|By Happeepanda (Happeepanda) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 04:20 am: Edit|
California Institutes of Technology sounds like a great place to go for undergraduate school...but will i be able to get a good pre-med education there? And what is this test that they mail to you? Why do people have to take it? Do they take it AFTER they have been accepted? What does CIT use it for? Placement?
|By Tweaks (Tweaks) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 10:06 am: Edit|
They send out diagnostic/placement tests after you're accepted. You might be able to pass out of some classes (rare) or you might be placed in a certain section.
If you're smart, you could get excellent pre-med prep at CIT because of individualized attention and plenty of research opportunities ... the program is basically a Bio major + extra classes. The downside is that there's little GPA inflation esp. compared with other schools so it'll be very hard to manage a good GPA (again, unless you're very bright).
|By Happeepanda (Happeepanda) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 05:29 am: Edit|
thanks for the info! but could you explain the gpa inflating thing? I heard that harvard is know for highly inflating grades. Does it mean that they somehow make everybody's grades better?
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 05:54 am: Edit|
You don't like grade inflation. Hahaha, no worry, Caltech is the hardest school you can find in US, its graduation rate is the lowest among HYPSMC. So you might want to hope there's such grade inflation at Caltech.
|By Mal (Mal) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 09:32 am: Edit|
Eh, if you want to go straight premed, maybe Caltech isn't for you. First thing, Caltech's biology program focuses almost exclusively on molecular bio: you won't find much systems biology or stuff like that. I think there's like one physiology class...
Premeds need high GPA - and Caltech is brutal when it comes to GPA. Premeds at other schools will be obsessing about that A- bringing down their GPA - at Caltech, you'll be more worried about pulling off that B or C while still getting a decent amount of sleep. True, there's little competition here: Caltech fosters cooperation and academic cameraderie... but that doesn't mean the classes get easier.
Another thing that medschools look for in applications is brilliance outside of academics. They'll expect you to do something other than studying - and you'll have to do it well. Organizing and leading a volunteering event, playing a sport or instrument, performing research, getting clinical experience - you'll need to do many of these things WHILE juggling an insane Caltech workload, and frankly, most Techers can't do more than study. The opportunities are all there: its very easy to get volunteer work from the Caltech Y (they'll even let you borrow a van or two if you have to drive somewhere else to volunteer), playing a sport at Caltech is surprisingly easy as most teams have no cuts (the fencing team is desperate for foil fencers, by the way!), Caltech=best research opportunities anywhere, and over the summer there's a preceptorship program where you trail doctors at Huntington Children's Hospital for like 10 hours a day for 5 weeks - I don't think there's a program like that anywhere else. BUT, can you do all of that WHILE maintaining a near perfect GPA at school where I'd be happy to get a B-? Its possible - past premeds here have done it. But I don't know if I can, which is why I'm reconsidering my premed ways.
Caltech is a great place if you're interested in a MD/Ph.D. dual degree - the kind of workload you'll be doing as an MD/Ph.D. candidate is on par with the work you'll slog through at Caltech, and the research opportunities are mind-blowingly incredible.
Bottom-line, Caltech is DEFINITELY not a mainstream premed school. But if you're motivated and bright, the intensity of Caltech might make you into one hell of a fine doctor.
|By Happeepanda (Happeepanda) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 06:22 pm: Edit|
true dat! Thanx for the info everyone! I will still keep my cal tech option open in case i do not go into premed, (or maybe even if i do) but now i am thinking of doing premed at UC berkeley and then coming here for that md/phd thing!
|By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 06:34 pm: Edit|
LOL... The MD/PhD things are very tough to get accepted into. Caltech's is also much harder because it's super-small. Go to http://www.studentdoctor.net/ forums and look at the MSTP board.
