Once you have reached the medical school interview stage, the academic credentials of the group are probably pretty comparable. The quality of your interview may make the difference. Remember, once granted an interview, your fate is in your own hands. So by all means, be prepared.
Many students go into their first few med school interviews completely unprepared, hoping to get the hang of it as they go along. Few people would attempt to run a marathon (or take the MCAT) untrained. The same principle applies here. You want to anticipate the questions and formulate the key points of your responses, maximizing your potential for success.
WHAT ARE MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEWERS LOOKING FOR?
Your answers to medical school interview questions aren’t as important as your reasoning behind them and your manner in which you answer. Medical school interviewers want to see thoughtful, concise answers showing that you’ve made deliberate choices about your undergraduate education and your future in the medical field. Keep your answers short and on topic; it’s great to tell stories that illustrate your points, but leave out unrelated components.
Make sure you’re informed about any organizations or experiences you’ve been a part of. If you worked as an EMT during college, be prepared to share experiences and talk about some of the challenges you faced. If you were part of an organization that taught elementary school students about healthy eating, you should know about healthy eating yourself and be familiar with issues surrounding child obesity.
WHAT MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS SHOULD I EXPECT?
More often than not, the interviewer will base his or her questions on your personal statement and your med school application. This is especially true if you have an “open file” interview where the interviewer sees your application beforehand. In addition to answering questions about specific components of your application, prepare to answer questions like the following:
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY
Often, you can expect questions about your personality and personal history, such as:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What qualities do you think a physician should have? Do you have an example of a physician who embodies these qualities?
- Share an example of a time you worked successfully with a group.
- What skills have you developed that help you cope with stress and manage your time?
- Talk about any exposure you’ve had to other cultures (through travel, volunteer work. etc.). What did you learn?
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR MOTIVATION
Expect questions about your motivation for becoming a doctor:
- Why do you want to go into medicine?
- Why do you want to be a doctor specifically, and not a nurse, psychologist, physical therapist, etc.?
- Why do you think you’d be a good doctor?
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR EDUCATION
Be prepared to talk about your educational and extracurricular experiences:
- What undergraduate major did you choose, and how will it help you in medical school and beyond?
- What extracurricular experiences (including jobs) have you had that will aid you in your journey to becoming a doctor?
- Describe any research experiences you’ve had. What did you learn from them?
- Describe any clinical experiences you’ve had. What did you learn from them?
- Describe any shadowing experiences you’ve had. What did you learn from them?
QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDICINE AND CURRENT EVENTS
Brush up on your current events and recent medical trends and research so you can answer questions such as the following:
- What do you know about current trends in healthcare? What are some of the biggest challenges in healthcare today?
- Comment on [a recent healthcare event]. What are the implications of [this event]?
- If you had to choose, would you focus on clinical or academic medical work?
- What medical specialties interest you?
QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDICAL SCHOOL
Lastly, think about what you want to get out of medical school in general and your reasons for applying to each individual medical school:
- Outline some components of your ideal medical school experience.
- Why are you applying to this medical school in particular?
- What makes you think you’d be a good match for this school?
- What sets you apart from other medical school candidates?
- What questions do you have about this medical school?
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK THE INTERVIEWER DURING MY MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW?
The medical school interview is not just an opportunity for the school to evaluate you as an applicant; it’s also an opportunity for you to evaluate the school. At some point during the interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Come prepared with a list of things you want to know about the school, such as the following:
- What does this medical school do to promote diversity and cultural awareness on campus?
- What’s the academic grading/evaluation system at this school?
- What mentoring and advising opportunities are available to students? Is this a built-in component of this school’s medical education?
- What research opportunities are available to students?
- Where have students completed their residencies in recent years?
- What equipment do students need to come prepared with? i.e. a laptop, car for rotations
Do your research ahead of time so you’re asking informed questions; if an answer about on-campus parking can easily be found on the school’s website, for example, it’s probably not worth it to ask that question in your medical school interview. If an answer about mentoring is unclear from the school’s website, though, or you have specific questions about how mentoring works in practice, it’s fine to ask a clarifying question in your interview.
TIPS FOR PREPARING FOR YOUR MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW
- ATTEND MOCK MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEWS.Mock medical school interviews are invaluable trial runs. Have someone evaluate your speaking style, the content of your answers, your body language, and your overall presentation. Some colleges offer mock interviews, so check with your pre-med advisor or career center. Even if a formal mock interview is not available, you can always have a friend or relative act as the interviewer and evaluate your performance. Honest feedback will help you realize if you speak too quickly or softly or if you should enunciate more clearly, etc.
- COME PREPARED WITH QUESTIONS TO ASK THE INTERVIEWER.This is a two-way interview, so you’ll have opportunities to ask questions of the interviewer, as well. Don’t wing it; take some time before the interview to research the school and write down specific questions you have.
- PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PHYSICAL APPEARANCE.Whether you like it or not, your physical appearance will be the first impression you make on the interviewers. Make sure you look polished and professional so your physical appearance doesn’t distract from other elements of the interview. You want to be remembered by your confidence, passion, and articulate answers, not your strange or unprofessional hairstyle or clothing choice.
- ARRIVE EARLY FOR YOUR MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW.This applies both to the interview itself and to campus beforehand. Try to arrive the night before the interview in order to familiarize yourself with the area and the school. This will also give you the opportunity to unwind and get a good night’s sleep. Nothing is more underwhelming than an inattentive and dreary-eyed applicant.