How to Answer “Why This Medical School?” | MedSchoolCoach

Answering “Why This Medical School,” Step-by-Step

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Posted in: Interviews

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One of the most common medical school interview questions you’ll need to prepare for is: “Why do you want to attend this medical school?” On your medical school secondaries and at interviews, you’ll need to provide AdComs with a compelling reason that you are interested in their program in particular.

Clever interviewers may ask this question in various other ways, such as:

  • “Describe your ideal medical school.”
  • “For you, what are the most important qualities of a medical program?”
  • “Tell us what you know about our program.”
  • “What interests you most about our school?”

The best way to answer this question is to give specific examples of why your interests, experience, and passions align with the school’s mission and focus. Use 2, maybe 3 examples, of strengths of the medical program that will help you advance your career as a physician.

I’ve compiled tips from current med students and former admissions committee members to help you ace this question and stand out as an applicant who will be a great fit for your chosen program.

A great one to start with: Don’t make your answer an infomercial for the school. Check out advice from our Associate Director of Advising, Dr. Ziggy’s:

1. Do Your Research

The first step to answering this question is to research the medical program you’re applying to. First and foremost, your answer to “why this medical school” should be an authentic look into why you believe this is a great program for you based on what you know about it.

Some of the features of medical schools you might want to look into include:

  • Mission and culture: What about the school’s mission and culture stand out to you? How do these align with your goals as a future physician? This institution might favor students who want to work with underserved communities, partner with patients from specific backgrounds, or be leaders in a specific area of medical research. They may strongly spotlight a particular issue with the healthcare system and prefer students who are passionate about addressing that issue.
  • Curriculum structure: What unique curriculum or educational structure does this institution use that intrigues you?
  • Highlighted specialties: Are there specialties this school emphasizes? For instance, if you’re interested in primary care, a program offering a primary care mentorship would be very attractive. A college of medicine with a strong research arm would be excellent for a student hoping for a research-heavy career.
  • Faculty members: Are there well-known faculty members who have contributed to the field of medicine in a way that stands out to you? 
  • Location: What stands out to you about the location of this medical program? Is it in a city or state you’re personally connected with? Are you seeking a medical education in an inner-city location because that’s the population you’re hoping to serve? Do you want to be a doctor in a rural area, and therefore attend a school in that setting?
  • Legacy: Do you have family members or other loved ones who have attended this school? How did their experience influence your desire to attend this particular institution?

Start researching the school’s mission by thoroughly reading through their website, but don’t stop there. A quick Google search can reveal a lot about the school’s reputation outside of their own website — just search for the institution’s name and click on “News” or “Perspectives.”

Google the medical program you want to attend to determine how to answer why this medical school

It’s also a good idea to check out the school’s presence on social media, both by looking at their own accounts and seeing what others have to say. This sort of research can help you stand out, especially if you learn things from current and past students that’s not as easily defined, like activities from certain clubs or a student-led passion for social justice.

Related: Medical School Application Process 2024

2. Describe How Your Experiences Align With the Institution

After researching, write down how your experiences line up with what you know about the medical program. I encourage you to write this answer down even if you’re preparing for an interview where you’ll communicate your thoughts verbally.

Avoid generic answers such as “there are lots of research opportunities” or “the community service program looks good.” Instead, highlight areas of your own life that will be compelling to the program where you’re interviewing. Examples might include:

  • Relevant extracurricular activities, such as clubs you’ve been a part of or led and volunteer work, and why they lead seamlessly into a medical education at this school
  • Your clinical experience during your pre-med years and how it has influenced your interested in healthcare
  • Snapshots of personal experiences from undergrad that have shaped you into an ideal candidate for this particular institution
  • Research projects you’ve worked on and how they make you a great fit
  • Initiatives you’ve been involved with that relate to a specific area of study, such as public health, oncology, or medical ethics (this could be anything from a paper you wrote to your social media presence)

The more in-depth your responses, the better chance you have at standing out. However, avoid just trying to rewrite the mission statement from the school’s website — your response should include storytelling about your own personal experiences and goals, too.

3. Share How You Will Maximize These Opportunities

After you describe your unique interest in the school, follow through by sharing how you plan to take full advantage of the unique opportunities while in the program.

If you love a school because of a research opportunity it presents that aligns with your undergraduate research, maybe you’ll continue that same research. If a lab at the medical school would provide a perfect setting, then explain how you may want to utilize that resource.

4. Ask a Trusted Advisor or Professor to Review Your Answer 

It’s always a good idea to ask for help from people familiar with your background and passion for a healthcare career. Talk to your pre-health advisor, favorite professor, or another trusted professional about reading and providing feedback on your answer to “why this medical school.”

Here are a few things they may want to provide feedback about:

  • Does the response feel cocky or otherwise off-putting?
  • Is the answer specific, or does it feel generic?
  • Does your writing clearly demonstrate a genuine interest in the school?
  • Are there details that get too personal or confusing?
Get interview prep support with our Physician Advisors to ensure you’re ready for Interview Day!

5. Use Your Answer in Your Secondary Application

Once you have a well-developed answer, the first place you’ll be able to use it is on your secondary essays. As succinctly as possible, share why this school of medicine interests you when that prompt is given.

This may go without saying, but don’t just regurgitate your answer from one essay to the next. Offer a unique, well-defined answer specific to each school.

