It’s interview season!! If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a medical school interview, congratulations!! You’re one step closer to accomplishing your goal of becoming a physician!!
As a student on the admissions committee at my medical school, I know what medical schools look for and how to prepare for it! I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks on how to prepare to impress the admissions committee on your interview day!
Practice answering common interview questions.
Start by googling a list of common interview questions and practice answering them succinctly. You can do this by speaking your answers out loud or recording wand watching yourself via Zoom. Some good questions to prepare for are:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why this school?
- Why medicine?
- Tell me more about this research, clinical, volunteer experience, etc.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What experiences have most motivated you to pursue medicine?
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do and how did you correct it?
- Tell me about a time you had to collaborate with people with different backgrounds than yours.
- What do you think is a big challenge that is facing the medical field today?
- How do you feel about the current health care system?
- Do you have any questions for me?
Use specific examples from your life. Aim to answer these questions in 1-3 minutes. Shorter than that, you’re not being specific enough. Longer than that, you’re rambling.
Prepare for ethical scenarios.
For these, always show your interviewer that you can consider both sides of a scenario. When asked whether you should do this or that, pick a side, but make sure to explain the benefits and risks of each side. Keep your personal or political beliefs removed from your answer. For instance, if you’re given an abortion question, use facts and empathy to answer the question, not your personal values!
Here’s a sample answer of how I would answer the question: “Your patient has a rare disease and would be a great candidate for an experimental new treatment. The parents of your patient are adamant against the treatment. How would you handle this situation?”
“There are many important variables to consider in this scenario such as patient autonomy and beneficence. Although this patient is a great candidate for a new experimental treatment, it is not certain if it would be beneficial. Thus, I would first weigh the benefits and harm of the treatment before proceeding. After ensuring that the patient would likely benefit from this treatment, I would discuss with the parents to understand their concerns. I would like to know the reasons for their feelings against the treatment, educate them on the treatment, and answer any questions they may have. I would knowledge that this is a difficult situation and that I am there to help them make the best decision for the patient.
Ultimately, I would respect the patient’s autonomy and defer the decision to the patient, especially if the patient is over 18 years old. If however, the patient is under 18 years old and is unable to fully understand the situation, I would consider the parent’s decision only after thorough discussion. Another factor to consider is the law that is in place. Some states do not allow parents to legally withhold life-saving treatment from their children. Thus, I would need to evaluate if this scenario would meet those criteria. There are many different ways to approach this scenario, but keeping the patient’s health and autonomy in mind would be my priority.”
To answer this question, you would have needed to have known some concepts on ethics which I recommend reading “Doing Right- A practical guide to ethics” and U of Washington Medical Ethics.
When answering questions, tell a personal story.
Telling a personal story will help you stand out from other applicants. It will also make your answers to be genuine and more memorable. Find a story that will evoke feelings and draw on specific details from your experience. Practice telling it well, but try not to sound rehearsed.
Read up on current events.
Email subscribe to a popular news outlet (CNN, New York Times) and stay in touch with current events, especially politics that may pertain to health care. You never know what kind of questions you will get! I am almost certain that COVID-19 will come up somewhere on your interview journey, so be sure to prepare for questions regarding what you’ve done during quarantine, how it has impacted you, how you see it impacting healthcare in the future, etc.
Know your application well!
Everything on your application is fair game for interviews. There is no excuse for not knowing something on your application. A few days and the night before your interview, review your entire primary and secondary applications. You may be asked questions about your extracurriculars or research (i.e. Tell me more about your experience at X clinic.)
Practice good eye contact and speaking with confidence.
With this year’s interview being virtual, make sure you are looking at the camera and not at your screen when speaking to your interviewer. Know that with your preparation, you are well equipped for your interview! So, while you will be nervous, try to exude confidence. Don’t be intimidated by the admissions committee. They liked your application and want to get to know you!!
Prepare questions for the interviewer.
It’s not necessary, but I think it makes you seem like a more interested applicant. The more specific question you have, the better! Here are some good examples:
- What is your favorite or least favorite thing about this school?
- I’m really interested in X program, can you tell me more about it?
- How does your school support students who are interested in X?
- What is the most unique aspect of this medical school?
- Do you expect any significant changes in the medical school curriculum in the next few years?
Do mock interviews.
Interviewing is a skill. The more you practice it, the better at it you’ll become. Ask friends, colleagues, mentors, professors, or anyone else you trust to help you do a mock interview. Sometimes colleges offer free mock interview services at their career counseling center. (If you need additional help, I’m happy to help you with a mock interview for a small fee to compensate for my time!) Try to simulate the real thing as well as you can (dress up!). Do at least 2 or 3 mock interviews before you go into your first interview.
Another thing you should do is, record yourself during mock interviews. Be aware of your personal tendencies. Do you say ‘um’ a lot or are fidgety with your fingers with you’re talking? How is your posture or eye contact? Body language can say a lot. You should be paying attention to it and improve anything that is distracting or may make you seem uninterested.
Research each school’s interview format.
Know what to expect from each school before your interview. Generally, there are three different interview formats with school-specific variations. A one-on-one, behavioral interview (or patient interaction) or an MMI. Group interviews are less common, but still possible. You should know what type of interview you are walking into. Usually, schools will tell you in their interview day email. If they don’t, you can check on studentdoctor.net. or reddit.com. You should also learn about each school so that you could tailor your answers to each school. Do this is by reaching out to medical students at that school, look at the school’s website or studentdoctor.net.
A tip for behavioral interviews/MMI’s: If you’re offered a feedback session, make sure you can show the admissions committee that you can be self-reflective. If asked, “what do you think you could have done better?” be humble enough to identify an area of weakness. Also, respond to their feedback (even if it’s negative) in a professional and respectful way!
After your interview, send a thank you email!
First off, you don’t need to send a thank you note. It will most likely not make any difference since the admissions committee sometimes will have already sent in your evaluation immediately after interviewing you. However, I think it is the polite thing to do. Your interviewers are faculty members, staff or medical students who are super busy and you should go out of your way to thank them for taking their time to interview you. If you’re sitting on the waitlist later in the cycle, cordial correspondences like these can set you apart from other applicants. If you’re not given their emails or if the school tells you not to contact them, then don’t worry about it!
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