The Medical School Student Interview: What They Look For

medical-student-interviewersThe medical school interview day is often broken up into multiple parts, including an interview with a faculty member at least. However, almost all medical schools these days also include a student interview! This interview is with a current student at the school and it’s super important to your eventual success as an applicant. Why? The medical school wants to know that you will fit into their incoming class. There is no better way for them to do this than to have a current student’s perspective on you as an applicant. For this reason, the student interview for medical school may actually be the most important of all your interviews! We sat down with Dr. Cusak, a former admissions committee member and student interviewer who helped us understand how a prospective applicant can be successful on these interviews and how you can gain from them as an applicant!

What can you gain from your interactions with the current medical students on your interview day?

During your interview day, several attending physicians and professors currently teaching at the school will interview you. In addition to this, a current medical student will likely interview you. Sometimes this will be in a formal one on one setting and sometimes it may be more casual, perhaps over lunch or while giving a tour. They are likely evaluating you in similar ways to the other interviewers and are attending the admissions committee meetings as well.

While it is important to be on your best interview behavior with the medical student interviewer just like the rest of your interviews, it is also important to find answers to the big questions.

Many of you 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.

Here are the things to take away from the interview/tour/lunch time that you have with the students:

  1. Do they have positive things to say about the professors and physicians that are teaching them?
    Of course they may feel like a test was more difficult than they had anticipated or a professor covered too much information in one hour. Every medical student feels this way at one point or another! But are the instructors reliable? Do they respond to emails and seem to genuinely care about the education of the students? Are they responsive to the concerns of the students?
  2. Do they feel that they have enough volunteer and research opportunities?
    Thankfully, medical school is not only about studying! During your first two years in particular, you will want to have other meaningful activities to be a part of 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?
  3. How do the students feel about their grading system?
    Every medical school is different. Some put the students in positions that they are more competitive with each other and some don’t even 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. Either way is acceptable, just know what you are looking for and get an idea of how the current students feel about it.
  4. Is there an overall 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?

After your interview day is over, it can be helpful to write the answers to these questions down. You may not make your final decision for several months and the details can get confused. Although there are many other things to factor into your decision like scholarships and location, the answers to these questions should be considered.

What Does a Student Interviewer for Medical School Look For?

The medical school interview process can be near wracking. It is a high stakes situation; you’ve studied hard in college, done well on the MCAT, put your all into your extracurriculars and now it’s time to speak about it all in front of a physician! It’s so important to understand what medical school admissions committees are looking for in their students, so we sat down with Dr. Mili Mehta, a former interviewer at Columbia University, and got her perspective on the medical school interview.

For me, I’m always looking for people who are genuine about their interest in medical school and the activities they have done which have lead them to that point. It is easy to tell when someone is passionate about the things they talk about, whether it is community service, research or extra-curricular activities. There are a lot of things people do to try to get into medical school; hopefully each of these things you have done has had a meaningful impact on you and has led to a genuine interest in the field. I would let that part shine through in an interview.

The other thing I am looking for is someone I would want to be my medical school classmate. Are you someone who is going to be supporting your classmate while they’re studying? Are you someone I would like to collaborate with and learn from? Are you someone who will enrich my experience during medical school?

I am also looking for people who can communicate well, because I think this is the most important thing in patient care; having the ability to talk to your patient and get your points across clearly. So in the interview I am looking for someone who makes good eye contact and can have a pleasant conversation. That is really important to me when I am conducting an interview.

“The other thing I am looking for is someone I would want to be my med school classmate. Are you someone who is going to be supporting your classmate while they’re studying? Are you someone I would like to collaborate with and learn from? Are you someone who will enrich my experience during medical school?”

MedSchoolCoach’s advisors can get you ready for the interview! Our mock interviews are conducted with actual physicians who have been on admissions committees, so they know how you can stand out. Click here for more information about our interview preparation.