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The Medical School Interview: Do’s and Don’t’s

On an autumn or winter day, you’ll find yourself apprehensively and haphazardly tearing open an envelope from a medical school. To anyone watching, it will be reminiscent of a 4-year old on Christmas morning. You’ll instinctively focus on the first line or two scanning for the word, “Congratulations!” This is your interview invitation letter!

During the next few weeks or so, you may prepare for the interview in various ways: googling “sample med school interview questions” and “how to interview well,” speaking with friends or family that may have already gone through the process, or shuddering nervously within your sheets at the thought of someone interrogating you about any and every major event in your life so far. In addition to these normal reactions, it may be helpful to keep the following salient points in mind during your preparation:

Do: Have fun with it!

Regardless of whether you’re a human-gravitating extrovert or a Snuggie-loving introvert, it will be highly beneficial to associate the interview with positive emotions. Doing this genuinely reduces any residual fears, anxiety, or frustration. And in that cavity of the aforementioned emotions, pour in feelings of curiosity, excitement, and gratitude. Think about that for a second- when is the last time you were both nervous and thankful simultaneously? That’s right: Never.

Don’t: “Just be yourself!”

This proclamation is one of my biggest pet peeves because it’s only semi-accurate. While you are there to show them your authentic self, it’s more precise to advise, “Be the best version of yourself.” Similar to a typical job interview, the medical school interview is a chance to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for their spot and what unique qualities and experiences you have to offer. Proper attire and mannerisms are just the prerequisites.

Do: Deliver on what they’re looking for

Peruse through the medical school’s website well in advance and see what others have mentioned on forums/message boards (best taken with a grain of salt). Ignore the average score requirements and focus on the extracurriculars here. Is research highly emphasized or do they seem to be more concerned about clinical experience/volunteering? Prepare your interview answers to specific questions in a word document and make sure to emphasize various aspects of your application depending on where you interview.

Don’t: Be Vague

Expect to be asked about any hiccups in your application (a low score for a particular class, what you did for 2 years after graduating college, etc). Regardless of topic, prepare your answers to these questions with a) positive learning points and b) very discreet examples. Polish your story-telling skills.

Do: Be courteous to everyone!

This cannot be stressed enough. The entire interview day is an audition, and you will be watched closely with how you interact with admission personnel, non-interviewers, and fellow interviewees.

Don’t: Have stage fright

Overcome performance anxiety with the R word: Rehearsal. Practice continuously in front of a mirror, do mock interviews with a family or friend, or utilize a video recorder. Assess and get feedback about the content of your answers, your enthusiasm, body language, and use of filler words (e.g. um, uh). This will get easier as you go. Even experienced interviewers can catch a case of “the nerves.” Practice is the first-line treatment!

About Lucy Dilworth