I don't think we should downplay Caltech that much, esp. against Berkeley because the competition there is supposedly tremendous. At Caltech, most students plan to go onto grad school, so they're not competing against you for prestigous leadership/volunteering positions (kinda reminds one of high school, eh?). Perhaps the most true thing is that Caltech's bio. program is not very diverse. At least two students warned me about this when I mentioned possible interest in majoring Bio (although my response was, "Ah, good, none of that memorization crap, right?").
|By Happeepanda (Happeepanda) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:12 am: Edit|
what do you mean by "downplay"? Do you mean that I am making Cal Tech out as not as good as Berkeley or something? (I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with that term.)
|By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:15 am: Edit|
Me too. I'm just saying that Berkeley is not necessarily a better choice vs Caltech. In fact, though, I'm not sure what is.
|By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:18 am: Edit|
Here's an email I copy-pasted (this guy got a 4.2 and is doing the 8-year Md/PhD at UT-Austin)
I think MD/PhD is a good decision. While it does take a long time, you
never have to worry about money during that time (full tuition plus a
20,000+ stipend every year) and because there are so few graduates (~10
per school) to begin with, you'll almost be guaranteed some professorship
If you want to do it, you should focus on doing biology research. For the
majority of schools, there is a separate MD/PhD office that looks at your
application and they are looking primarily to see that you have a good
research background. They'll check your volunteer experiences to make sure
you actually want to be a doctor but they won't be overly concerned about
how much stuff you do. The only exception to this is Stanford where you
have to get into the MD program before they'll even consider you for the
The research you do should be in cell or molecular biology and hopefully
You don't have to focus too much on extracurriculars. Basically, you need
one significant clinical experience and some random community service
activities. The Career department here has set up two very good clinical
activities (the Caton preceptorship and the Children's Hospital
fellowship) so you should take advantage of them. The Caton preceptorship
takes one summer and you should definitely allocate time to do it because
people from other schools typically won't have that kind of in-depth
Needless to day, you'll want to get a 4.0 average."
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:38 am: Edit|
Here are my comments:
*First of all, there seems to be an assumption in this thread that a premed must study bio.
I want to disabuse anybody of that notion before it gathers a head of steam. It is true that a preponderance of premeds study bio. But that doesn't mean that you have to do that. Premeds come from all walks of academia. Premed requirements are generally standard - 1 year of physics, 1 year of inorganic chem, 1 year of organic chem, 1 year of biology, sometimes 1 year of calculus, and maybe a few other classes like biochemistry for certain unusually exacting medical-schools. But above that, you are free to major in whatever you want.
What that means is that the focus of the Caltech biology department is not terribly relevant here. It would indeed be relevant if the OP wanted to get into biology graduate school. But if we're just talking about premed here, then people can and do study almost anything and be a premed. If you want to be an Caltech economics major and also be a premed, you can do that. Heck, if you want to be a literature major at Caltech and be a premed, you can do that too.
*Having said that, I think that Mal pretty much summed up the difficulty of being a successful Caltech premed.
In a perfect world, med-schools would know and care that some schools grade far tougher than others. We don't live in a perfect world. The reality of med-school admissions is that adcoms fixate on high grades and care very little about how you got those high grades, just as long as you got them. In other words, all other things being equal (in particular, MCAT scores and rec's), a premed candidate who majored in Film Studies at a no-name school and got a 4.0/4 is a far far more attractive candidate than a guy who studied electrical engineering at MIT and got a 3.5/4, despite the fact that the latter guy probably worked a hundred times harder than the former. That's all part of the 'game' of med-school admissions. Med-school adcoms provide very little compensation to you for attending a tough school and/or a tough program.
Don't believe it? Consider these links. Notice how MIT premeds who get admitted to med-school had a 3.7/4, whereas rejected MIT premeds had a 3.44/4. Notice the kinds of GPA's that successful Berkeley premeds needed. Neither MIT nor Berkeley are known for easy grading, yet the med-schools still demand tremendously high grades from candidates from those schools in order to be admitted.
*Berkeley - out of the frying pan and into the ...?
