The medical school admissions process is long and challenging. If you have been invited for an interview, you are just one step away from acceptance to your dream school. The more time you spend in preparing for your medical school interview, the less anxious you will feel. Medical school interviews can be nerve-racking, but there are actionable steps you can take to ease some of the pressure and leave a lasting impression on admissions committees. Here are our top ten tips on how to prepare on the day of your medical school interview.
The Night Before
The night before your interview is usually when students feel the most anticipation, so it is important to do some light planning and practice self-care. Go over your travel route and plan to get to the interview early. Think about traffic, parking, and public transit so you are not rushing in the morning. Before going to bed, do some light stretching so that your body is free of tension and stress. Wind down for bed early, and don’t look at electronics—blue light interrupts your natural sleep cycle, and browsing the internet can amplify your anxiety. Make sure your bedroom is adequately dark and free of distractions. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep so that you are well-rested and energized in the morning.
The Day of Your Interview
10 Top Tips
- Remember the questions you want to ask your interviewer.
You should always prepare a few questions to ask your interviewer. This shows your interviewer(s) that you’re interested in their medical school and that you are serious about a career in medicine. Avoid asking questions that can easily be found on the school’s website. Instead, ask engaging questions about the program to which you are applying, what advice the admissions officers can give to first-year medical students, and if anything on your application can be elaborated further.
- Dress professionally.
The best attire for your medical school interview is business formal. First impressions are everything, and conveying professionalism is of utmost importance. For men, wear a suit and tie. For women, wear a pantsuit or skirt suit.
- Arrive early.
Arriving on time is late. Plan to arrive early and factor in any unforeseen emergencies such as traffic jams or public transit delays. Give yourself extra time in the morning to arrive at your destination.
- Respect everyone you meet.
Be professional and respect everyone you meet on campus. Treat everyone as if they are your interviewer, because you never know, they could be! Smile, introduce yourself, shake hands, and thank everyone who assists you. Treat everyone as if they are already your colleagues.
- Relax before you enter the interview room.
Use the following relaxation techniques before you enter the interview so that you calm yourself, own the moment, and shine:
● Hot Chocolate Breathing
Hot chocolate breathing is when you inhale deeply through your nose, imagining you are smelling a delicious cup of hot chocolate in the wintertime. Close your eyes, put yourself in that cozy winter setting, imagine you are holding a big mug of hot chocolate, and breathe in
deeply. Fill up your lungs, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat until your breathing is even and your body feels relaxed.
● Posture and Sitting Straight
Be mindful of your posture and sit up straight in your chair. Do a quick head-to-toe check of your entire body. Look straight ahead, unclench your jaw, bring your shoulders back, sit up straight, place your palms on your lap, put your feet flat on the floor, and wiggle your toes.
Once you are in the ideal posture and your muscles are relaxed, do some more deep breathing. Good posture will make you feel more confident and look self-assured to others.
- Make a strong first and last impression.
First and last impressions are significant. In an interview, you’ll be judged within the first few seconds and interviewers will remember how you came across as you enter and exit the interview room. Smile, greet the interviewers, shake hands, and thank them for meeting with you. Do the same when you conclude your interview. Be sure to send thank you notes as well within 48 hours (unless a school explicitly states not to send follow up correspondence).
- Convey what makes you unique.
Similar to the medical school personal statement, the interview is the place where you really need to convey what makes you, you. Come prepared with stories based on your experiences that make you unique. For example, you can elaborate on a clinical experience you had that was stressful, but you persevered by exhibiting desirable qualities and made a connection with a difficult patient. Or perhaps you are proud of a project you worked on while obtaining research experience. Choose
compelling stories that are specific and attract the interviewers to your unique skill sets and accomplishments. If you’re reapplying to medical school, be ready to talk about what you did during the previous year, such as taking new courses or re-taking the MCAT.
- Clarify any questions you don’t understand.
If the interviewers ask you questions you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. A medical school interview isn’t simply a one-sided monologue where you are expected to give flawless, robotic answers. Think of it as a two-way dialogue meant to determine if the medical school will be a good fit for you. Asking follow-up questions also shows the interviewers that you are engaged with the questions and want to learn more about the medical school and their expectations.
- Be honest.
Always be honest in your interview, especially with questions regarding weaknesses or any areas that reveal gaps in schedule, poor grades, and other adversities. No candidate is perfect, and admissions officers don’t ask about these issues simply to disqualify you. You should answer these types of questions with a growth mindset. Show that you faced a challenge, outline the actions you took to resolve it, and most importantly, discuss what you learned from the experience.
- Be yourself.
Finally, be yourself! Your authenticity will show interviewers that you are the ideal candidate for medical school because you have the self-assuredness and strong personality to undertake a challenging yet rewarding career in medicine.
The medical school interview may seem daunting, but you should feel proud of yourself and validated for making it this far in the admissions process. Mastering your nerves and preparing for the big day will ensure that you ace your medical school interview. By following our top ten tips, you are well on your way of earning that acceptance.