The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Podcast 71: Preparing for the BS/MD Interview

Yash and Shree are hosting this episode to talk about things you can do to prepare for the interview stage of your BSMD application process. During this time, most students feel anxious because interviews are like nothing they have experienced in their previous application steps.

[2:19] Yash and Shree’s preparation.

Yash had no idea what to expect when he got his first interview invitation. After doing research, Yash realized that even though the BSMD interview is modeled similarly after a traditional med school one, they are aware that you are a high school student. They don’t expect you to know everything that you would if you were twenty-two. For studying, Yash found mock interviews with friends and family very helpful.

Though not sticking to a script is commonly given as advice, Shree believes in knowing what you are going to say. It shouldn’t be robotic, but you should have thought hard about the most common questions. It’s important to know about everything on your resume.

[12:05] Potential questions.

Shree wants to highlight that asking questions about ethics is common. Yash brings up that when he was asked about times he failed at something, he felt that his answers really strengthened his interview. The best advice he got for answering was that every answer should involve a story. Shree says you should see the interview as a conversation about the meeting of similar minds as opposed to a competition.

[17:20] Dealing with nerves.

Shree’s anxiety was through-the-roof when going to interviews, but this can really trip you up. He has learned that know one cares how you look or how you answer the questions as long as you get your point across in a relaxed manner.

Remember that you were picked from a large pool of candidates. You belong here.

Shree: [email protected]
Yash: [email protected]

Full Transcription

Welcome to the Prospective Doctor podcast brought to you by MedSchoolCoach. Each week we cover topics related to the pre-med journey to medical school and beyond. From the MCAT, to completing your application, and from starting medical school to choosing a specialty. Our podcasts will provide essential information for anyone contemplating a career in medicine.

This is Yosh with my co-host Shree. And today we’re going to talk about some things you could do to prepare when you’re at the interview stage of the application process. This is a kind of time when most students feel like they’re severely anxious and underprepared and rightly so because honestly, until you get to this point, you haven’t really experienced anything like you’re going to experience in this interview stage of specifically the BS/MD the application process, and I think it’s something that’s so unique to applying to B.S./M.D., that many of your peers at that age, and even yourself when you’re applying to just traditional college programs, are not going to experience something like this. So it’s just something we wanted to talk about and discuss and have kind of a casual conversation about our experiences when we were preparing for it and some pro tips that we had thought of just based solely based how we felt about it.

Just to piggy-back off that, I think that’s a great introduction to what an interview for a BS/MD program kind of feels like. It’s like something that you’ve never done before and a lot of trepidation and anxiousness goes into preparing for these interviews, just because, especially in the first one I remember I was really scared before, just because I knew I was gonna be meeting some of the most accomplished high schoolers from across the country, and rightly so, the BS/MD programs are very competitive, but if you get an interview for a BS/MD program, I think the imposter syndrome strikes fast, so it’s important to remind yourself that you yourself are there and you’re just as competitive of an applicant as everyone else. So even before you get there, you shouldn’t psych yourself out. That being said, you should also put in the work and prepare accordingly. So that’s hopefully what we’re going to give you on this podcast.

I think a question that could start off the conversation going was at least in terms of your preparation Yosh, what did you think about the interview going into it, especially your first one, and how did you prepare, and then maybe I can kind of chime in with some of my thoughts like preparing for my first interview.

Definitely, that’s actually a really good question to start with. To be quite honest, I had no idea what to expect when I got my first interview invitation. Until that point the only interviews I had had in my life were informal. Basically a just getting to know you interview. I had a couple for volunteer research experiences in high school. Those are very casual. Then I had a couple college alumni interviews also pretty informal, they mainly just ask you about your activities, and getting to know you, and it just doesn’t feel at the level of pressure that you feel when you get one of these invitations. For example the first invitation I got, right in the letter it said “you’ll be meeting with two members of faculty. You’ll be having a lunch with a bunch of students, then you’ll have another lunch interview as well with other students,” so that’s like three actual interviews, and one like pseudo interview in one day. That’s something that honestly at first intimidated me, but I did some research, kind of on my own, and also just some people that I knew had gone had gone through the application process before, and was able to learn a little bit more, and that helped me calm down, quite a bit, and I realized that one thing that I took away from it a lot is, even though it’s moduled very similarly after a traditional med school interview, which is like what kids will be doing when they’re 21 or 22 applying to medical schools, even though it’s modeled after that, they know you’re a high school student at the end of the day. They don’t expect you to expect you to know everything that you would know at the age of 21 or 22, and they expect you to be professional, but they’re not expecting like someone with as many accomplishments, as someone who is at that kind of level of their life.

When I learned those two hard facts about the interview, that really helped me calm down as I said, and just made me feel more focused on what I had to do. I will say I put a decent amount of time preparing for the interview. The most helpful for me was having family or friends mock interview me, so you can find kind of lists of questions that are pretty traditional for these kind of interviews. The most like common and basic one that you want to be able to answer is, the “Why medicine?” – a question that we actually talked about a lot in the previous episode for the Why Medicine essay, and honestly since I’d already wrote that essay, I had a lot of the answers already, it’s just about how are you going to turn that into a conversation.

Then, a lot of the other interview stuff is actually just really good interview prep for regular jobs and stuff in college as well, which I didn’t know until I got to college, but when I saw like my peers and friends applying to clubs, and applying to other jobs, I realized that all of those interview, kind of like tips questions that they ask you, like basically common stuff you hear about like “Tell me about a time you failed?” That doesn’t go away. That stays for a long time. That was kind of my intro, to my path of how I started thinking about it. I don’t know if you had something true about how you started going about it.

