Sep
12
2011

Interviewing for Medical School

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  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.

Interviewer Perspective

  • 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.

GOOD LUCK!

 

*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.

Image: Ambro | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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9 Comments + Add Comment

  • Generally great advice (Especially the part about how “you are how you look”. I’m amazed by the number of people who show up to med school interviews poorly dressed or poorly groomed. A guy with 5 o’clock shadow will have to work really hard to overcome my split-second judgment of the fact that he didn’t even put in the effort to shave.) The one place where I would disagree (and this is purely my personal opinion, of course), is with respect to writing out the answers to commonly asked interview questions. While I think it’s a good idea to give some thought to the questions that may be asked, there’s a danger to over preparing. It seems very fake and artificial when someone has a perfectly prepared answer to a question that I ask in an interview. I want to see what a candidate is genuinely like, not what they’ve rehearsed to seem like.

    • That’s such a great point. I should have emphasized more that this was more an exercise in getting to know yourself and learning to answer questions than an exercise in what your specific answer would be. It would absolutely be off-putting if an interviewee recited memorized answers to me in an interview.

      I think it helped me more with just learning how to put together an eloquent answer that wasn’t too long or too short. I absolutely see your point and if someone thinks they’d be tempted to recite answers word-for-word I’d definitely recommend them not to answer questions.

      In my experience I went through that list and answered the questions and it kept me from getting nervous and blanking on the subject of my answer. I have a tendency to get really anxious and it helped to have practiced quickly coming up with subjects and eloquent speech before I was under pressure.

      I made an edit to the post to clarify these points. Thanks so much for pointing that out to me!

    • Really? People that show up for medical school interviews don’t realize that part of being professional is dressing in the expected manner?

      Maybe my chances aren’t as hopeless as I think.

  • I definitely agree with your points and the above comments. When I’m nervous and get a question that I never even thought of, it takes me a while to gather my thoughts and I usually add a lot of “um’s” and “likes” into my response. Preparing the questions ahead of time helped gather my thoughts – and along the lines of what Danielle said, just helps to understand yourself better in those situations where you are asked a question you never thought of. Thanks for posting this – I wish I had this when I was interviewing!!

  • [...] school student/admissions committee member @daniellejones  even went so far as to write an entire post dedicated to interview prep. Danielle writes from the point of view of someone who recently went through the process and now [...]

  • Really appreciate you being willing to share your insight. Hopefully, if I’m lucky enough to wind up with some interviews next year, I’ll be able to put some of this into practice.

  • Such a helpful article! Helped me a lot, really appreciate it!

    For others who have an interview soon, I found http://www.student-resources-uk.com/Medical-School-Interview.html useful! Good luck to everyone!

  • Great advice! I’d like to add to always remember that someone may be watching. Be careful with what you say around people and how you act. For one school I interviewed at, the interviews were in the morning followed by lunch with students. Unbeknownst to me, there were 3 student adcom members sitting next to me at the table (found out later in the day who they were). Considering I got accepted, I must not have said anything too offensive in their presence, but I definitely think I would’ve been a little more guarded with my speech had I known who they were.

  • Hi there! This article couldn’t be written any better! Looking through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this post to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a great read.

    Thank you for sharing!

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About The Author

I’m a Medical Student (that means I'm in school to become a doctor). My life story can be viewed here. I started this blog in hopes of landing a role in a Lifetime movie so I could quit school 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 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.

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