Interviewing for Medical School
As a member of the admission’s committee at our school and as someone who recently(ish) went through the application and interview process (twice), I get asked a lot if I have any advice for those in the midst of attempting to get into medical school. I’m a bit long winded
(I know, you’re shocked), so I thought I’d write out my typical answers here to avoid pushing my Tweet count any higher than it already is.
Since it’s currently interview season for hopeful medical students this post will focus on interviewing, next semester I’ll work on putting one together about applications in general. If you ever have questions about anything related to getting into medical school please feel free to ask.
- Be normal. As an interviewer I run very laid back, get-to-know-you interviews. The person I’m interviewing has been deemed by powers higher than I to have the intellectual ability to function well and survive medical school, therefore my goal is to determine how they interact with people and how well they will fit in at our school. So, from the perspective of an interviewer, my advice is to do your best to be a normal human. Don’t be cocky or rude or obscene, don’t take over the interview and ask me questions before I clarify everything in your app I had questions about. Just sit up straight, look put-together, act professional and be yourself…as long as your self isn’t cocky, rude and obscene.
The Week Before
- Anticipate the questions. Print this list of common interview questions out then go through and hand write an answer to each of them. Yes, really. Print it out. On real paper. With ink. On your iPad? Nope. In Microsoft Word? Nope. Using Evernote? No. Get it yet? Print it out. On real life, honest-to-God, made from trees (or recycled compost hippie stuff) paper and use an actual writing utensil to hand write your answers. Why? This is more of an exercise in getting to know yourself than it is in deciding what specific answers you’d give to questions. I have a tendency to blank when I’m very nervous and this practice helped me not memorize answers, but to be well-versed in quickly coming up with subject matter to discuss before I was under pressure to do so in an interview. If you think you’d be tempted to memorize and recite these answers, this practice is not for you.
The Day Before
- Iron your suit. Yes, you should wear a suit. I don’t care if your best friend Earl is wearing slacks and a button up, you should wear a suit. Why? Because 90% of the other people there will have suits on and you don’t want to feel inadequate the moment you set foot into your future school. Whether you buy into or not, you are how you look. People are going to judge you based on what you’re wearing no matter how much you hate it. So, look the part. You don’t need a $2000 Gucci suit (would a Gucci suit cost more than that? does Gucci even make suits? not gonna lie, I’ve never been in a Gucci store and I think my $15 purse and budget-obsessed brain would melt into a babbling puddle of tears if I even passed one from the interstate), you just need to look nice enough to feel confident. In the end this suggestion is less about what you’re wearing and more about how you feel in it. I don’t remember what anyone I’ve interviewed was wearing, but I do remember how what I wore to my interviews affected my confidence. And I do remember thanking God I wasn’t that girl who showed up in grey slacks and a teal blouse.
- Look over your application. While you should already be 100% sure that everything in your app is truthful, you need to make sure you remember exactly what’s in those 20 pages of information that’s supposed to give some AdCom an idea of your competency as a future physician. This is particularly important if the school you’re interviewing at had secondary applications that you filled out, because the questions may have varied between schools.
The Night Before
- Go to bed early. You need to get a good night’s rest, you don’t want to be that guy who showed up for his interview with bags under his eyes from partying too hard before his interviews. Or that guy who showed up late. Your brain works best and you feel most confident when you are well-rested, so get off this blog (mark my words I will never tell anyone to get off my blog ever again. swear.) and Facebook and Twitter and go to sleep.
The Day Of
- Set your alarm early. Get up in time to go for a run, do some yoga or move your body in some way before you get ready for the day. It doesn’t have to be long or intense, just move around a bit and wake your brain up.
- Eat something. Make sure you have breakfast even if that’s not typically on your schedule. Lunch times are occasionally unpredictable at interviews and you don’t want to be starving during that 10am financial aid informational or in the middle of an interview.
- Relax and assess the school. At this point you’ve done your work – you kicked butt in OChem (or maybe not, either way), you applied (hopefully early), you got an interview and you prepared adequately using some really awesome tips from a blogging 3rd year in Texas. Now, your job is to figure out if you like the school. You are not there simply to be judged by a bunch of AdComs, you need to decide what you like and dislike about the school. Ask questions, get information and take a step back to evaluate what you think of the place.
- Make a list. Write down your pros and cons throughout the day. It seems silly and trivial in the midst of your interview day, because you think it should be easy to remember everything, but it’s not. Just keep a list so when you’re coming up with your ranking list or choosing which of your 8 offers to accept you’ll be basing it off your actual thoughts and feelings from interview day and not what you think you remember.
A Few Days Later
- Say thanks. Email your interviewers and thank them for taking the time to talk to you. In all honesty, they’ve likely already evaluated you and this won’t have any bearing on your likelihood of acceptance, but it’s common courtesy. Interviewing and evaluating applicants is a time-consuming, mentally taxing process, so make sure your interviewer knows you appreciate their taking time out from a busy schedule to talk to you.
*Note: This advice is simply what worked for me when I was interviewing for medical school, it may or may not be the best way for you to prepare. Please use whatever method you feel is best.
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I’m an Ob/Gyn resident (that means I went to medical school to become a doctor) and now I'm working like a crazy person to learn my trade before I'm on my own in the wild. Once upon a time I birthed a couple of babies of my own, they're friggin' adorable twin toddlers now. My life story through November 2010 can be viewed here. The events in the many years following can be summed up as wedding bells, books, exams, babies, and doctoring. I only started this blog in hopes of landing a role in a Lifetime movie so I could quit medicine and move to Hollywood, so if you wouldn't take medical advice from Angelina Jolie, you shouldn't take it from me. I may not even be a real person. In fact, I'm probably a spambot. Or possibly a 15 yo boy blogging from a dingy basement. If you're really interested you can read more about me here. If you have any questions or want to guest post contact me.