Preparing for a BS/MD Interview: What to do beforehand

If you make it through to the interview process of BS/MD programs, then congratulations! You’ve successfully made it past the most competitive portion of the process, so it’s definitely something to be proud of. For all programs, the number of students competing for BS/MD slots in the interview stage is considerably less than that during the general application stage, so unfortunately, the competition is likely going to get more fierce. I can speak from personal experience that students who I met during the interview process of BS/MD programs are some of the most accomplished and impressive students I have ever met! It can be inspiring and motivating to be around them, but their presence can also just as easily feel threatening and discouraging. It’s all about how you choose to interpret the situation, so try your best to keep a positive mindset and avoid negative feelings. After all, you too got an interview invite, so you are just as competitive of an applicant as them. In fact, that is perhaps single-handedly the most important point of advice to keep in mind during the interview process.

At the interview stage, everyone is on an even playing field. Your accomplishments and achievements on paper have no impact on your acceptance; your selection into this program is entirely dependent on how you interview.

So even if that kid next to you seems like he’s got a resume that’s twice as long as yours don’t let that psyche you out. Everything boils down to how you prepare for the interview and how you present yourself on to the faculty and students of the program.
Since this stage of the BS/MD application process is of such great importance, I’ve separated this blog post series into three different parts: Before, During, & After the Interview. Each section consists of vital advice that I believe was instrumental in my success, so I hope sharing it with you all will help bring similar successes!

Before the interview

Prepare a list of questions and practice your answers

The best and most effect strategy for success with BS/MD interviews requires planning out a list of question, preparing your answers, and then reciting those answers over and over and over again. Some of the questions you get are going to be very routine, like “Why do you want to be a doctor” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses.” And because these questions are so predictable, how you answer them is going to be telling of how prepared you are for the interview and how seriously you take this process. For other questions that perhaps catch you off guard, practicing is going to help you better construct and articulate your thoughts under pressure situations. Either way, the more you practice answers to potential interview questions, the better prepared you’ll be overall for your interviews.

Below, I’ve written a list of questions that I had answers to for all my interviews. I had put them on a Google doc and referenced them the night before each interview, so make sure to write down your answers in an easily accessible place.

  • Tell me about yourself:
  • Why Medicine?
  • When were you a leader?
  • Why BS/MD?
  • Characteristics you look for in a person?
  • What 3 words describe you best and why?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What are your weakness?
  • Talk about a time that you failed and what you learned from it?
  • What’s the last book that you read?
  • What makes a good doctor?
  • What is the most pressing problem in medicine today?
  • What do you like least about medicine?
  • Who/what has influenced your life the most and why?
  • What makes you special? Why should we choose you?

Take undergraduate alumni interviews beforehand

A lot of the general, non-medicine related questions that are asked during your BS/MD interview are likely going to be similar to those that are taken during the alumni interviews. The alumni interviews will be relatively more casual than your medical school interviews, but they will help you become more comfortable discussing topics outside of medicine. Thus, schedule your alumni interviews earlier (preferably in first semester) so that you can get as much practice beforehand as possible.

Presentation is key

As stated above, once you get to the interview stage of the BS/MD process, everything is dependent on how you present yourselves to the application committee. You could have all the experience in the world, but if you can’t talk about it and express its value to your interviewer, it’ll mean nothing.

From an interview perspective, presentation entails everything from the way you dress to the way you talk to the way you show off your accomplishments. Dress code is discussed below, but in this particular section, I wanted to focus on the other two aspects of presentation.

First off, the way you talk and carry yourself during an interview is important because it is indicative of confidence and personality. Naturally, we are all drawn to people who seem enthusiastic, friendly, and competent. Thus, if you greet your interviewer with a smile on your face and hold good posture during the entirety of your interview, you will likely leave a strong, positive impression on your interviewer. If, on the other hand, you maintain a slouchy posture and your responses are very dull in tone, your interviewer will come out feeling underwhelmed. The best way to practice your presentation is by both practicing in front of other people as well as by practicing to yourself in front of the mirror. It is important to see how other people view your interview skills and to get their feedback, but it is equally as important to critique yourself and analyze your own presentation skills. The advantage of practicing in front of a mirror is having the ability to see yourself as you speak and really notice the quirks of your presentation. Another effective way to notice such quirks is by video recording yourself and watching it back to analyze your faults. This is, in fact, exactly what professional athletes do when training for national and international competitions. Because you are, after all, your own biggest critic, and watching yourself (as opposed to having someone else tell you) helps give you better perspective of what needs improvement.

The second important aspect of presentation is how you show off your accomplishments. In your essays and your resume, you had a chance to briefly note down your different experiences, but interviews give you a chance to explain them in further depth and detail. If you have additional resources that will help you better relate your experience, then bring those with you and make sure to display them in a professional manner. For example, if you’ve done research in a lab and want to talk further in detail about the project that you worked on, then perhaps bringing a copy of your research report will be of use. Your resume may provide a generic understanding of your research, but with a copy of your full research report discusses the more technical aspects of your work. Your report should be complete with all diagrams, graphs, and written details necessary. And not only that, but you should make sure to print it out on high quality paper with colored ink and display it in a report cover. Taking extra measures like this are really going to elevate the level of your presentation. The difference is always in the details, and these details are exactly what differentiate a prepared and professional applicant from an average applicant.

Keep your dress code conservative and neutral

The best piece of advice I got in regards to my interview attire was to dress to be “as undetectable as possible.” This means don’t wear any flashy colors or outfits that could draw unnecessary attention. They could potentially be distracting, and that is of course the last thing you want. So for girls, I recommend a blazer, neutral colored dress shirt, either slacks or a below-the-knee skirt, and closed-toed flats (you could wear heels, but you’re probably going to be doing a lot of walking, so plan accordingly!). For boys, I recommend a complete suit with a blazer, dress shirt, slacks, and dress shoes. Avoid wearing tennis shoes or crazy colored socks to minimize attention drawn to them. I also would recommend ironing your clothes before an interview because wrinkly clothes can also be distracting and signs of unprofessionalism.

Some people may mistake these interviews for business casual, but it’s important to dress for business professional because it’s indicative of your seriousness. Keep in mind, though, this applies only for the interview day itself. Some programs have 2-3 day long interview weekends where only 1 day is meant for interviews and the other 1-2 days are meant to be spent with your student host. For those other days, its perfectly fine to wear normal clothes (like jeans and a t-shirt), so make sure to pack some of those too if your program has a longer interview session!

Talk to upperclassmen who’ve interviewed for the program

As mentioned several times before in other blog posts, I have always found that talking to upperclassmen about the application process to be one of the best ways to get an upper hand in the selection process. Thus, if you know any upperclassmen who’ve interviewed for BS/MD programs, talk to them! If they’ve interviewed for the same program that you’re interviewing for, then that’s even better. But even if they interviewed for a different program than you, their advice is likely still relevant and can be helpful to you. Ask them exactly what they did to prepare for the interview and what the entire process was like. Also, ask for any connections they have to other students in other programs. Often times they will, and if they do, then ask for that person’s contact information and send them an email asking for advice. In my experience, students (even those who are strangers to you) are generally quite open and willing to share their experience, so always make an effort to reach out to them!

If you follow all the steps listed above, then there’s not much else you can really do to prepare for BS/MD interviews. Try not to obsess over the results and instead focus on keeping a relaxed and focused mind for the interview. Beyond that, there’s not much to it! In the next couple of blog posts, I’ll go over exactly what you can do on the interview day itself to strengthen your chances at being accepted into the program, so keep a look out for them!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock