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The Student Network: what questions to ask your student interviewers for medical school

One of my favorite experiences after I started medical school was when I ran into an upperclassman that had hosted me during my interview. In our short conversation, she shared some words of encouragement as well as some helpful PowerPoint slides for my first test. I still treasure this interaction because it impressed upon me the camaraderie present in the medical field. Everyone around me had been in my shoes at one point and had valuable advice because of it.

As medical school applicants, you are now a part of this network. It is in your best interest to use it throughout the application and interview process. Current medical students are a really great resource for candid feedback about their program, interview tips, and even a couch to sleep on during your interview (not a small help during an expensive interview process!)

Before your interview, I recommend that you get in touch with medical students in your circle of friends and acquaintances. Your college pre-med group and advising center can also help you to get connected to alumni who are now in medical school. Once you get in touch, feel free to ask students to discuss:

  • Their pre-clinical curriculum
  • How collaborative the learning environment is
  • Extracurricular and research requirements
  • Living in their city
  • Any previous or current curriculum changes
  • Getting the inside scoop before your interview day will help you get a better understanding of the institution. It will also show your interviewers how prepared and interested you are in their school.

After your medical school interview (confused about your interview, check out our blog post on Preparing for the Medical School Interview), it is appropriate to contact the admissions office to get in touch with students that have a special interest that you’d like to explore. This can include dual degrees, working with a specific patient population, or a medical specialty.

I especially encourage you to ask the admissions office to put you in touch with fourth year medical students. On most of your interviews, you will interact with first and second year medical students only. Due to the clinical responsibility and inflexible schedule of upperclassmen, you usually miss out on hearing from them on the interview day. Consequently, you’ll come away with lots of information about the first two years of med school but a vague idea of how the clinical years go. Though the preclinical years are important, at the end of the day all medical schools’ curriculum will converge to a point that prepares you to take Step 1. The experiences you have in the hospital, the patients you meet, and the people you learn from are what ultimately differentiate programs and shape you as a doctor.

Here are some questions that you can ask MS4s when you interview:

  • How much hands-on experience did they receive in their clinical years?
  • How much of their time is spent on direct patient care vs shadowing?
  • How much “scut work” (non-educational tasks that don’t directly contribute to patient care) did they have?
  • What policies are in place to protect against medical student abuse?
    How much support did they receive in choosing and applying to a specialty?

Having these conversations with students who were so recently in your shoes can be invaluable! Though a majority of students will be happy to talk to you, please be patient when waiting for a response and respectful of their time. Remember that medical students are the eyes and ears of the admissions department so always be professional in your interactions!

About Lucy Dilworth