A list of frequently asked questions, along with the response to each, can be found below. If you have further questions that have not been addressed here or elsewhere on the site, please contact the MSTP office.
What are the characteristics of a successful applicant?
The MSTP Admissions Committee selects candidates for admission to both the medical school and the MSTP, and seeks applicants with experiences that foreshadow their future success as physician-scientists. Applicants who are selected for the program have demonstrated the desire and capability to pursue rigorous and stimulating MD and PhD training, and already have a strong foundation in scientific research. Review criteria for the program include:
An exceptional undergraduate record well-grounded in the sciences,
Meaningful, sustained research experience, and
Evidence of a strong motivation for research and medicine.
How many positions are available each year?
The UCLA-Caltech MSTP is highly competitive, and a limited number of offers are made for the 10-12 fully funded positions available each year. Two of these students have the option of performing their PhD research at Caltech. All students in the UCLA-Caltech MSTP are fully funded throughout their MD-PhD training, with tuition, fees, stipend, and health insurance provided by the National Institutes of Health and other sources.
How important are my GPA and MCAT scores?
Although average science GPA and MCAT scores of successful applicants are consistently high, we take many other factors into consideration when evaluating each application, including research experience, letters of recommendation, and interviews.
Does the UCLA-Caltech program admit out-of-state applicants?
Yes. We do not give California residents priority over other applicants.
Are non-U.S. citizens eligible for admission?
Permanent residents are eligible for admission, but due to federal funding restrictions, we do not accept applications from international students at this time.
If I have not completed all of the course prerequisites for admission to the David Geffen School of Medicine, can I still be considered for admission to the MSTP? Can any prerequisites be waived?
In general, prerequisites must be completed prior to matriculation, but not prior to submitting an application. The first 6-week summer session for UCLA undergraduates usually begins in late June and ends just before School of Medicine orientation. Therefore, students who need to complete one prerequisite course can often take the course during this summer session. Waiver requests for a single prerequisite course will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The possibility of a waiver request should be brought to the attention of the MSTP Office as early as possible during the application process.
How many applicants are invited to interview for the MSTP?
Typically, about 75 applicants are invited to interview at the UCLA campus. Approximately 20 of these applicants interview at Caltech the day after their UCLA interview.
What is the application deadline?
The deadline for the AMCAS primary application is November 1. The deadline for the School of Medicine and MSTP Supplemental Application is December 1.
Does the UCLA-Caltech MSTP have rolling admissions?
We do not have a rolling admissions policy and we generally do not accept applicants prior to March. However, we retain the right to admit a limited number of candidates prior to the end of our interview process.
Are GRE Scores required for or acceptable for admission to the MSTP?
GRE sores are not required for consideration and cannot be submitted in place of MCAT scores. Students who ultimately join the UCLA-Caltech MSTP are permitted to use their MCAT scores to enter a graduate program for the PhD component of their training.
How does the committee weigh GPA, test scores, research experience, and other criteria in their admissions decisions?
We do not have a specific point system for each component of the application. The committee examines each application as a whole, and considers the applicant based on the interviews as well as the applicant's documentation. GPA and MCAT scores may reflect certain aspects of the applicant's performance, aptitude, and abilities, but we also look at the individual's life experiences, commitment to research, interests, and the inclination and capacity to pursue a rigorous program of study required to complete the dual degrees. We look for students with substantial research experience, reflected in a certain level of autonomy, understanding of the process of research, and depth of knowledge.
Does the MSTP have any special admissions program for students from under-represented ethnic groups or disadvantaged backgrounds?
The UCLA-Caltech MSTP has a strong record of admitting students from ethnic groups that are under-represented in the sciences, as defined by the National Institutes of Health, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The ethnic and economic diversity of the city of Los Angeles and of UCLA make the UCLA-Caltech MSTP ideal for the training of students from under-represented groups or disadvantaged backgrounds. Evaluation of all applicants includes consideration of life experiences.
Does the UCLA-Caltech MSTP participate in the NIH-Oxford-Cambridge Scholars (Partnership) Program?
The MSTP will only consider admitting current UCLA medical students who wish to participate in the NIH-Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program. Current UCLA medical students interested in obtaining a PhD at Oxford or Cambridge through this program should contact the MSTP Office as soon as they are accepted by the Scholars Program. The MSTP cannot consider applications from students interested in the Scholars Program who have not yet entered medical school or who have performed their first two years of medical school elsewhere.
If I do not receive an invitation to interview for the MSTP, will I still be considered for an interview at the David Geffen School of Medicine?
Yes; if you are not invited to interview with the MSTP, your application will be returned to the main School of Medicine Admissions Office to be included with the general applicant pool for screening and interview consideration. From that point on, the School of Medicine Admissions Office will handle your application.
If I interview for the MSTP, but do not receive an offer of admission, will I still be considered for admission to the David Geffen School of Medicine?
Yes; if you interview for admission to the MSTP, but do not receive an offer or are placed on the waiting list, your application and interview reports will be forwarded to the School of Medicine Admissions Committee. The MSTP Directors will then meet with representatives of the School of Medicine Admissions Committee to discuss applicants who were not admitted to the MSTP.
If I am interviewing for the MSTP, do I need to schedule a separate interview for admission to the David Geffen School of Medicine?
No, when interviewing for the MSTP, you are also interviewing for the medical school; there are no separate interview dates, and the meetings cannot be divided into “medical” and “research” interviews, though some meetings will be informational, with faculty selected by the applicant.
