After spending hours editing my personal statement, drafting secondary essays, and waiting an excruciatingly long amount of time, I was fortunate to receive several medical school interview invites! I was ecstatic at the news, but I didn’t know the best way to prepare or what these interviews entailed. Here, I’ll describe the 7 major pieces of advice I received that helped me succeed and obtain acceptances at top-tier medical schools. For more in-depth advice, I absolutely recommend MCAT Self Prep’s thorough medical school application course and one-on-one quality admissions consulting!
Know the Type of Interview
There are several types of interview formats that medical schools use to select high-quality applicants. These are:
- Open-file traditional interviews: These interviews are typical one-on-one meetings with faculty or medical students where your interviewer has access to your application, including your primary application, secondary essays, etc, but may be prevented from seeing your GPA or MCAT scores to prevent bias. These interviews usually range from 20-45 minutes. This is the most common type of interview.
- Closed-file traditional interviews: This type is where your interviewer doesn’t have access to any information about you or your application. In these cases, you have the opportunity to create an impression of yourself distinct from your written application, show off parts of you that the admissions committee hasn’t seen yet, and describe your journey to medicine in your own words.
- Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs): MMIs are increasingly utilized by medical schools. Reminiscent of the Casper and other situational judgment tests, these interviews usually consist of 6-10 interviews that are ten minutes or less and are intended to assess your interpersonal, critical thinking, and ethical reasoning skills. I personally experienced actors role-playing scenarios, discussed ethical dilemmas with faculty, worked through logic puzzles with other applicants, and more. These are more challenging to prepare for, since you won’t be asked standard interview questions.
All of these interview types can be one-on-one, group interviews, and everything in between! But in order to prepare for a medical school interview effectively, you need to know what kind of interview to prepare for! Answering “Tell me about yourself” is very different when the interviewer has read your personal statement compared to when they haven’t. You can learn more about an individual school’s interview style and common questions using this Student Doctor Network tool.
Know Your “Why Medicine?”
Once you know what kind of interview to expect on your interview day, one of the most important questions to prepare for is “Why Medicine?” Everyone has a different reason for applying to medical school and becoming a physician. Because of this, this question is a staple of interviews. However, interviewers don’t want you to restate your entire personal statement. You should know your narrative of why you want to enter medical school and distill it into a couple of sentences一like an elevator pitch! To be best prepared, it’s worth having versions of this answer that are 10 seconds, 30 seconds, and 2 minutes long, so you can adjust it for the length of time remaining in the interview. It can sometimes be helpful to draft these answers out in advance, but be sure never to read from written materials during your actual interview!
Research the Medical School
Another one of the questions you can expect to receive on your interview day is: “Why this particular medical school?” Answers I gave ranged from the medical school’s patient population, their mission statements or values, affiliated hospitals, curriculum, student-run free clinics, research opportunities, and more. This can also highlight certain interests of yours that set you apart from other applicants. For example, since I play the violin, I was very transparent about wanting to be involved in musical opportunities specific to a medical school. Lastly, more knowledge about the opportunities at a given medical school and what makes it unique can inform you when it comes to decision time if this program is the right one for you!
Review Your Application
Many of the questions you will be asked during your interview will sound very familiar to the secondary essay prompts you’ve written: What is a time you faced a challenge? Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict when working in a team. Knowing what you’ve already told the medical school can help you decide whether elaborate on answers you’ve already given or give different anecdotes to answer the questions. In addition, since it can be months from when you’ve submitted your secondary application to when you interview at a medical school, this can give you a refresher on how to answer these questions. I recommend reviewing your entire primary and secondary application the night before your interviews for these reasons!
Plan Specific Questions for Your Interviewer
At the end of most interviews, you will have the opportunity to ask questions. Not only will the answers to these questions help you determine whether the school is a good fit for you, but the questions you ask can also be indicative of how strongly you are considering the medical school and what your values are. For example, I always asked about medical student wellness, explicit initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion within the medical school, and research opportunities because those things were very important to me. You should also try to Google your interviewer in advance so that you can ask questions that you know your interviewer can answer. For example, many physicians that perform medical school interviews will not be aware of the nuances in medical school curricula or have a perspective on student work-life balance. Knowing who your interviewer is and their role in the institution can lead to better questions and a smoother conversation.
Practice With Others
I had no idea how many “umms” I was using to deliver my answers until I had a mock interview with one of my friends! Your pre-health office may offer mock interview services, or you can have a friend or family member help out! When you do this, be sure to mimic interview conditions. You should know that you feel comfortable in your professional attire, that your Zoom background is professional, and that you have a quiet space with no distractions or interruptions. This is a time to practice your answers so you can deliver them smoothly and flawlessly on interview day while looking comfortable and playing the part. Be sure to listen to any feedback you receive!
This interview is your opportunity to become a multi-dimensional person outside of your application. Take this opportunity to show facets of yourself you weren’t able to show in your essays. For example, as a rom-com aficionado, I talked about Twilight and other novels I loved in nearly every interview, which didn’t fit into any of my primary or secondary application essays. This led to actual conversations with my interviewers, instead of just question-answer back-and-forths. While maintaining professionalism and respect, don’t be afraid to show your interviewers your personality outside of medicine and what you can bring to your medical school class! This is also a great test of whether your personality is a fit for a certain institution. If you feel you can’t be yourself during an interview at a medical school, it can be indicative that the program is not a great fit for you.
Hopefully, these 7 tips will save you time and stress as you prepare for the next stage in the medical school admissions process. If you are still deciding which schools you may be competitive for, we recommend using these tools to see your chances at getting accepted. You are that much closer to your dream of becoming a doctor and we know you can do it! And again, don’t be afraid to reach out and schedule a FREE consultation!
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