences researcher.

    You are doing research now, right? That is good. Published anything, preferably in Nature, Science or Cell? That is better. Can you talk about your research at a high level (not, I measured neuron X activity when I dumped cadmium on it, but the big picture).
  3. Steven1621 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2003
    i would say the pre-med advising folk at your college should be able to answer that fairly quickly.

    based on my knowledge, your numbers are high enough to fulfill the requirements at those schools, but for an MD/PhD they are going to want to see a lot more outside of numbers, especially research. that is what the people at my college told me, and we have a 98% acceptance rate into first choice med schools, so i guess they know.

    and also, you must know that those are incredibly good numbers. why do you need macrumors people to confirm that? i don't mean to be a dick, but it seems as if you are just touting your success for all to admire. but still, good job. i hope to do as well as you.
  4. Mike Teezie macrumors 68020

    Mike Teezie

    Nov 20, 2002
    I have no idea, but good job. My friends just took it, one made a 34, I dont know what the other made yet.
  5. Dr. Dastardly macrumors 65816

    Dr. Dastardly

    Jun 26, 2004
    I live in a giant bucket!
    Reading how smart some people are on these boards makes me want to quit everything and spend my days in a tree naked flinging poo at everyone.

    At least I'll find comfort in knowing that your dumber than .8% of the rest of the planet. :D

    oh, congratulations by the way. :p
  6. BrianKonarsMac macrumors 65816

    Apr 28, 2004
    your intelligence can't be accurately judged by a test, it's just simply impossible to gauge every aspect of a person's intellect. grades in high school are an even worse gauge, for instance i didn't do a thing during high school, never EVER did my homework, but i would take the tests and get A's so as to average C's across the board, graduating with a dismal 2.0. Then I took my SAT's and ACT's and got something like a 32 and ~1300 (it's been awhile), which was way out of my GPA's estimate. When I was young I did the same thing, I even got a perfect score (only one in the country for that year, woo hoo!) on something called the CSAT (if i remember correct) which was basically a junior SAT test, which baffled all of my teachers who thought I was retarded :p.

    sorry for rambling (it's that damn ADD acting up again) but back to my main point, nobody can ever tell you how smart you are, because some people can specialize in one category and fail in another; making an overall judgment irrelevant
  7. themadchemist thread starter macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    Hey Steven, fair point EXCEPT that these MSTP programs are hyper-competitive and I just wanted to know where I stand. Honestly, until I got a little perspective on it, I was a tad bit disappointed because I was shooting for a 39 or 40. I know people on this forum are doing or have considered MSTP, so I was hoping for some input, which I've also been trying to get from others that I know. But more opinions are always better, right? I figure with Harvard having, say, 11 spots for MSTP, a 38 isn't necessarily that good.

    Yeah, here's the problem with my research. I'm in my fourth lab now because I've been trying to find a good 'fit,' both with respect to people and more importantly, with respect to area of interest. Also, I'm trying to get a broad perspective on science because I've read that people are to focused on tiny areas these days. However, I think I've now found a lab where I'm not bad at the technique, I'm really interested in the science, and knock on the wood, I can do well. I'm a junior, so I'm hoping by the time that apps roll around, I can get a good recc from my advisor and I'll have a good number of experiments under my belt. Hopefully, even a paper...I doubt Nature or Cell, though, which are very rare for undergrads. Maybe Journal of Neuroscience or something on that level?

    Then, I need to get my grades up. I'm at Northwestern with a 3.67 right now. However, I've started getting much better grades recently, and I'm hoping that that will translate into an upward incline for the gpa, maybe into the 3.75 range or with luck, a little higher.

    For these reasons, I'm a little nervous, but I'm hoping with luck that things will work out. I know a lot of undergrads don't start research until junior year, so I'm hoping that my past experiences will only be gravy on top of an otherwise solid undergrad experience in one lab.

    Dr. Dastardly--not inelligence, really. As Brian says, tests can't measure intelligence. Just decent test taking skills.
  8. fatcow242 macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2002
    obviously, the percentile indicates where you are with your score, it seems absurd for you to be asking whether or not this will be competitive. After scoring in a certain range the admission decision becomes about research, grades, etc. Congratulations on your scores, but if you want to make a thread like this, next time I would title it "Who wants to see how well I did on my MCAT?"
  9. themadchemist thread starter macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    no, honestly! I've been asking everyone because I have this perception that the like 50 people who are in the mstp's at the top schools have 40+ scores or something...I know the percentiles are good, but I haven't seen figures for MSTP programs, so I don't know how competitive it is and if, say, the average applicant has a 40 or something.
  10. dotnina macrumors 6502a

    Aug 19, 2004
    (emphasis mine)

    I know of many schools that were intimidated by applicants' high MCAT scores, so yes, I think these scores might hurt you ... really, you might want to retake the MCAT and tone it down a little this time. ;)

    Really though, congratulations -- I think these are extremely competitive numbers.
  11. Dros macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2003
    I read that the Wash U. MSTP program numbers average 3.85 GPA and 36R for MCAT. I doubt other places require higher numbers, or care much even if they are higher.

