Medical School Interviews

October 2, 2015

It's that time of year.

There are groups of nervous looking young men and women, dressed in their black suits, wandering in and out of our classrooms observing what life looks like as a medical student. The anxious looks on their faces are all too familiar... that was me just one year ago. One year ago, I was interviewing at medical schools and crossing my fingers for the chance to become a doctor.

As I watch the students come and go from the admissions office at school, I can't help but feel grateful for where I am today. I got into medical school! I get to be a doctor! And guess what? They will be too. The people interviewing at my school will become my colleagues and perhaps my good friends. And if there is one thing I've learned, it's that we're all here to help each other. My success in medical school is very dependent on the help of others, so I figured I'd write a few words of advice to help others in their journey to medical school.

My Best Advice
  • Be confident! You've made it this far. Hold your head up high and be confident that you are a great candidate for medical school!! 
  • Your interviews should be fun! Make it a two way conversation and view this as a chance to interview them as well. You will have to spend four years of your life in medical school so you better be sure you choose a school that's a good fit for you. They are trying to get to know you every bit as much as you're trying to get to know them. Yes, it's kind of like a first date. It might be awkward at first, but just have fun with it (while maintaining your professionalism!) :) 
  • Read a thing or two (maybe even a book)
    • While I was preparing for medical school interviews, I read The American Healthcare Paradox by Elizabeth Bradley & Lauren Taylor. It was a really interesting read and gave me a good insight health care in America and around the world. It's never a bad idea to read up about health care policy, insurance, etc. The more you know, the more you'll have to talk about if you're asked your opinions.
    • Look up some laws about physician assisted suicide, abortion, marijuana, etc. It can be helpful be aware of.
  • Be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses you'd like to work on 
    • Be confident in your strengths and incorporate them into your interview (even if they don't ask). Sell yourself! Be prepared to talk about things you'd like to work on as well (but please, don't choose a really awful weakness! I hope that's obvious ) 
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
    • Surprisingly, this is tough to answer. Know what you'd say and be able to genuinely support your answer. 
      • IMPORTANT: If you're applying to D.O. schools (like I did), you NEED to be able to explain why you want to be an osteopathic physician. D.O. schools want to know why you're drawn to their school/philosophy. 
  • Keep it short and sweet
    • Don't ramble! It's easy to keep talking when you're nervous, but try to focus on a succinct answer to each question. Think about it in an ABC format if you need to.... I learned A, B, and C while I did XYZ.
  • Look for "buy" signals
    • Be aware of body language! Buy signals include: smiling, nodding, leaning forward. If you catch your interviewer doing those things, then hurray for you! Don't be upset if they are cold and closed off... some interviewers are just like that. Be aware of their body language (and equally as importantly, be aware of yours!) to gauge how they are feeling. 
  • A CLOSING is very important
    • Wrapping things up at the end of your interview can be helpful. It might seem silly, but they are trying to figure out if you're genuinely interested in the school. Make it very obvious that you are!
    • An example of a closing statement..."Thank you for your time. [Name of school] is a really great fit for me and I can see myself attending here!"
To-Do Before Interviews
  • Look through your essays
    • Highlight anything an interviewer might want to know more about. If a statement seems vague, be ready to support it or expand upon it. 
    • For example, if you said something like, "I developed resilience while working as a volunteer", be able to support the statement. How did you learn resilience? How do you display resilience in your daily life now? 
      • If you can't support your statements, they are irrelevant! 
  • Current Issues in Medicine
    • Look up a few current issues in medicine before your interview. It's helpful for you to be aware of current events in case they are brought up 
A Sampling of Questions I Encountered 
(I can't remember all of them!)
  • The vast majority of the questions I was asked during my interviews were about my volunteer/extracurricular experiences. A lot of the time, it was phrased as, " I see that you've had XYZ experience, could you tell me about what you learned during that time?" or maybe "How did that experience impact your decision to become a doctor?" 
    • REMEMBER: Absolutely everything that you write about on your application and your personal statement is fair game for you to talk about at your interview. 
    • Reverse the roles: If you were on an admissions committee, and all you received about an applicant was the information on the application itself, what would you want to know more about? 
      • Read your application again and ask yourself what someone else might pick out to talk about! 
  • Easier Questions
    • What is a book you have recently read/What is your favorite book?
    • Do you have any doctors in the family? 
    • How do you deal with anxiety? 
    • Who do you go to for support? 
    • List three ethical issues in medicine you've read about recently. 
  • More Difficult Questions
    • Why do you want to be a doctor? Why a D.O.? Why this school? 
    • How has what you've learned about yoga apply to medical school? 
    • Why did you want to be abroad for so long? What did you learn? 
      • (I'm a non-traditional student who served in the Peace Corps for 2.5 years)
    • How have you been preparing yourself for medical school? 
    • What was your role in the MCATSA and how is the program doing? 
      • (Another leadership experience I listed on my application)
    • Down the road at graduation, what do you want us to think about you? 
    • What do you think is the biggest issue facing healthcare in our country today?
Questions I Asked 
  • "How has your time at [name of institution] contributed to your success?"
  • "From your perspective, what does a successful applicant look like?"
  • "Do you have any questions or concerns about my background or abilities that I can address for you now?"
    • Follow up with, "That's a valid concern and I'm grateful you shared that with me. Do we have time to discuss?"
      • You might be surprised by the responses... most of mine were not very big concerns, but it gave me a chance to address anything they might be uneasy about concerning me as an applicant. Regardless of their response, every single interviewer commented by saying that asking that question showed maturity and confidence. If you ask this question, be sure you're willing to explain ANYTHING that they bring up. 
What I Brought
  • Practical
    • Small notebook with prepared questions for interviewers/admissions
    • Pens
    • File with printed application and any relevant information
    • Cell phone - switched off! 
    • Water bottle 
    • Umbrella
    • Coat (if cold)
    • Breath mints (don't chew gum!)
  • Toiletries
    • Chapstick/Lipgloss
    • Tampons
    • Q-tips (for smeared make-up)
    • Touch up make up (if you want)
  • Just in case! 
    • Shout wipes
    • Ibuprofen/Sudafed
    • Bandaids ( I even ended up needing one! Not too many people are capable of cutting their finger while closing their umbrella... but this girl can!)
    • Floss
    • Safety pins
    • Blister bandaids/pads (in case the tour of campus left me with blisters)
    • Extra panty hose
    • Static guard to help panty hose/skirt 

And best of luck to everyone else on their medical school interviews... I'm rooting for you! :) 
Email me with any questions at tatedoesthings (at) gmail (dot) com
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