In the end, I have decided to attend Indiana University MSTP. If I could give advice to someone applying to MD/PhD programs it would be this:
1) Tell a story in your application. Help the reader understand your journey. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is your chance at a first impression. I was complimented on the fluency and the content of my essays over and over again. Aside from the actual research experience, (in my opinion) this is the single most important factor. They need to know the experiences that have influenced you toward MD/PhD and, more importantly, what you learned about yourself from these experiences. I chose to only write about experiences that I could talk about for 5-7 minutes or more. My most common questions: Why do you want to be an MD/PhD? Why do you want to do the PhD? Why do you want to be an MD? Tell me about yourself. Describe yourself in 3 words (or how would your friends describe you). Tell me about your research. Why this school? What do you do for fun?
2) Apply as early as humanly possible. This is probably the best advice I picked up from previous applicants. I submitted my application 4 days after opening and I honestly believe that is part of the reason I received as many interview invitations as I did. This also means being proactive the summer before and getting that first draft done. I should also note that you should contact your letter of recommendation writers ASAP. I’ve heard horror stories of applicants waiting to have their application complete due to delayed LOR. You only need the transcripts and essays to get AMCAS rolling, so I didn’t wait for MCAT or LOR to get that process started.
3) This is your opportunity to show the admissions committee that you know how to present your research in an intelligible fashion. When you talk about your research experience, use “I” a lot. Talk about what you did, what you thought, what you learned. Believe me, it goes a long way.
4) Do a mock interview with your Pre-Med advisor. I had 3 mock interviews. The first was God awful, second was OK, and third I felt great afterward. I googled some common interview questions, wrote up answers, and used some spin of those answers during interviews. It was really nice to have a set of ideas already in my head about my experiences before going into interviews.
5) Never, ever keep yourself from applying out of fear. I cannot tell you how many times I was told to retake the MCAT before applying because I would never get into an MD/PhD program. I made sure I was a better applicant in every other aspect of my application (essays, research, GPA, extracurricular, LOR) and I am now matriculating into an MSTP.
6) For Christ sake, stay off of SDN. It will give you an ulcer.
Finally something I didn't know before going into the process was that some schools will notify you if you are accepted into MD and MD/PhD, other schools will only let you know about MD/PhD. They will not even consider you for "MD only." This wasn't a big deal for me, but it was annoying to find out after the fact. In particular, I remember University of Michigan and Michigan State being this way.
It might be annoying, but you need to really stay on top schools that require separate applications for MD and PhD (Ohio State, Michigan State, Wright State, ect). I had problems with paperwork being received by all departments and it was very annoying to wait for a "file complete" email, only to later contact them and find something missing.
If you are interested in a school after interviewing, send a letter of interest. I sent one after grades had posted and gave an update on my research. I am now matriculating into that program. I'm not saying this was a huge impact factor, but it didn't hurt.
Finally, rejections are going to hurt. In particular, the first one will make you feel like dog shit. Hopefully you will have an acceptance under your belt beforehand, but if you don't, you're not alone. I received my first (post-interview) rejection before receiving an acceptance and it made me question everything. Should I have applied this cycle? What happened in my interview that I received this rejection? Is being a doctor out of the question (yeah, I got a little melodramatic). In the end, it makes your first acceptance so much sweeter.
Good luck and I hope my advice helps some poor pre-med in the future.