Read Next: Common Medical School Interview Questions [Plus Answers] 

6. Practice Your Answer for Interview Day

Practice answering this question in mock interviews with peers, your pre-health advisor, or a helpful family member. Don’t just rehearse once — do this enough times that you can comfortably deliver your response to med school admissions committee members without stammering.

Remember, you’ll be more nervous on the day of your interview than you are when practicing. It’s okay to be overly prepared to account for stage fright.

7. Get Interview Prep Coaching

Getting outside support to hone your interview skills can be a major help. If you think your skills could use some work, invest in interview preparation with experienced physician coachs.

Bonus: All our coaches are former admissions committee members.

96% of students who do 3+ practice interviews with MedSchoolCoach receive an acceptance letter. Ready to get yours?

Should You Use ChatGPT to Write Your Answer?

ChatGPT and similar tools are great for editing and helping you suss out weak spots in your writing or interview question outline. However, a chatbot cannot experience things or have feelings or emotions like a human.

Your humanity and personal experiences are what should shine in the answer to this question. Plus, medical school admissions committees are already considering how to implement measures to deprioritize applications that heavily rely on AI — don’t set yourself up for failure.

Use ChatGPT to help edit and identify issues with your answer, but don’t ask it to create experiences on your behalf.

Student Stories: “Why This Medical School?”

“The most important thing to remember about this question is that there is absolutely no right answer. The reasons for applying to a particular school should directly reflect what you prioritize in your ideal medical school, your interests, and maybe even the things that you do not want in a school. Admissions committees can very clearly see through a disingenuous answer, so it’s always best to be yourself and not say what you think they want to hear. Ultimately, researching the school and coming up with reasons that align with your values, priorities, and preferences, will show that you have really taken the time to consider why a certain school is a great fit. Remember, the interviews are not just a chance for the school to interview you, but they’re a chance for you to interview the school! At the end of the day, the most important thing is making sure that you end up in a place that will truly benefit you as a person and professional, so being honest about what you’re looking for, both with yourself and interviewers, will really shine through and set you apart.”
Ethan Bott, MedSchoolCoach
Ethan Bott
MCAT Tutor and Former Student, Duke University
“I first identified common themes in my application/personal statement that I wanted to enforce. For me, I am super passionate about medical humanities and teaching. The night before a school interview, I’d browse the med school website and look for programs, clubs, electives, or mission statement wording that matched these themes. I remember always looking to see if they offered a medical humanities elective, for example, or if there were lots of opportunities for peer teaching and/or teaching in the community (such as through volunteer opportunities). In my answer to the “Why this medical school” question, I’d always mention whatever electives/programs/organizations/pathway I found through the search I made the night before. (Something else I always said was about proximity to family/support systems—most of the medical schools I applied to were in-state or near family I had out-of-state.) I think this strategy was effective because while my strategy was generally the same, each answer always sounded very specific and targeted for each school (because I would precisely name features/programs found from that particular school’s site).”
Camille Villar, MedSchoolCoach
Camille Villar
MCAT Tutor and Student, Baylor College of Medicine

FAQs

Because a BS/MD program locks you into a specific institution (or a small group of them) for longer than a traditional medical education, you should be able to express clearly why you picked this medical school and undergraduate program. However, the advice remains the same: Share honest, specific reasons you’re willing to commit the better part of a decade to an individual school.

Crafting and rehearsing this answer is just one part of preparing for a BS/MD interview.

When AdComs ask interviewees why they’re interested in this school, they’re looking for specific examples of why a student might thrive in their program. Committees seek applicants who align with their vision and will positively contribute to their school.

When they ask, “Why us?” they’re looking for answers that show you’re not just applying to the school because you think it’s a good fit for your MCAT score and GPA. 

This can feel frustrating for a first-time applicant, but the reality is that the investment an institution makes in each student is significant. It’s vital that they accept students most likely to succeed and improve their reputation in the larger medical community.

This turns the “why this medical school” question around to learn what you bring to the table. It’s a variation on “tell me about yourself” that allows you to explain how your personal experiences and interests make you a valuable addition to the school you’re applying to.

Use this question to highlight your skills, strengths, and passions that mirror the mission of the school.

It may sound overly simplistic, but the best way to sound genuine is to be honest. If you truly enjoy the area where the school is located because your family lives there and it’s where you want to settle one day, then say that. If you’re attracted to their beautiful campus and impressive Match rate, include that in your answer.

Don’t make up answers to make yourself sound better or invent opinions about the institution — at best, they’ll come off disingenuous, and at worst, you’ll be labeled as dishonest.

Double Your Chances at Acceptance with MedSchoolCoach

Medical school is competitive for good reason — physicians are leaders in society with huge responsibilities for the well-being of others. That’s why fewer than half of students who apply to medical school are accepted each year.

You can increase your chances significantly by partnering with MedSchoolCoach for holistic application consulting. Our students double their chances of acceptance by working with experienced Physician Advisors to prepare for applications and the medical school interview.

Find out how you can double your chances of getting accepted to medical school!
Ziggy Yoediono, MD

Ziggy Yoediono, MD

Ziggy Yoediono, MD is the Associate Director of Advising at MedSchoolCoach. Dr. Yoediono received his MD from the University of Rochester, and did his training at the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Program. He has worked at Duke as a pre-major advisor and admissions interviewer. Dr. Yoediono co-authored papers published in The New England Journal of Medicine and Academic Medicine.

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