Is the MSTP interview composed of group interviews or individual interviews? Will the interviewers have access to the application?
Most applicants are interviewed individually by 4 or 5 UCLA professors, including one of the MSTP Directors and/or Associate Directors, at least one other member of the MSTP Admissions Committee, and other faculty whose research is relevant to the applicant’s interests. All interviewers receive the applicant's file prior to the interview. However, some faculty prefer to conduct the interview before reviewing the file, so that their initial opinion of the applicant is not biased by the academic record.
Does the MSTP pay for interview expenses?
The UCLA MSTP does not pay for the expenses of the initial interview. If the applicant is accepted and invited for a second visit, the program will pay all reasonable travel expenses incurred by the applicant for an invited second visit.
How many letters of recommendation are required?
Three letters of recommendation are required, with at least one letter from a research mentor who can address the student’s research experience and abilities. A maximum of five letters of recommendation may be submitted. Letters must be submitted electronically via AAMC. Committee letters or composite letters are acceptable, but the names of the applicant's three referees must be listed on the supplemental application.
If I am a current graduate student, can I still apply to the MSTP?
Yes, but you must not have completed more than two years of graduate work if enrolled in a PhD program. Students who have completed a Master’s degree are eligible to apply.
Do I have to apply separately to a graduate department to be considered for the MSTP?
No. Students who are admitted to the UCLA-Caltech MSTP are usually registered jointly with the School of Medicine and the Graduate Division. After the second year of medical school, the student will apply directly to the departmental or interdepartmental graduate program in which the student will pursue a PhD degree. Historically, no MSTP student has ever been denied admission to the graduate program of his or her choice. Trainees admitted to the Caltech component of the MSTP who choose to perform their PhD research at Caltech will be admitted to a graduate program with which their Caltech research mentor is affiliated after the second year of medical school.
Do I have to choose a graduate department at the time of admission?
No. Although many students are interested in a particular research area before they begin the program, MSTP students complete the first two years of medical school before entering a graduate program. During those two years, students must complete at least two laboratory rotations before selecting both the graduate department and the mentor.
When are research rotations conducted?
Two research rotations are required before a PhD research mentor is selected. In the most common scenario, the first rotation is conducted in the summer that precedes the first year of medical school. The second rotation is then conducted in the summer between the first and second years. Although the rotation before the first year of medical school is strongly encouraged, it is not required. Students who are unable to perform this rotation have an opportunity to perform a rotation during the summer after the second year of medical school. Also, the School of Medicine curriculum during the first and second years is ideally suited for MSTP students, as the flexibility of the curriculum and limited contact hours leave a considerable amount of time for additional research rotations and involvement in research-related activities (e.g. participation in lab meetings, attendance at research seminars).
Following my interview, when can I expect to hear from the MSTP regarding a decision on my application?
The final decisions of the MSTP Admissions Committee are made in mid-March. Accepted students and students placed on the waiting list will be contacted immediately by email. Applicants who cannot be accepted will be notified by email. Applicants can request information regarding the status of their application by sending an email message to the MSTP Office no earlier than March 15.
If I am not accepted to the MSTP, but I am admitted to the School of Medicine, can I reapply to the MSTP from within the School of Medicine? Can I reapply to the MSTP if I am not accepted by either the MSTP or the School of Medicine?
Yes, first- and second-year UCLA medical students can apply or reapply to the MSTP. Students who were not accepted by either the MSTP or the School of Medicine are welcome to reapply. We encourage these students to draw attention to parts of their application that have been strengthened in the interim.
If I am not invited for an interview or, if I am interviewed but not offered admission, can I appeal this decision and request reconsideration?
Applicants can appeal the decision not to be invited for an interview by mailing a letter to the MSTP Office explaining the reason why the applicant feels the decision should be reconsidered. Members of the MSTP Admissions Committee will then reconsider the application. It is important to emphasize, however, that only a subset of applicants with stellar academic and research records can be invited for interviews because of the exceptionally high quality of the applicant pool and the limited number of interview slots. The MSTP Admissions Committee unfortunately cannot consider appeals of final admissions decisions; because of the small number of MSTP training positions that are available, it generally is not possible to add additional students to the acceptance list and waiting list.
Can I be accepted without funding?
No; all UCLA-Caltech MSTP students are fully funded. However, a student who enrolls in the School of Medicine can choose to pursue a PhD degree on his or her own, by taking a leave of absence after the second year of medical school for PhD training. Most PhD programs at UCLA and elsewhere provide full tuition and stipend support. Therefore, students who choose to obtain both MD and PhD degrees independently of the MSTP would generally obtain full support for their PhD training, but no support for their medical education.
What is the current stipend level?
The 2012-2013 stipend for MSTP students is approximately $30,000. Tuition, registration fees, and health insurance are also covered by the program. There is a nominal travel allowance for all students.
If I am accepted to the UCLA-Caltech MSTP, can I defer admission?
In general, deferrals are not permitted. However, in a small number of circumstances, such as obtaining a major scholarship or fellowship (e.g. Rhodes, Marshall, Gates or Fulbright scholarship), a deferral of admission may be appropriate. If an applicant is aware that a deferral may be necessary, the applicant must inform the MSTP Office of this possibility before accepting an interview invitation. If the applicant becomes aware of the possible need for a deferral after the interview has been scheduled, the applicant must inform the MSTP Office as soon as possible. Deferral requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.