    Papers are rare for undergrads. So is getting into a top MSTP program. But just being an author (instead of first author) will help, if you demonstrate that you really investigated your portion instead of just doing mini-preps for others. Skipping around labs isn't going to let you talk with insight and command about a research topic. Harvard interviews aren't going to be "explain what your research was" in a short paragraph. But if you have a year to go then there is time to delve deeply into a subject.

    Right now, I would say you wouldn't stand out from other top applicants. MCATs at or above average, GPA below, some research experience. Why Harvard MSTP?
  12. themadchemist thread starter macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    I'm in a very publication-oriented lab (what lab isn't, I suppose) and I've been given responsibility and my own project from the start. I've been here three weeks and I'm already running my own experiments with relative success (of course, there is some room for improvement). My GPA I have room to improve and I'm working hard to make sure I do.

    So what I'm hoping is to eventually have an app with in-depth research experience, some pretty extensive leadership experience, about an average GPA for MSTP (or at least respectable, considering that Northwestern is a top-ranked school, so maybe 3.8), and my MCAT as it is. That's the goal, we'll see if I can meet it.

    I'm extremely interested in Harvard for a few reasons. One reason is that I fell in love with its campus when applying for undergrad. But more serious reasons...Ridiculous amounts of research funding: If I'm going to do research, I want to go somewhere that has the money. Also, Harvard has opened a stem cell research center with MGH that I'm interested in; depending on the future of government funding, it could be one of the few places in the country with serious stem cell research, since it is privately funded. Also, some of the professors in the Neurobiology department are absolutely outstanding, like Hubel (sp?), who won the 1980 Nobel. Also, my PI collaborates with Teplow in I want to say the pharmacology/molecular medicine (or equivalently named) department; his work interests me because the stuff I'm doing now is fascinating. Then, Boston's a great city in which to be studying medicine. Top-ranked hospitals, loads of schools, lots of resources for future collaboration, etc. I'm still very interested in the MD part of MD/PhD and I think there's a great opportunity to become an excellent clinician with MGH so close at hand.
  13. ThomasJefferson macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2002
    Now if you were a C student with a daddy in Congress and had investments in oil companies - then sure, Harvard would be a great choice.

    Why not ... University of Virginia?
  14. 5300cs macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2002
    I don't even know what MCAT stands for ... I'm not going to Harvard, am I?

    Oh well, I grew up just across the river from it. And I went to college right next to BU, so I don't feel that bad.
  15. Steven1621 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2003
    fair enough. i knew the MSTP's were incredibly hard to get into, but i didn't think they were that hard.

    i will be in your position in a few years, and based on what my advisors have told me, it is very important to have the absolute best grades possible as well the abilities in the lab that someone with and MD/PhD would need.

    your mcat's are definitely good enough. granted i am not on an admissions board, but i don't see someone saying they should be higher.

    northwestern is a very good feeder school, so i would say you are in good shape.
  16. Dros macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2003
    Northwestern is a highly ranked school for undergraduate education. It is a little less highly ranked as a research institution, and that will come into play. How many slots are there in the Harvard MSTP program-- 5 to 10? A quarter of the interviews are Harvard grads. Every single applicant will have several years research experience. Every one will have high MCATs and GPA. I'll bet every interview (75-100) will have similar numbers. It is partly a lottery at that point.

    I'm not sure I'd bring that up as a reason. Harvard has lots of money. But what medical school research program doesn't have lots of money, at least at the level you are hoping to go? It sounds naive, and you'll click best with interviewers if you sound like you've assimilated the culture of science.

    Going there because of an interest in stem cell research is an ok reason, but if you mention that you should expect to talk how your research goals need that center, instead of just saying, "stem cells are cool". Say you went to work with Teplow, would you combine research there with stem cells? It sounds like you lack focus when you throw out these disparate ideas, which only exacerbates your 4 lab skipping around in the past years. You like Neurobiology because of Hubel? He got the Nobel prize in 1980, as you say. What is the last significant paper he has published? Again, naive sounding.

    what would give you an 'in' is if your PI at Northwestern is impressed by your research enough to tell Teplow, "this guy has it.", and that gets communicated to the MSTP program via letter of rec as well. At that level of competition, the personal connections count for a lot. There aren't many objective ways to separate out a few from many.

    Don't mean to sound too harsh. Don't get too set on one program. You better be wanting to do this because you love research and you can't imagine not doing it.
  17. themadchemist thread starter macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    Hey Dros, I appreciate the feedback. My ideas are disparate because I don't put in an application for another nine months, I wasn't sure that I wanted to do MSTP until recently, and I'm still looking around at schools. There were a few things about Harvard that piqued my interest and that I plan on looking into more. Some of them might no longer end up seeming interesting, some of them might hook me. Another school, like Hopkins, Duke, or Wash U, might end up interesting me more.

