MSTP Admissions FAQ

Answering the Call

A pressing need for medical scholars who are well trained in research continues. Opportunities for physician-scientists to teach and conduct research exist not only in medical schools but also in foundations, government and private industry.

What is the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)?

The MSTP is a dual MD-PhD degree program that is federally funded by the National Institute for Health. Students who are accepted into this program earn their doctor of medicine and doctor of philosophy degrees concurrently, typically in eight years. The MSTP is designed primarily for students who are interested in a future career with a focus in research related to medicine. The Michigan MSTP is offered cooperatively by the Medical School and the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

In which fields may the PhD be earned?

The PhD may be earned in any field that is relevant to science in medicine. MSTP students have the option of pursuing their graduate studies in core biomedical fields or in several different non-traditional programs.

How does a student select a doctoral field?

While some MSTP students enter the program with a firm idea of their research interests, others may have only a general idea of a specialization field. A list of potential mentors for the core fields and their research areas is available. First-year students are assigned a personalized Research Rotation Advisory Committee that provides guidance regarding the selection of research mentors and PhD departments. Students participate in a least two lab rotations (with the option of a third) before selecting their thesis mentor.

Is it difficult to get into the MSTP?

Admission to the MSTP is highly competitive, and typically 10 – 12 students matriculate each year. Particular attention is given to the quality of an applicant's scientific preparation and research experience. Applicants must be approved by the Medical School and the MSTP before receiving an offer of admission.

How do I know if I’m suited to becoming a physician scientist?

Most MSTP students possess the following:

  • Excitement or curiosity about science that has led the applicant to pursue research.

  • Commitment to a career in which the primary focus is a combination of medical research and clinical practice.

  • Understanding that a dual degree program requires considerable training, hard work and fortitude.

  • Record of high academic motivation and achievement.

  • Sensitivity to human needs and a desire to be of service.

  • U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. State of residency is not a factor in the admissions process. Unfortunately, DACA students are not eligible for our MSTP due to the level of federal funding of our program. However, DACA applicants are welcome to apply to the University of Michigan MD program.

How do I apply to the MSTP?

Apply through the American Medical College Admission Service (AMCAS). Applications to the MSTP are accepted between June 1 and October 15 of the year prior to the year in which the student is seeking admission.

Who reviews my MSTP application?

The MSTP Director and Associate Directors screen all applications and make decisions on interview offers. The MSTP Operating Committee interviews applicants and makes admissions decisions. MSTP applications are reviewed separately by the Medical School Office of Admissions, and applicants must be acceptable to both in order to receive an offer of admission to the MSTP.

If I am not offered an interview or accepted to the MSTP, am I automatically considered for MD-only admission?

No, MSTP applicants are not automatically considered for MD-only admission. Applicants must request to be considered for MD-only admission. You may request this by emailing our office.

I am currently an MD student at the University of Michigan Medical School. Can I apply to the MSTP?   

Yes, it is possible to apply to the MD/PhD program after entering as a UMMS MD-only student and completing one or two years of medical school. About 10% of our current students have entered our program this way. How it works: we review your application, ask you to complete essay questions from the MD/PhD application, arrange interviews and consider your application just as if you were applying as an MD/PhD candidate through AMCAS. Contact the MSTP office for more information.

I am currently a PhD student at the University of Michigan Medical School. Can I apply to the MSTP?

Yes, PhD students in the first or second year of training at the University of Michigan may apply through AMCAS in the same way as traditional MD applicants. PhD applicants must take the MCAT and will be reviewed in the same pool as traditional MD/PhD applicants. Contact the MSTP office for more information.

Do I need 18 months of research experience to be considered a competitive applicant for the MSTP?

Having 18 months of research experience is not an absolute requirement for admission to our program, however, we generally expect to see at least two summers working full time in a lab and one academic year of research experience (working 10-15 hours per week in a research lab). Having this amount of research experience allows you to reflect on experiences with both short-term and long-term research projects that have helped solidify your interest in choosing a career as a research scientist. There are exceptions depending on individual circumstances. Research positions may be paid or volunteer.

Which PhD programs require the GRE when applying to the MSTP?

At the University of Michigan you will only need to take the GRE if you are interested in certain non-traditional research fields such as those offered at the School of Public Health (Epidemiology does not require GRE, but other Public Health programs do require GRE), Economics, and Anthropology. If you are interested in the biomedical sciences, you do not need to take the GRE. 

Which PhD programs are the most common among MD/PhD students at your school?

Our program offers 14 basic biomedical science research programs as well as several non-traditional PhD programs in the social sciences and humanities. The most common PhD programs for our current students are Cellular & Molecular Biology and Molecular & Integrative Physiology.

Are there specific laboratories that you recommend for someone interested in epidemiology and public health?

Students do not typically do research rotations at the School of Public Health. The PhD program works with the student to identify an appropriate thesis mentor. Within the School of Public Health, we encourage you to look closely at the PhD programs offered to determine which program best fits your interests.

What distinguishes the Michigan MSTP from MD/PhD programs at other institutions?

One of the things that distinguishes our MSTP from other programs is the large number of non-traditional PhD students we have, which brings incredible diversity to our program.

We prioritize mentoring excellence for our students, which begins during the first year of the program with a research rotation advisory committee. Our Director, Associate Directors and staff are very involved with the students, providing guidance and support along the way, in addition to the efforts of our talented faculty research mentors.

I took the MCAT several years ago - is it still valid?

We accept MCAT scores within three years of your matriculation year. We recommend applicants take the MCAT early enough to allow time to retake the test, if desired. 

Does the Michigan MSTP accept committee letters?

Yes! Committee letters are accepted. They should include full, unedited letters from specific individuals, or the letters can be sent separately through the AMCAS Letter Service. Please refer to the Letters of Recommendation section of our Application Requirements for a complete explanation.

What opportunities do you offer to MSTP students in order to keep clinical skills fresh during the PhD phase?

During the research phase, MSTP students are invited to participate in a longitudinal clinical preceptor program, which involves working 1:1 with an MD faculty member.

I hold a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Am I still eligible to apply to the MSTP program?

Unfortunately, DACA students are not eligible for our MSTP due to the level of federal funding of our program. However, DACA applicants are welcome to apply to the University of Michigan MD program.

What is the most important factor to be considered a competitive MSTP applicant?

Applicants are reviewed holistically, and all aspects of the application are important: letters of recommendation, grades, MCAT, exposure to medicine and research, etc., however, the most important criterion for an applicant is to have strong research experience because it is essential that they know they want to focus on research in their career.

How should I spend my gap year(s) in order to make my application more competitive?

You could consider applying to a post baccalaureate program if your science coursework is not optimal. If your research experience is not as robust as you would like it to be, you could consider applying for a yearlong research program at a well-known institution or through a specific organization such as the National Institutes of Health.

Last year, I studied abroad and earned a Master's degree at an international institution. Do you want a copy of my transcript from this institution?

No, we do not require an international transcript.

Medical Scientist Training Program

University of Michigan Medical School
2965 Taubman Health Sciences Library
1150 W. Medical Center Drive
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-5619