This isn’t your average workplace interview. You won’t be in and out after a 30-minute conversation with someone who is reading from a human resources checklist. No — in a medical school interview, you’ll be facing assessments about your maturity and composure under pressure.
You’ll likely be there for a half-day or full-day session, which will include a formal introduction to the school, a tour of facilities, and a sit-down with admissions committee interviewers. This can be an intimidating process, but the plus side is that medical school interviews introduce humanity and personality to the otherwise formal and impersonal admissions process. It gives the admissions committee extra context to use when making their final decision about who gets accepted and who get rejected that year.
Your medical school interview could make or break your chances at acceptance, so it’s not something to take lightly. Preparation will make you more comfortable, confident, and composed so you can stand out among the competition. To help with this process, we compiled this list of common questions and helpful advice about medical school interviews.
What are medical school interviewers looking for?
An interviewer’s goal is to determine whether or not you have what it takes to be a successful physician. This is not just for your sake, but for the sake of your future patients. They will be looking to evaluate your interpersonal skills, communication skills, social awareness, cultural understanding, and empathy.
Before you enter the room and sit down for your interview, you should take some time to reflect on your own abilities in these areas and how to demonstrate and discuss them. You should be practiced in articulating your thoughts about common interview topics and, more importantly, your reasons for wanting to become a doctor.
What steps should I take to prepare for a medical school interview?
There is plenty of advice out there for prospective medical school students who are navigating the application process. Kaplan is a well-known resource for educational materials and resources for students. Get into Medical School: A Strategic Approach, 3rd Edition is one such resource providing tips and tricks for interview preparation and the details that admissions interviewers typically look for. Read on for an overview of how you can start the interview preparation process.
1. Understand your audience and the dynamics of the interview process
The interviewers you will meet with in this process are typically people who sit on the admissions committee as well as a physician from the community, a residency program, or a faculty member. While less common, some schools also use student interviewers or administrative personnel. These formal interviews are critical, but it is generally wise to consider everyone you encounter as potentially part of your evaluation.
What drives these individuals to be part of the interview process? They’re likely volunteering their time out of a deep commitment to the field of medicine, a sense of obligation to give back to the school, or a desire to take part in ensuring the next generation of physicians is equipped to tackle the field’s evolving challenges. These altruistic motivations can help you better understand how to approach your interview. This is not a time to network. It is a time to highlight your reasons for becoming a doctor.
2. Consider your strengths in key areas of assessment and practice articulating them
By the time you’ve entered the medical school interview process, the institution has already evaluated your academic abilities. What they still need to assess, however, are the attributes that can’t be captured on paper, such as intellectual curiosity, social awareness and cultural competency, communication and interpersonal skills, maturity, and the ability to maintain your composure under stress.
Now is not the time to list all of your academic accomplishments, which have likely already been reviewed. Instead, take time to think about what experiences or accomplishments demonstrate these soft skills.
Did you have a personal experience that spurred your interest in medicine? Have you been involved in organizations that reflect your commitment to continued learning and advancement of the medical field? Have you been exposed to different cultures or diverse groups of people? What did those experiences teach you?
These kinds of questions can help you begin to reflect on your strengths and give weight to any statements you make about your own abilities.
3. Make a connection to your personal statement
Admissions interviewers will likely be using your application materials as a springboard for discussion during your interview. You should be able to recall the details you shared in your application, and be prepared to speak to them intelligently if needed.
If your statement reflects your true passion for the work and your goals, let those talking points shine in the interview. If you have information about specific research or work you’ve done, make sure you brush up about those details beforehand. Think about your answers to questions like, “What benefits came out of your research?” or “Regardless of the outcome of your research, what did you learn?” The better you understand your own work, the better you can showcase your strengths.
4. Contact people who can help you practice your interview skills
Mock interviews are among the most effective methods for interview preparation. They are even more valuable when conducted by experienced pre-med advisers, current medical school students, experienced admissions personnel, or other connections you can find in the medical community. These individuals can provide insight into the types of personal, ethical, and professional questions you’ll be asked, as well as the types of answers interviewers are looking for.
Most questions you hear will be open-ended, with the interviewer asking about your strengths and weaknesses, what you enjoyed about college, when you decided you wanted to become a doctor, or your understanding of prominent health care issues. They may also cover ethical challenges or somewhat controversial topics, like your opinion on stem-cell research, your views on euthanasia, or your feelings about treating patients with HIV.
While it can be tempting to look for the “right” answer to a question or try to align your views with the interviewer’s, remember, this is about you and your beliefs. If you take time to reflect on your own position or understanding of these topics, you’ll be able to clearly convey your understanding and opinion as a future physician.
5. Organize your interview schedule and accommodations so you can rest easy
The expense of the medical school application process can add up, especially if you need to travel to your interviews. It can be tempting to cut corners when possible by connecting with other medical school students and sharing accommodations, or scheduling a tight turnaround on a flight so you do not have to stay overnight.
Do what you need to do to manage your finances, but also understand that your comfort and stress level during this time can truly affect your interview performance. You don’t want to have to worry about losing your luggage at the airport, getting lost on the way to the interview, or getting too little sleep to present your best self. When possible, schedule yourself ample time for life’s unexpected hiccups.
6. Be confident and committed
You’ve reached this point of the process for good reason. You’ve put in years of hard work, maintaining your academic reputation, pursuing extracurricular professional experiences, and committing yourself to this career path. You have a lot to be proud of.
While you need to take your medical school interviews seriously, remember that this is also your chance to become more familiar with the school you’ve applied to. Allow yourself to converse with interviewers. Ask questions that show your interest in the school and in how they approach the curriculum. When you are engaged in the process, you’ll appear more confident and eager to tackle the challenges that come with being a physician.
It all comes down to preparation
Preparing for medical school interviews can be a long process, and many of the details you cover will be similar for every school. Still, it is important to understand what distinguishes each of the institutions you are considering, so you can cater your answers to the specific school at hand.
If St. George’s University (SGU) is on your list, it’s time you familiarize yourself with the program and see what makes SGU a leader in global health. Learn the facts in our article, “10 Surprising Facts About the SGU School of Medicine.”
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