Medical school interviews are one of the parts of the admissions process that allow your personality to shine through. A bit of preparation goes a long way in providing you with the tools and confidence needed to shine on interview day.
I’ve served on medical school admissions committees and as the Director of Advising for MedSchoolCoach, so I’ve seen from both sides what committees look for and what students need the most to get prepared.
What does it mean if you get a medical school interview? If you get a medical school interview, you’ve met the requirements for admission to that medical school and the admissions committee wants to find out if you’re the best fit for their program.
During your interview, your goal is to win them over with your personality, communication skills, passion, and character.
What percentage of med school interviewees get accepted? The percentage of med school interviewees who get accepted varies from program to program. Some schools accept up to 50% of the applicants invited for an interview, while other schools accept between 25% to 30%.
Admissions committees use interviews to determine a candidate’s ability to:
While an applicant may have an excellent MCAT score and science GPA, it’s not data alone that will make them a successful physician. Interviews give admissions committees an understanding of what you’re like as a person and whether or not you have what it takes to excel in both medical school and as a physician.
Committee members may also be on the lookout for personality traits that may interfere with a student’s ability to get along with faculty and other matriculants, as well as patients and colleagues during the course of their career.
It’s possible to rewrite a personal statement enough times that you can hide flaws like abrasiveness, extreme social awkwardness, or arrogance. An interview, however, requires you to be yourself in person, exposing how easy you are to get along with, in addition to how well you can answer difficult questions off the cuff. Sociability and critical thinking are both important parts of being a doctor.
For instance, I’ve met several students who otherwise would be stand-out candidates, but were rude or dismissive to someone they encountered during the process of the interview. No matter who you talk to during the interview, whether it be an attending physician or secretary at the hospital, you should be kind, courteous and respectful in all of your interactions. Prospective students that are arrogant or rude will be immediately identified and evaluated poorly.
The interview day is not strictly for medical schools to interview applicants; it’s also a day for applicants to interview the medical schools they may attend. During this day, you should also consider how well you feel you may fit into the institution interviewing you and the community surrounding it.
There are two basic types of medical school interviews: Mini Multiple Interviews (MMIs) and traditional interviews.
During a traditional interview, you’ll speak with a panel of between 1-3 people, often including faculty members and sometimes a student. Similar to a job interview, the committee members present will ask you questions to understand your personality, your drive for practicing medicine, and what potential weaknesses they should know about you.
In a mini multiple interview, you’ll visit 6-10 stations over the course of two hours, where each station is manned by 1-2 interviewers.
These interviews use a combination of acting and non-acting interview questions. You’ll answer some questions just as in any traditional interview (“What is your greatest weakness?”), and roleplay your responses in other scenarios (“You just learned that your patient must be given a terminal diagnosis. Enter the room and speak with her.”).
No matter the format you’re preparing for, there are several ways to make sure you’re ready on interview day.
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Do you know anyone who has interviewed at the school? Perhaps you know a student currently in the program. If so, reach out to express your interest and seek his or her insight on the application process, interview experience, and the program itself.
If you don’t know anyone, do a quick internet search to see if there is any information on the interview structure available.
Here’s what you want to know:
Consider contacting the coordinator to find out who will be interviewing you. Most schools won’t disclose this information, but it is worth asking — this can give you the opportunity to briefly research the interviewer’s medical career and interests. Your familiarity with your interviewer allows you to ask pertinent questions and generate interesting talking points.
The more insight you have into the structure of the interview day, the more tailored your preparation can be. And if you can’t find answers to all of those questions, don’t sweat it — there are still plenty of ways to get ready.
Gaining background information on program-specific details helps you ask your interviewers informed questions, improve your interview performance, and project your sincere interest.
Most information about a school can be easily found on their website. This is a simple way to locate interesting details, like information about their curriculum, teaching methods, student body, and more.
You should also strive to know about the school’s:
Find out what key aspects form the school’s most prized assets or reputation. This will go a long way in showing the interviewer why the school is the perfect fit for you.
Prepare a series of thoughtful questions that cannot be answered by visiting the FAQ section of the institution’s website. Asking more meaningful questions will show your true interest in studying healthcare at their school.
As with all interviews, your interviewer will go through the documents you presented during your medical school application and ask questions based on the information you made available. Not reviewing your application can present a major pitfall, since you likely submitted it months ago and your memory of the details may be hazy.
Go through your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application or other applications (TMDSAS or AACOMAS), especially the sections on:
Your interviewers are most likely to ask questions about those topics. Factors like your GPA and MCAT are unlikely to be focuses of your interview day.
