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Life lessons through Medical School Interviews

By Yash Kamani

The interview. It is often the most feared aspect of any application process. Student upon student will share horror stories; and prospective students spend days prepping for what will inevitably take only a few hours to complete.  I was lucky enough to engage in three medical school interviews when applying to programs in 2015. Each interview taught me not only a different “interview lesson,” but a larger life lesson as well.

The first lesson: things will not always go as planned. One of my first interviews was at a city school with multiple different interviewers all based out of different offices in a sprawling campus. I was accidentally sent to the wrong interviewer, who in turn sent me across the campus to the correct interviewer. I proceeded to get lost in the maze of an unfamiliar campus, but with the help of two friendly janitors and a pocket-sized campus map I made it back a whole twenty minutes late. I thought the twists had to be over at this point, but once I reached the correct office I was told that the interviewee in the time slot following mine had requested to interview earlier in order to make their flight back home. Therefore, my original hour interview would now be fifteen minutes long. I was unprepared and honestly flustered, and my fifteen-minute interview went less than well. It was then that I realized one must always be prepared for things to swerve of course.

The second lesson: don’t get overconfident. One of my interviews was structured into two separate portions: a one-on-one interview with a faculty member, and then group discussions with other candidates in the presence of the program’s director. I happened to have my one-on-one interview first, and the interview went extremely well. I was definitely too content with how it went, and even believed the interviewer had given me indications that I all but had an acceptance offer. Knowing this, I think I did not particularly focus on the group discussions that followed. I was distracted, and frankly didn’t give it the importance it deserved. I left the day still believing I was pretty much a shoe in… months later I would receive a rejection letter. Nobody knows what happened for sure, but I’m sure not focusing in discussions that included the program’s director did not help. Confidence is great, but over-confidence can be fatal.

The last lesson: don’t give up- you just never know. My last interview also happened to be at my top choice program. This interview happened to be structured as lunch with current students, followed by three separate interviews. My first interview of the day could not have possibly gone worse than it did. The interview was supposed to last 45 minutes, we were done in 20. Within those 20 minutes I stumbled answering questions about my research, was accused of engaging in nepotism to land opportunities and faltered through a response to that, and then finally just forgot the answer to basic questions. I was devastated, and truly believed I had no shot left. But, I willed myself through the next two interviews. My last interview went extremely well. Yet, at the end of the day, I couldn’t shake the awful feeling from the first interview. When I came back to the hotel I told my father to look around, because we probably would not be returning.

Come May, it was this University that I ended up accepting an admission to. I can’t help but think what I would have squandered if I let the bad first interview disrupt my focus for the last two. The biggest lesson from this was learning not to take anything too seriously. After the first interview, I had somehow made internal peace with the possibility of not getting accepted to my top choice, and this helped calm me through the next two interviews. In the end, it is always about how you finish, and not how you start.

Interviews are a natural part of the application process. But it’s vital not to stress out about them. In the end, you want to put your best foot forward, and your best foot never comes forward when you’re over-analyzing, over-critiquing, and over-hyping every aspect of the day. There’s no “trick” to beating an interview for sure. But I learned that what you can do is be prepared, remain grounded, then finally stay composed by not giving up on yourself. These three facets are not only great for interviews,

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