    As far as the reasons I gave--clearly they weren't in the form that I would present them in an application or an interview. Of course, I will refine and improve my thoughts before an admissions board. As far as the money--I think it's significant because Harvard's endowment has allowed them to do things that no other university has done.

    I'm interested in stem cell research as it applies to neurodegenerative disorders, but I'm still reading papers, so I can't be certain that that avenue is for me. It's something I'm investigating though.

    On the other hand, I know that the biochemistry I'm doing now is very interesting and so similar research with Teplow would be great. I've read one of his papers--it's the matter of reading more. Ideally, and this requires that I'm very good in the lab I'm in (which is, of course, a prereq for mstp), my PI would put a good word in for me with Teplow, or better yet, introduce me. I think it would be ridiculous to apply to a PhD program without talking to some of the faculty in the department to which you're applying. Therefore, I plan to talk to a few people whose papers excite me. What would be incredible would be to spend a couple of weeks possibly visiting one of these people's labs, learning a new technique, and getting to know a professor and his/her research a little better.

    As far as the Nobel laureates--That's again not something I'm likely to bring up to a committee, but as an undergrad, a star-studded department is going to be awe-inspiring to me. Part of Harvard's draw, and it knows it as well as you and I do, is its plethora of laureates. It's a culture of excellence, one in which truly transcendent research occurs over and over--That's not just a product of bringing the best people together, but also a product of putting those people in the right environment. I think that Harvard's atmosphere, just as much as its scholars, is conducive to prizes like the Nobel.

    I'm doing this because I want to do both research and practice--I think doctors too easily become automechanics and just follow the ideas and procedures that researchers developed. However, I dislike clinical research because it's a statistics game--it doesn't answer why things happen, but just that they happen. Basic science research just fascinates me, and I can't imagine being involved in medicine without having the tools to be able to pursue the answers to the "why" questions. I want to be a doctor and I want to treat people, but I also want to help lead the way to the answers that will allow more people to be treated better than ever before. If I didn't want to do research, I wouldn't be taking the MCAT when I don't have to (I have a guaranteed spot at Northwestern), I wouldn't want to spend more years than I have to (I hope for a neurosurgical residency, so it's not exactly like I've got nothing else to do with my time), and I wouldn't spend 15 hours a week in the lab as an undergrad while having other classes and extracurriculars to worry about.
  18. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    M.D./Ph.D. - WHY???

    My question is, why on earth would you WANT to do an M.D./Ph.D?

    Seriously! I'm about 1.5 years from the end of my Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine (I'm in Cancer research), and I cant for the life of me figure out the point of the MD/Ph.D. degree.

    If you want to do clinical research, an M.D. really is sufficient. Case in point, when I was an undergrad, I did a summer placement in a major genetics lab here in Canada. I got a paper in the American Journal of Human Genetics out of it, which REALLY helped when it came time to find a graduate placement. In our lab, we had a clinical research fellow (M.D. degree) who had been given a CIHR (like Canada's NIH) Clinician-Scientist Fellowship (VERY competitive) to do some genetics research. Well, he didnt even know why an A-T bond is weaker than a G-C bond. Yet he got a major award to do this type of research.

    My point is that when it comes right down to it, in the eyes of the granting agencies, an M.D. degree is worth JUST AS MUCH, IF NOT MORE than a Ph.D. I can see doing an M.D. if you already have a Ph.D. and you'd like to incorporate clinical studies directly, but if I were starting out, I sincerely believe that an M.D. will get you everything a Ph.D. will.

    My opinion on this is that it really isnt fair. A medical degree isnt the same as a Ph.D. A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, meaning that you are taught to ask questions, and to think in a very logical, 'philisophical' way. In that way, a Ph.D. in Physiology is really taught the same skills as a Ph.D. in art history, it is just applied to different subject matters. That's why it isnt called a Doctor of Science.

    An M.D. is a purely clinical degree. You are taught to understand human physiology, pharmacology, anatomy, etc., and to apply that knowledge to patient care. It is NOT a scientific degree. Nor philisophical in the same way as a Ph.D. For that reason, an M.D. entering research should not be looked at as having the same reasoning and problem solving skill set as a Ph.D. Yet we have MD's and Ph.D.s applying for the same post-doctoral fellowships. But where is the experience for the M.D.? I once interviewed with a scientist who held an M.D. and a Ph.D. (she had done them separately, M.D. first). She flat out told me that "the Ph.D. was much harder to complete". I also had a former supervisor (a Ph.D.) tell me that "Ph.D.'s are for idiots".

    Anyway, I've digressed here. The fact of the matter is, an M.D. will get you into basic research, will allow you to conduct clinical research, and will make you competitive with Ph.D.s, all without having to endure actually completing the Ph.D. (which is hell, really).

    BTW, nice MCAT scores. I had a 34R.


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