Unfortunately, if you're thinking of Berkeley instead of Caltech, then I'm afraid that the relative difference between the two may not be all that much. Both schools are infamous for handing out lots of poor grades. A far far clearer dichotomy would be between Caltech and Stanford. You have to be the laziest person on Earth to flunk out of Stanford.
Bottom line, the absolute best strategy to get into med-school is to go to a school that is both highly prestigious and that grades easily - which means HYPS. Second best strategy may be to attend an easy, no-name school that you know you can get extremely high grades at because you're clearly one of the best students at that school. A not-so-good strategy is to attend an extremely tough school where you run the serious risk of getting mediocre grades. Other than a bad day at the MCAT's, nothing will deep-six a med-school application faster than a bad GPA. Gotta get those top grades, any way you can get 'em. That's the game.
*MD/PhD - the scoop
I would actually say that MD/PHD admissions do not seem substantially more difficult than MD admissions, and in many cases are actually easier. Note, I said easier, not easy. Both are obviously difficult. But the MD/PhD road may actually be easier than the straight MD road.
The reasons for that are varied but basically have to do with the lifestyle of the MD/PhD. Few MD/PhD spots are available, but that is more than compensated for by the far smaller pool of applicants. Like I said above, pre-med candidates run the gamut of majors - bio majors, poli-sci majors, English majors, Film Studies majors, etc. But MD/PhD's are generally only open to undergrads who majored in the health sciences. You're never going to find an MD/PhD student whose PhD will be in art history.
Furthermore, the sheer time-commitment of the MD/PhD program is a big turnoff to lots of candidates. MD/PhD programs take at least 6 years, and often times up to 10 years to fully complete. That's not exactly a minor commitment of your time.
However, I would caution anybody who is looking at the MD/Phd route solely as a way to get into med-school without having to pay for it. I've heard other people say things like that, and I find it a tremendously myopic way of looking at the program. The fact is, the money that you 'save' by having your med-school tuition waived as well as getting a yearly stipend is a drop in the bucket compared to the years of extra time you will be spending in school. Regular MD's might rack up a lot of debt, but they'll also be out practicing a whole lot faster, and therefore have ample time to pay off all their debt. MD/Phd's might not rack up any debt, but are also stuck in school for a lot longer. Time is money.
The bottom line is that you should undergo the MD/PhD route because you're really interested in research related to medicine. Don't do it just because of the stipend or the tuition waiver.
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 03:07 am: Edit|
" a guy who studied electrical engineering at MIT and got a 3.5/4, "
Sakky, MIT using 5.0 scale , but maybe you just try to standardize the scale
|By Kyshantry (Kyshantry) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:01 pm: Edit|
So I'm not the most familiar person with MD programs and pre-med in general, but I just thought I'd throw out a few thoughts.
First of all, it is a myth that there is not grade inflation at Caltech. There is grade inflation at Caltech, it is not quite as egregious as it is at some other institutions (though Princeton just started limiting the number of A's that can be given in a class), but it certainly exists. It started in the 70s during the Vietnam War, because students with low grades could be drafted, and no prof wanted to be responsible for someone getting drafted. That said, the grading in core is pretty rough, and folks who are interested in bio/pre-med etc. can get hurt here, because Phys/Math typically aren't their strong points, and everyone is subjected to 3 terms of graded math/phys.
HOWEVER, all seven people who applied to med schools this year got accepted, and most of them to very high quality ones. In addition, we have a program with one of the leading neurosurgeons in the world at the Huntington Medical Hospital so that you can go and intern with him during the year, which gives great experience and a wonderful letter of recommendation, if you seem astute there - certainly a leg up.
I know nothing about MD/PhD Programs, unfortunately.
And yeah, extracurriculars are a good thing for Med School, and I think most everyone should do extracurriculars anyway. But they don't. Oh well. I encourage any pre-med or non-pre-med to get involved around campus, I think that it makes for a much more fulfilling experience.