If you have any research experience as a pre-med student, be able to discuss the specifics, including how far the project has gone up to date. Remember to think about your research in multiple ways — what was the question you were trying to answer, what was the hypothesis, and what was the outcome? Try to explain your research in terms no more complicated than you’d use for a high-school student.
Even though many of the people your interview may be MDs or DOs, they do not all have a background in the niche topic your research is likely in, but do have a general scientific and medical understanding. If your experiences include clinical work, be sure to understand the disease process and treatment options.
Start preparing for the interview by reviewing common medical school interview questions. You will notice many questions are similar. Come up with concise answers that directly address the question at hand. Use real-world, personal examples to enhance your credibility and substantiate your claims.
The most common medical school interview question is “tell me about yourself.” This open-ended question allows the interviewer to hear what you think is important. You can begin at any point in your life as long as you are concise and modest.
Phrase your answers with the understanding that the program has your secondary application. They know your competencies. Most interviewees briefly cover important undergraduate and/or graduate work, and spend most of their answer time explaining why medicine is their passion.
Here are a few of the most frequently asked medical school interview questions:
When using examples, implement the STAR method: Briefly describe the Situation or Task, the Action you took, and the Results you achieved.
Check out the example demonstrating the STAR method below.
Question: What is your biggest strength?
Answer: I think my biggest strength is resilience. Last year, I was asked to [insert task]. It was difficult because of [insert dilemma]. I approached it by [insert your tactic that demonstrates resilience]. With this approach, I was able to [insert how you accomplished task A]. I believe that this quality will help me to contribute to your program in a meaningful way by [insert why you would be valuable/add to their program].
You don’t need to write out a response, word for word, for each question. Prepare just a few bullet points to avoid sounding overly prepared or robotic.
For each practice question, come up with one example related to the field of medicine, and a second, more personal (non-academic) example. Try not to repeat your examples. This exercise will likely be harder and more time-intensive than anticipated — but well worth it. You will learn a lot about yourself and create a plethora of invaluable examples you can have at your fingertips throughout the interview season.
If you have multiple examples for any one question, choose the best example. Remember, it’s not about giving an example — anyone can do that — it’s about providing the best example, so do your best to identify it and be ready to share it on interview day.
Another common interview pitfall is not being prepared to answer questions concerning end-of-life matters. Your interviewer may ask you to share your views on medical ethics issues like euthanasia, abortion, or stem cell research. Know that interviewers will judge your ability to make an educated, coherent, and informed opinion, rather than judging your stance itself.
Many students don’t think you need to do much to prepare for medical school interviews. Maybe they’ve had some job interviews or looked at common questions, so they feel ready.
But the truth is, during the actual interview day, the stakes are high and you will be much more nervous. A good interview can push you closer to an acceptance, but a bad interview can cause an immediate rejection.
Don’t just practice common questions, but also practice having professional discussions and interactions with as many people as possible. You may feel comfortable practicing answering, “Why do you want to be a doctor?” with your parent, but will you feel as comfortable answering that with the chair of the cardiothoracic surgery department at a major hospital?
The point is, you don’t know who you will interview with. You might speak with someone who is the easiest person to talk to or the most intimidating person you have ever met.
The only way to do well is to practice with as many people and professionals as possible so you can be ready, no matter who walks into the room.
Remember, much communication is nonverbal. Even if your content is ideal, do not underestimate the power of your delivery. How you share your examples will likely be at least as important, if not more, than the actual words you use. Talk to a trusted advisor and ask for honest feedback on how your communication comes across.
While it’s important to make sure you practice, it’s also important not to sound too rehearsed. Anticipate some questions, then think in terms of themes you’ll talk about rather than memorizing specific sentences. Remembering a couple of keywords is much more efficient and safer than trying to memorize a speech.
In the world of medicine, research is everything and many discoveries can be made within a short period of time.
As a prospective medical student, you should be up-to-date with the current research and discoveries that pertain to the world of medicine. Reading medical journals and blogs or even talking to researchers and resident doctors you meet while working or volunteering are all great sources for current medical events.
Review publications such as the NYTimes for an understanding of health policy.
Sharing this information during your interview is a good way to impress your interviewer. They will take note of your ability to form personal opinions on relatively new information.
Professionalism is an absolute must-have for prospective medical students. When meeting with students as a member of an admissions committee, I was most compelled by those who carried themselves with a high degree of professionalism and demonstrated themselves as someone I’d personally enjoy working with.
Here are a few tips to show professionalism and your best qualities on the day of your medical school interview.
It is important to dress professionally for a medical school interview. Wearing a suit or business attire conveys a level of professionalism and respect for the interview process. It also shows that you are taking the opportunity seriously.
