Ah yes, the medical school interview. After all those years of investing laborious, endless hours of studying for classes, taking the MCAT, doing endless research, and filling out applications, you finally snag some attention from a medical school, granting you the opportunity to put your best foot forward to seal the deal.
So, all that stuff before… that wasn’t the hard part?
The whole process of venturing into medicine is a long journey from one’s undergraduate career, medical school career, residency, and beyond. Every milestone is a step forward on the trek toward becoming a doctor, and getting that interview is like a stamp in the medical journey passport on your way to your main destination.
Interviews and invites are typically granted starting September to December; some schools send invites until February. It’s a good idea to be prepared ahead of time in between application submissions and the beginning of interview season. Here are some tips on what to expect and how to best prepare for interview season:
What to Wear and What to Bring to a Medical School Interview
Business attire is the move for a medical school interview. To feel your best, you have to look your best! Clean cut, fitted, ironed business attire from suits and slacks to blazers, skirts, heels, and the like are all major players and can be game changers. While it’s best not to judge a book by its cover, being presentable for the interview is a must, as it displays organization and respect not only to the interview team but also for oneself. Wear what you would like and what you can feel best in, but try not to go overboard in what you choose to wear. For example, it’s okay to wear a polka-dotted bow tie, as it shows some personality, however, it may not be best to wear a completely yellow suit as that may be quite distracting and it’s not really the occasion for such an outfit. Being polite and professional is the goal, but looking the part also goes a long way.
Now you’re dressed! There are a few things you should pack before you head out. You should bring a few things to your interview, including a portfolio with a copy of your resume/CV, a pen, blank sheets of paper or a notepad to write on, a watch, and most importantly, a smile. Cheesy, I know – but going in, you want to be happy, and you should be! You’re there, you’re at an interview, you have an opportunity! Smiles are contagious, and if you’re smiling, it brings positive energy to everyone in the interview room.
Pro Tip: Depending on the school, you may or may not be able to bring the items into the interview room but can write things down while you’re waiting or during any time before your interview if you have any questions.
Questions to Ask at a Medical School Interview
Asking questions is a good way to express genuine interest in a medical school. Do not come up with something you can figure out via their school’s online FAQ. Some things you could ask include:
- What is student life like?
- What kinds of research opportunities are available for students?
- Where do most graduates from this school match into?
- Is there a mission statement or goal your school is directed toward?
- How would your school describe an ideal physician?
Such questions can be symbiotic in having their interest from your engagement, but also having your interest in how the team answers and what they stand for. If you land multiple interviews, you can even ask a similar question and see how different another institution answers, where if given the option, you can gauge which school may be of better fit for you as well.
What About Thank You Notes?
Writing a nice “Thank You” note is a great, professional way of showing one’s appreciation in having the opportunity to interview with a school and their team. You can ask for contact information of where to send them during your interview. Remembering any conversations or personal events that occurred during the interview, and mentioning one in the letter can serve as a unique highlight compared to other prospective applicants. With those in mind, keep the letter short and sweet as it makes it easier for interviewers having to go through several letters.
It’s the old cliché, but being yourself is a key component in thriving not only for your interview but also in life.
While your resume, academic performance, extracurriculars, etc. have caught the eye of a school, it’s the interview that really creates that vision of being a fit for school, but also the school being a fit for you. Interviewers want to know about YOU!
While it may be daunting to talk about oneself in front of a team of people for 30 minutes to an hour, it’s your chance to show them who you really are and what you’re all about beyond your application. Key things to bring up when speaking about yourself aside from your personal demographic would be naming your hobbies, your passions (medically or non-medically related), or even things such as your favorite food (if asked). Are all plausible elements that give insight on your personality for the interviewers to see.
I personally talked about how I used to breakdance from high school to undergrad, which the interviewers found unique and continued to ask me questions about that hobby, putting ease in the room during interview anxiety. I have also had friends and colleagues who spoke of their hobby of owning fish and aquatic tanks, which was a shared hobby for one of the interviewers on the board that day, developing in conversation which later was remembered and brought up even after his acceptance from that institution.
In being yourself and engaging the interviewers, there will be less pressure in the atmosphere. This makes everything run much more smoothly and helps in establishing a relationship and understanding whether the school is a good fit for you.
Easier said than done, at least for me! I wish I had not been as anxious during my interviews, as I kept rambling at times. I was lucky enough to get some laughs during my interview among my nervous jokes. Looking back at my own experience, the whole ordeal can be nerve wracking at first, especially with the concept of imposter syndrome which may convey a feeling of inadequacy and not belonging there, when you really deserve to. You must remember they’re interested in YOU! Had I known to take a breather and had I showed up more relaxed, I believe I would have been able to be more myself.
Remember to be confident and believe in yourself and your abilities. You’ve made it this far and you’re already at the interview: they already have enough faith in you to invite you, and you should for yourself as well!
You got this, best of luck, and show them who YOU are.