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:23 pm: Edit|
Rtkysg, look at my link. It's not me reporting the numbers, it's MIT itself reporting the numbers.
What happens is that AMCAS standardizes the grading schemes for all premeds, hence MIT's 5-point scale gets converted into a 4-point scale.
|By Rtkysg (Rtkysg) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:47 pm: Edit|
As I have guessed
|By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 03:14 pm: Edit|
I don't see how you can make HYPS seem that easy... the competition there is also quite heavy (AFAIK, ~50% of Stanford profros state pre-med as an interest but more than half of those stop). Perhaps the best strategy for die-hard pre-meds is to be the clear-cut all-star student at a lower school.
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:29 pm: Edit|
I'm not saying that HYPS are a walk in the park. But the point is that as far as premed is concerned, they're easy relative to MIT or Caltech. It's all relative.
I agree it's not completely clear which is the truly most effective strategy for premed - attend HYPS or attend a low-level school. True, HYPS will have heightened competition relative to a low-level school. On the other hand, HYPS will provide the research opportunities that the lower-level schools may not, and those opportunities are important for getting into top-flight med-schools. I believe the best strategy is HYPS, but I can't be sure that the other strategy isn't better.
But regardless, I think we can all agree that whatever the truly best strategy is to 'game' the system, it's probably not to attend MIT/Caltech, and it's certainly not to attend MIT/Caltech and major in something super-hard.
|By Mal (Mal) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:33 am: Edit|
"But regardless, I think we can all agree that whatever the truly best strategy is to 'game' the system, it's probably not to attend MIT/Caltech, and it's certainly not to attend MIT/Caltech and major in something super-hard."
lol, I'm a freaking ChemE major at Caltech, and I want to get an MD/Ph.D. Can I survive? Will my poor bleeding eyes survive? I'll tell you in 4 to 14 years.
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 05:34 pm: Edit|
Whether you can survive or not is a related question, but not exactly what I was talking about. The real question is whether your grades will be high enough that a med-school will take you seriously. Remember - you're going to be competing against guys who lollygagged their way through schools that hand out boatloads of high grades. As I'm sure you know, plenty of Caltech premeds who can't get into any medical school because their grades aren't up to snuff would have gotten in just fine had they gone to an easier school.
I'm not trying to say that Caltech isn't a good school that will prepare you for most graduate programs. Indeed Caltech is one of the best pathways into most technical PhD programs. It's just that the professional schools - law, business, medicine - are so fixated on high grades that it rarely helps to attend a tough rigorous school like Caltech. It's an unfortunate artifact of the 'game' of professional-school admissions.
But wait a minute, sakky, I'm talking about MD/PhD programs, you might say. Yes, I agree that your situation is probably better than if you were just looking at straight MD programs. But depending on which department - the medical department or the phD department - holds more political sway over the admissions process, you may or may not be helped much by the fact that you are applying to an MD/PhD program. If it's the medical-school that holds the upper hand, as is usually the case, then again, you are going to need to present top grades to even warrant a second look.
|By Happeepanda (Happeepanda) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:08 am: Edit|
i just learned from a relative who is a doctor and is very experienced in the pre-med and med process, it is risky to go into a no-name/non-reputable school where you think you can be the best student and get the top grades because "you may get a lousy teacher in one class who gives you a lousy grade" (paraphrased?) And then you would have a low GPA at a non-reputable school.
|By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:19 pm: Edit|
I personally did not look too much into that pathway because I'm too much of a prestige-whore, but wouldn't there be some schools that offer an "honors" program for example, where you would get a professor to be an advisor. In such a situation, you would hopefully be able to get your advisor to sort out the situation...
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:25 pm: Edit|
Look, everything has risk. Going to a tough school that grades hard is also risky. The question is, which is more risky.
