Medical School Interviews: The Last Hurdle

The medical school interviews are the last hurdles before your acceptance into medical school.

After sending in the primary application, secondary application, letters of recommendation, and transcripts, there is not much to do except to wait. And if you did everything right so far, you will receive a call asking you to set up an interview with the school. If you exceptional, then another call will arrive. And another call.

If you are invited to a medical school interview, that means you have the grades and scores to attend medical school. You are so close, but yet so far. The work is not over until you receive the big envelope with your acceptance letter. You don’t want to fail at the last mile of the marathon.

So what do you have to do? Prepare. Once you schedule an interview with a school, do a small victory dance and start working. By the time you interview, you will be prepared for everything.

It is feasible that at this point in your life, you never had an interview before. Maybe you never had a job, which is very possible if you were in school for all of your life. If that is the case, you will be at a disadvantage. But with enough preparation, the disadvantage will be inconsequential.

Medical School Interview 101

Think of an interview as a first date. You are trying to make a good impression on your interviewer. And if the interviewer is not so stuck up, he or she will try to make a good impression on you too, especially if you are one of the better candidates in the application pool.

Medical School Interview Dress Code

Since this will most likely be the first time the school will see you in person, be sure to dress to impress. First impressions count. Treat medical school interviews as if they were job interviews. For some of you, this may be common sense. But believe me, common sense is not as common as it seems to be.

medical school interviews

There is no need to dress overboard like Mr. Onionhead, although you must admire his confidence. A white coat, especially a long one, would be premature.

For guys, wear a suit, a tie, and dress shoes. Make sure your clothes are not wrinkled. Better yet, iron them so they are sharp and crisp. It is never wrong to wear black and white, but if you want to add a little color and if you are not the most fashionable person, consult someone with a good eye for fashion and ask for help. You probably won’t want to show up for an interview with a neon green tie. You’ll probably blind your interviewer.

For girls, wear a power suit or a business-appropriate skirt. The same advice I give to guys applies for girls as well.

Check out the attire guidelines UMDNJ set for its students for in-person testing with an actor as a patient (simulated patient encounters). I modified it a bit to “suit” interviews instead of simulated patient encounters. It is a good indicator of what schools consider business attire.

Things to Bring

I would also bring a pen and a small notebook with you. At the very least, get the name of the person who conducted the interview so you can follow up with a “thank you” e-mail or a “thank you” note to his or her school mailbox. If you promised the interviewer you would follow-up regarding something, such as the Spanish word for “windmill,” (it’s “molino.”), write it down in the little notebook to remind yourself. It happened to me on an interview. True story. Since I was heading to Spain, the professor asked me to send him a postcard with the answer. On the postcard, I drew a little windmill and wrote “molino” under it.

Preparation = Success

Now that we have established what to wear and what to bring to the medical school interviews, let’s talk about the work we have to do beforehand to make sure the interview runs smoothly.

Let me throw in a quote by Confucius to make what I am writing wiser than it really is: Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.

This is especially true when it comes to medical school interviews. If it is your first interview and you just decide to wing it, it could fare very poorly. For example, if you are applying to osteopathic schools and don’t know anything about osteopathic medicine, you will not be a strong contender. Why should admissions accept you over someone else who is on top of their game?

1. Learn the Basic Questions

First and most importantly, find out what interview questions the schools will most likely ask. Visit the section regarding the most typical medical school interview questions you must have answers for.

Student Doctor Network has a goldmine in terms of interview questions and information for each medical school. I would use it as your main resource when preparing for medical school interviews. It could be a little tricky to use, so visit the SDN interview guide on instructions how to navigate its interview feedback section.

2. Review Your Application

Second, become very familiar with your application. Hopefully, you saved copies of your essays so you can review what you wrote. You don’t want to tell the interviewer one thing and have your essay say something else.

3. Research the Schools and Prepare Focused Questions

Third, prepare questions specifically for the school and its program. To successfully do this part, you need to know a bit about the school. The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) and the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book are good places to start your research for allopathic and osteopathic schools respectively. Use Google to fill in on the details.

You want to convey that you did your research regarding the school. So make sure you ask at least one focused question. For example, UMDNJ in Stratford has something called Camden Saturday Health Clinic. Students volunteer with faculty to provide care to the poor. Maybe you read something about a volunteer clinic that UMDNJ has, so a good question would be, “I understand the school has a volunteer clinic. Can you please tell me more about that and how a student could get involved?”

You should have 3 to 5 questions. This is a good opportunity to get information you cannot get from anywhere else. You will most likely be in the school for the next 4 years so make sure it is what you want. Clear any doubts that you may have.

4. Practice Interviewing

Fourth, if you are not comfortable with interviews (maybe you get too nervous and your mind goes blank), practice. You could find a friend to interview you. Make sure your friend asks you the questions you absolutely must have answers for. When you reply out loud, you’ll hear how you sound. Are you confident or are you unsure of yourself? Do you speak clearly or do you mumble? Does your answer make sense or not? Once you find out what you do not like about your responses, work to correct them before going to the medical school interviews.

If you do not have any friends, or none of them are available to help, you could look at the list of the questions you have compiled and answer them out loud. If you must, record yourself and play the responses back. Do you like how you sound? If not, fix it.

Always Stay Positive

One final advice you should always remember when interviewing is to stay positive. If you failed a class, acknowledge it but then put a positive spin on it. Your positive spin should go something like this:

You’re right. I did fail a course but it was my freshman year and I was still adjusting to the freedom I had away from home. I learned from my failure and you can see that my grades afterwards have improved dramatically. Medical school will be different from college, but I know that what I learned through my failure in college will carry me through medical school.

And if the school is absolutely terrible (i.e. rude staff, horrible study body, etc.), still be on your best behavior. You do not want to burn any bridges. You may see the same people later on in your medical career.

More About Medical School Interviews

Medical School Interview Questions: Preparing for These Is NOT an Option
This section contains interview questions that you must be prepared for. They will most likely be asked on any interview you go to. Study these well.

SDN Interview Guide: How to Prepare for School-Specific Questions
This guide will show you how to mine the Student Doctor Network Interview Feedback goldmine. This is absolutely required if you want to be prepared. You can get school specific interview questions there.

9 Things to Say in a Medical School Interview (and Kiss Your Acceptance Goodbye)
Two professional medical school coaches, Yael and Miriam, teach you what NOT to say when you are interviewing. If you make any of these mistakes, correct it now! Or kiss your acceptance goodbye.

Interview Attire: Dress Your Way into Medical School
First impressions usually last the longest. So make your first impression count and don’t be the guy or gal who had everything right except the wardrobe. Don’t let a lack of proper clothing mess up your medical school interviews.

Medical School Interview Cost: It’s More Than You Think
Interview expenses can add up quickly, especially if you are traveling all over the country. Find out how much the interview may cost you and see if there could be ways to save money.

This article is part of the Get into Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about getting accepted into medical school.

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