In terms of specific clothing items, it is generally best to wear a suit jacket or blazer with dress pants or a skirt. A collared shirt or blouse is also appropriate, and it’s important for the shirt to be clean and wrinkle-free. A tie is not required, but you can wear one if you’d like.
Pay attention to your appearance and make sure you are well-groomed. Make sure your hair is clean and styled, with minimal makeup and jewelry. Avoid clothing that may be perceived as immodest, overly casual, or polarizing in any way.
In general, aim to present yourself in a polished and professional manner.
Finally, it is important to be comfortable in your clothing choices, as this will allow you to focus on the interview itself rather than worrying about your appearance. It is also a good idea to dress in layers, as the temperature in the interview room may vary.
Don’t let the interview setting detract from your personality. For example, if you are a funny person, feel free to insert some humor (in good taste) as you address the interview questions.
After all, you’ve made it to the interview — your application already demonstrates that you possess the skills to succeed in that particular program. Much of the interview is actually about finding a good personality fit. Do not underestimate the power of your personality.
Smile, relax, make eye contact, and enjoy your moment.
Take the opportunity to befriend fellow applicants; it will make the day more fun and less stressful. You may end up making a lifelong friend, whether you end up in the same medical program or not.
Another substantial part of the interview process is interacting with current medical students. Keep in mind what you can gain from these interactions. If a school incorporates a current medical student interview, you should feel lucky!
Sometimes, this interview is in a formal one-on-one setting. In other cases, it’s more casual, over lunch or a campus tour.
Be on your best interview behavior with the medical student interviewer like in the rest of your interviews, but don’t be afraid to ask questions that matter to you. Many students will be accepted to multiple schools. At the end of a long interview season, it will be hard to remember the pros and cons of each institution, so make use of any time with current medical students.
What do they have to say about the professors and physicians who teach them? Of course, they may feel like a specific test was more difficult than anticipated or that a professor covered too much information in one hour. Every medical student feels this way at some point.
But are the instructors reliable? Do they respond to emails and genuinely care about the medical education of the students? Are they responsive to students’ concerns?
Are there enough volunteer and research opportunities? Medical school is not only about studying. During your first two years, in particular, you’ll want to participate in other meaningful activities during study breaks.
Maybe you want to volunteer at a health clinic or help teach science classes to grade school students. Perhaps you are interested in research and want to get involved right away. Does it sound difficult for the students to get involved at that institution?
How do the students feel about their grading system? Every school is different. Some put the students in competitive positions against each other, and some don’t rank the students at all. Some people thrive off of competition, and others are turned off by it. Think about what would be a better fit for you. Know what you are looking for and get an idea of how the current students feel about it.
Is there a community atmosphere? This is something you need to gauge yourself. Watch the students interact with each other. Even though they may be in a competitive situation, do they have advice for each other? Do they seem comfortable together? Do they talk about weekend plans and ways to take a break from studying together?
Medical school is stressful and having a sense of community at the school is important. Try to picture yourself with the current students. Would you fit in?
The faculty members who serve on the interview committee have volunteered their time to do so. Sending a thank you note to each interviewer you meet is essential. They will be among your strongest advocates for communicating directly with admissions officers.
A thank-you letter for a medical school interview should contain a few key elements. First and foremost, it should express your gratitude for the opportunity to interview and for the time the interviewers spent with you. You should also mention specific aspects of the interview that you enjoyed or found particularly valuable.
In addition to thanking the interviewers, it is also a good idea to mention any additional points that you would like to highlight or clarify. This could include any relevant experiences or qualifications that you may have omitted during the interview or any additional information that you think might be of interest to the admissions committee.
Overall, the tone of the letter should be professional and sincere. You should aim to show the interviewers that you are truly grateful for the opportunity to interview and that you are still interested in attending their medical school.
Here is an example thank-you letter for a medical school interview:
Dear Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones,
I wanted to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to interview at ABC Medical School. It was a pleasure to meet both of you and learn more about the program.
I particularly enjoyed the discussion we had about the clinical experiences available to students at ABC Medical School. It is clear to me that the program places a strong emphasis on hands-on learning, which is exactly the type of medical education I am looking for.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to clarify a point I made during the interview about my involvement in research. I mentioned that I have participated in several research projects, but I neglected to mention that I have also presented my work at two national conferences. I hope this additional information will be helpful in your decision-making process.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to interview and for your time. I am extremely interested in attending ABC Medical School and hope to hear from you soon.
Sincerely, [Your Name]
Be sure to visit ProspectiveDoctor’s Thank You Note Generator for a foolproof way to communicate with your medical school interviewer.
If you’re looking for help getting into the school of your dreams that will set you on your path to becoming a good doctor, schedule a meeting with our enrollment team to talk about our advising services.
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