Let me put it to you this way. You say that if you go to a no-name school you might end up with a bad teacher who gives you a lousy grade . On the other hand, famous but rigorous schools like Caltech, MIT, Berkeley, Chicago, etc. are filled with lousy profs. I think even the most fanatic Caltech-booster will have to honestly admit that a good number of profs there really aren't that skilled at teaching. And there are some profs at those schools I mentioned that almost seem to enjoy giving out bad grades. I recall a story of one Berkeley prof who wanted to give D's and F's to the entire class, but was stopped only because the prof had agreed to use a grade curve on the first day of class, and was therefore obligated to assign a certain grade spectrum.
At the end of the day, I think everybody has to agree that you run a far far higher risk of getting a low-GPA by attending one of those tough rigorous, but famous schools. That's not to say that you can't wind up with a bad GPA at a no-name school. But the odds are lower. What supposedly compensates you for the higher risk of getting a lower-GPA at those tougher schools is the fame of the school. I and guys like Calkidd that, for the purposes of professional-school admission, that compensation is minimal. There is sufficient compensation when you're talking about PhD admissions, but not when you're talking about professional-school admissions. Med schools, law schools, and business schools want to see high grades, and they don't care where you get them, as long as you get them.
I know, I know, somebody is going to try to fire back with a story about how they know some med-school adcom officer who says that adcoms do look carefully at transcripts and they know that certain schools are harder than others and will compensate accordingly. To that I say, look at the final data. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Surely we all agree that MIT is a very tough school, right? So med-schools should know to compensate MIT premeds for attending a rough program. So if that's true, then why is it that MIT premeds still require a 3.7/4 (MIT's 5.0 scale is converted to a 4.0 scale by the AAMC) to get into med-school? Doesn't that seem a little high to you? Or why is it that Berkeley premeds who want to get into, say, UCSF Med, require a 3.85 to get in?
The evidence strongly suggests that little if any compensation is to be had from professional-school adcoms by attending a tough undergrad program. As long as med-schools are only admitting MIT guys who have a 3.7/4, and we all know it's extremely difficult to get grades like that at MIT, then the conclusion to be drawn is it's highly risky to go to MIT for premed. As long as med-school adcoms provide little compensation for attending tough programs, then premeds should shy away from those tough programs, and rightfully so.
Let me put it to you in the starkest terms possible. Let's say you've dreamt of becoming a doctor ever since you were a little kid, and you decide to go to Caltech for undergrad. Caltech is a very tough school and maybe you're a below-average student at Caltech (although being below-average at Caltech means that you're still well above almost everybody else) and so you wind up with a GPA around a 3. As far as med-school admissions are concerned, unless you score well over a 35 on your MCAT, your application is pretty much DOA. Most med-schools won't even send you the supplementary application. Your dreams of becoming a doctor are now effectively finished.
Contrast that with another guy who went to a CalState and got a 3.9 and, if his MCAT scores are decent, will get the supplementary application from each and every med-school he applies to. That's not to say that he's going to be admitted everywhere, but at least he'll survive to round 2, which is more than you can say.
|By Kyshantry (Kyshantry) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 12:57 am: Edit|
I'm going to agree with Sakky on his/her/its last post here - from what I've heard, Med Schools really do care, in absolute terms, a lot about your GPA and it is absolutely a risky and inadvisable thing to do to come to Caltech if your sole passion in life is to be a doctor.
We already have too many people here with crushed dreams, don't join them - it's certainly possible to make it, but it's also certainly harder.
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 01:23 am: Edit|
So getting back to the original question of whether Caltech will give you a good premed education, the answer is, strictly speaking yes. I know of no other school save perhaps that one in Cambridge Mass which will force you to develop critical thinking, work ethic, and toughness that all doctors need. If any school is going to prepare you for working 36-hour medschool shifts or staying up for 3 days straight the way lots of resident doctors do, then Caltech is arguably the best at doing that.
