Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to complete both degrees?
The average length of time before graduation is 7.5 years; generally students will take 6 years or 8 years depending on the nature of their graduate research. Students generally complete and defend their PhD thesis before completing their clinical rotations in the last 1 – 2 years.
Can I do one degree before the other?
As above, nearly all students will complete their PhD requirements 1 – 2 years before their MD requirements. An important advantage of combined degree training is the breadth that the first 1 – 2 years of medical school provides for graduate research. Students must pass part I of the National Board Medical Licensing Examination before commencing full-time laboratory research. Occasionally circumstances will arise when an individual student's training is best served by deviating from this "traditional" plan; these situations require approval and monitoring by the graduate advisor and the MSTP Directors.
How will I be supported during my training?
Stanford MSTP students are fully supported through the entire program, tuition, health insurance and stipend, by a combination of funds from a National Institute of Health training grant, individual graduate programs, and School of Medicine funds.
Are there laboratory rotations?
One of the ways in which we try to make the total time of training less than the sum normally taken to complete MD and PhD degrees is by encouraging MSTP students to choose a potential thesis advisor without a yearlong set of rotations through different laboratories. During the first year of the program, students meet with departmental chairs and research faculty and participate in research seminars and group meetings, so that the summer following the first year can be spent working full-time in a laboratory whose goals, approaches, and personnel are already familiar. In most cases, MSTP students choose this laboratory as the place to carry out their thesis research.
Can I get advanced placement credit for graduate coursework?
MSTP students fulfill the same curricular requirements as "straight MD" and "straight PhD" students. Some PhD Programs may permit substitution of previous graduate course work (or MD courses) for their PhD requirements; this is individual to the program and the student.
Are MSTP students required to complete the MD Scholarly Concentration (SC) program?
The MSTP is a combined effort between the MD program and the PhD programs. All trainees are required to fulfill all requirements for both the MD and PhD degrees. The single exception is the MD program requirement for a Scholarly Concentration. For dual degree MD-PhD students, the PhD substitutes for this requirement.
Will I have special opportunities as an MSTP student?
Yes! In addition to individual regular advising meetings with the Program Directors, we hold seminars, courses, and lunches with guest speakers, covering important topics of professional development and translational medicine. The MSTP community also meets annually for the MSTP Scientific Conference, to present research, and to share clinical experiences, advice and above all support.
Will I have special responsibilities as an MSTP student?
Of course! Besides the challenge of balancing graduate and medical training, we ask all MSTP students to play an integral role in the recruitment, education, and evaluation of incoming MSTP applicants.
Can I get a PhD outside the Medical School?
Yes. One of the unique aspects of the Stanford MSTP is its close affiliation with departments in other Schools, including Engineering (Bioengineering, Chemical, Computer Science, Electrical) and Humanities and Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics).
Can I get a PhD in a clinical department?
The PhD must be conferred by a degree-granting department or program, and most clinical departments do not grant PhD degrees. However, most scientists in clinical departments either have joint appointments with basic science departments or are members of interdepartmental programs such as Cancer Biology, Neurosciences, or Immunology, and the only restriction regarding thesis advisors is that they must be members of the Academic Council.
Can I apply to the MSTP and get a PhD in a social science?
If you are a current Stanford MD student and have previously been admitted to a social science PhD program, you may apply to the MSTP for funding. Admitted PhD candidates may apply through the MSTP internal admissions process.
Are there teaching requirements?
The MSTP itself has no specific teaching requirements, but some PhD programs do.
How will my training differ from other "straight PhD" students?
The short answer is, "It won't." PhD training for MSTP students is just as rigorous and intensive as for students outside the MSTP. However, MSTP students don't spend their first year rotating through different laboratories, and most MSTP students complete their preclinical medical school curriculum before starting full-time laboratory research.
How many applicants do you interview and admit?
On average, we invite about 60 students for interviews or about 1 in 9 of those students who submit a secondary application. About 8 - 10 students begin the MSTP every year.
Can I apply to the MSTP after starting medical school?
Yes! One of the unique aspects of the Stanford School of Medicine is its strong emphasis on research, and the MSTP invites current Stanford medical students in their preclinical years, who have made a commitment and contribution to a research-based career, to submit an application for the MSTP. We refer to this as the “internal” application process. Typically, the MSTP admits 1 – 2 internal applicants every year.
Is there an early decision program?
No. We think making a decision about combined medical school and graduate training is challenging enough! Finding a program that best matches an individual student's interests and goals is facilitated by visiting several universities and meeting with a variety of potential research advisors.
How do I find out about the status of my application?
Just ask (we don't mind).
Can I schedule my interview for a different day?
There are 5 – 6 interview days per season; once invited, interviews are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. We will try to accommodate requests for other dates if necessary.
I don't know whether to apply for Med School or MSTP?
You should only apply to the MSTP if you are committed to a career in biomedical research; such a commitment should be based, in part, on previous sustained and productive research experience as an undergraduate. If you're not sure, consider working full-time in a laboratory after undergraduate school before deciding whether an MSTP is right for you, or, alternatively, starting as a "straight MD" student, participating in a research project in your 2nd or 3rd year, and possibly applying to the MSTP as an internal applicant (see above).
What does the MSTP Admissions Committee look for?
Besides qualification for admission to the medical school itself, the single most important component of an MSTP application is a previous sustained and productive research experience.
When can I expect to hear about the outcome of my application and/or interview?
Interview season is October – February; interview invitations will be issued 3 – 6 weeks before the scheduled interview date. MSTP admission decisions are made on a modified rolling basis.
Are MSTP applicants considered independently for medical school admission?
The MSTP Admissions Committee is separate from, but closely integrated with, the Medical School Admissions Committee. All applicants to the MSTP are also considered for MD-only admission. If you are not chosen for an MSTP interview, your application is automatically routed for MD-only consideration. If you are chosen for an MSTP interview, you will also be required to participate in the MD admission interview process. These interviews will be scheduled the day before, or day after, your MSTP interviews. If you are not offered admission to the MSTP, you will be considered for MD-only admission.
Can I afford to live in Palo Alto?
Housing costs in the Bay Area are more than other cities. However, every new graduate student is guaranteed housing on campus or at University associated off-campus sites. Almost anyone can afford to live comfortably as a Stanford graduate student solely on stipend support.
Will the program pay for health insurance? What about the rest of my family?
We consider health insurance an essential component of all graduate training programs. The program covers the entire cost for individual students and offers a mechanism for subsidizing dependents.
Isn't there more to do in San Francisco than in Palo Alto?
It depends whether you would rather watch street vendors in Union Square or go hiking in the Los Altos foothills. Seriously, downtown San Francisco is a short train ride away from Stanford, but the two environments offer different (and complementary) experiences. Downtown Palo Alto doesn't have skyscrapers but it does have a thriving economy, a diverse population, and an environment that attracts many students to stay here for postgraduate training and career opportunities. Come see for yourself!