However, a far far more important question is whether Caltech is a good place to go for medical school. That question is subtly different from the previous question, but has a diametrically opposite answer. The answer to this question is 'no'. And the reasons have to do with what I, Mal, and Kyshantry have been saying. Simply put you're going to find it very very difficult indeed to get the top grades that the med-schools want to see, while still having the time to do all those EC's that those med-schools also want to see. Remember, you are competing for med-school admissions against guys who went to easy schools with lots of grade inflation which will grant them long strings of A's just for having a pulse (Ok, I'm exaggerating, but not that much - it's simply put a lot easier to get top grades while still having time to do all those EC's at schools like HYPS or a no-name school).
So while Caltech will provide you with an excellent premed education, that doesn't mean that it's a good place to go for premed. Who really cares if you got a great premed education if you can't get admitted into medical school?
|By Tweaks (Tweaks) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:39 am: Edit|
An interesting statistical note for future reference: if you look at MIT's statistics you'll note that you only need a 3.55, not a 3.7, to get in to med school. The highest person GPA-wise rejected had a 3.54 GPA.
The national average, I believe, is a 3.60 GPA ... I just brought this up because MIT's average of 3.7 raised a red flag.
MIT's premed pool is self-selecting; the majority of those who go into that pool would have to have a high GPA.
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:43 pm: Edit|
You need an average of 3.7/4 to get in from MIT, how about that?
But even if I agree with you, a 3.55 at MIT vs. a 3.60 nationally - even that isn't exactly a whole lot of difference, now is it? You'd think that because MIT is such a difficult school, med-schools would know this and be admitting lots of MIT students with substantially lower grades than the average. The evidence shows that that's not happening, which means that either med-schools don't know about MIT's difficulty, or (more likely) that they don't care.
And sure, MIT's premed pool is self-selecting. But so is the premed pool at any other school. Those guys with 2.0's at Harvard probably aren't going to apply to med-school. Those guys with 2.0's at the worst school in the country probably aren't going to applying to med-school. So when you're talking about averages, the self-selection washes out.
|By Spydersport824 (Spydersport824) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 03:33 pm: Edit|
"The evidence shos that that's not happening, which means that either med-schools don't know about MIT's difficulty, or (more likely) that they don't care."
Sakky- To add to that statement, med schools try to keep a diverse pool of admitted students. This means that they cannot accept every MIT grad even though the 3.6 from MIT could be much better than the 3.8 from School X.
|By Sakky (Sakky) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 09:07 pm: Edit|
First of all, spydersport824, I doubt that's really true. If that really were the case, then why is it that med-schools seem to have no diversity problem in taking in giant quantities of HYPS premeds, but when we're talking about MIT premeds, all of a sudden, diversity rears its head. That's rather convenient, don't you think?
But spydersport82, supposing what you say is true, that's yet another good reason not to attend MIT or, by extension, some other high-powered but difficult program if you really really want to attend medical school, isn't it?
After all, let's all of us think about the real issue here. The issue at hand is that MIT students seem to have a shocking amount of difficulty in getting into medical-school, particularly considering we all know how hard that MIT students work and how tough the school is. Whether it's because medical schools just don't want to admit premeds who have lower GPA's because by doing so, it hurts their own rankings (because med-schools are ranked partly by selectivity, which takes into account the GPA of entering students), or whether it's because of what you, spydersport, said, that it's because they don't want to admit MIT'ers because of diversity reasons or whatever - it doesn't really matter why. The only thing that matters is that for some reason, MIT students seem to have a surprising amount of difficulty in getting into med-school - far more difficulty than I think all of us would agree they should considering their caliber and their workload. And when you're talking about med-school admissions, you either get in, or you don't. And if you don't, it doesn't really matter why you didn't, the only thing that matters is that you didn't. Hence, that is why I've been saying that if you really want to go to med-school, then anything you might do that hurts your chances of getting admitted, like for example choosing a tough school and/or a tough program, is damaging. If you really want to be a doctor,then you gotta get admitted to med-school. There are no points for second place here.
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