I think you mentioned a lot of how you prepared for the interview, and I just wanted to say, I agree with you about it transferring to other parts of your life, in terms of having that skill to express yourself in a professional manner, and present yourself accordingly, and starting that off from such a young age, it can definitely help you later in your career. Not only for high school, not even for college clubs and interviews, but also in medical school when you’re applying to residency, so you’re hopefully going to be seven years down the line, or eight years down the line applying for residency. If you started that foundation in terms of your BS/MD application, then it just matures as you age, and it just becomes that much better when you’re actually applying to a job in terms of your residency. It comes off as very professional. That’s something I wanted to reiterate especially in your preparation. You mentioned mock interviews, which is a great way to get yourself familiarized with not only the “why medicine?” but “why BS/MD?”, what are characteristics you look for in a person, and these very intangible type of questions when they ask you, they expect you to have an answer. As cliché as it is to say “be prepared,” but a lot of people say don’t stick to a script.

I would argue the other way, in terms of like yeah, you shouldn’t have a script, you shouldn’t be robotic, but you should know damn well what you’re going to say when they ask you a question, because it should be something that you have prepared beforehand, in terms of you’ve thought about critically what your strengths are, are what your weaknesses are, are where you’ve failed. These are kind of common questions that keep coming up in job interviews and BS/MD interviews, so you should have a very good answer, and a very good explanation of why you’re bringing up that particular strength.

Yeah one-hundred percent. I think you said, people say don’t have a script. I think maybe not a script, but especially for that “why medicine?” question that you know 100 out of 100 times you’re gonna be asked that question, you should have a story. You should have something ready, maybe bullet points of things that you want to cover. If I had to go in and free free verse that, or kind of go in blind and just kind of talk, I would definitely miss some key points, and my answer would not be as strong. I think that they’re looking for that. They want to make sure that you know why want to be a doctor. So definitely for that question, I’d structure it beforehand.

One thing that I also wanted to add is just to know your place. Like obviously you’re at a BS/MD interview and you’re talking with the people that you’re maybe going to share a place at this medical school with, so you might be talking to a future roommate, so just be cordial with the people that you’re with, and also make sure that you know who you’re talking to when you’re doing these interviews. I mentioned this on another podcast that I run.

I had a horror story at one of the programs that I went to, where I was kind of talking about my research, and making sure that, knowing your research is like a big thing, because when I was talking about my research, it turned out that my interviewer was actually an expert on that topic, so he was very interested in learning more about my research, and obviously I didn’t answer his questions to his satisfaction. It really hurt me for that interview, and unfortunately it was my first interview, so I didn’t know how in-depth you should know your research, but whatever’s on your resumé, just know it inside and out. Especially when it comes to research, because you never know when someone who’s an expert will sit on the other side of that table, and grill you on the minutia of like what exact cell line did you use for your research paper, or why you chose a particular study design. So even though you’re a high schooler, they’ll still expect you to have that kind of rigor. Obviously my story is kind of unique, you’re probably not going to have an expert in that same topic across the table but you might.

I think that’s a really good point to highlight. I had that actually. I had someone who knew my research inside and out, and even knew of the mentor that I was working with, and I wouldn’t say I completely butchered it, but I did not know enough about what I should have known. He definitely asked me some questions where I could only give a half answer or maybe a quarter answer, and I really regretted like it. Sometimes it’s stuff that you’ve done a year and a half ago, and you’re in the middle of college applications, and you might just forget about it honestly. So it’s just something you have to review. Knowing your resume and inside and out is very, very important because that’s all fair game. I think, and I don’t know for a fact, but I think if they have someone on the interviewing committee, on the faculty, who’s willing to interview who happens to have an interest in your field, then they will match you for the interview. So it’s not necessarily that they’re going to go out of their way to find someone who knows your research inside and out and put you with them right, but I think if it’s pretty easy for them in their wheelhouse, then they’re going to go out and do that because A, they want it to be interesting for that researcher, and B, they want to make sure that you know what you’re talking about.

Yeah I think that knowing your research inside and out definitely is something that you should keep in your mind, but on the other hand your research doesn’t really define you, and your interest in medicine kind of makes you one sided. So I kind of wanted to switch topics to a different part of the interview, but just as important.

We were talking about strengths and weaknesses and failures, and we were kind of being very abstract about the things that they ask, but I think it would be cool to get into specifics about what intangible questions they asked during your interview. I know for me I just wanted to highlight that they ask about ethical questions. So as a doctor, how do you feel about euthanasia, or how do you feel about a certain ethical dilemma about Do Not Resuscitate, or Do Not Intubate, and they give you like a patient case and they ask you what to do with it. Especially in the odd cases that you get a mini med interview, or like kind of different scenarios to tell what your treatment plan is as a doctor, so I thought those were interesting exceptions to the rule of just straight interviewing that I felt. What about you Yosh?

No definitely, ethical questions come up, and then also, it has regular interview questions that I kind of touched on before. Stuff like “Tell me about a time you failed?” like “Tell me something that you think is a strength of yours?”, and these questions can seem kind of wishy washy, and like can kind of be swept under under the rug, and you can think of them as unimportant, but I actually think I benefited the most from having pretty solid answers to these questions, and the best tip that I got for these questions was honestly that for each answer you should have a story. So like if someone asks you like what is your greatest strength, you could just say like oh I’m really good at working with others. Every time that an interviewer asks you a question, especially one of these open ended questions about your personality, and about like something non med related, I think it’s great to have some kind of story ready that you can morph into like a bunch of different answers. Just because, I think that showing is way better than telling, and obviously like in an interview you’re always telling, but telling with a story is like more like showing.

I think that’s really great advice and I just want to share one of the greatest pieces of advice that I got. Obviously the story is one of them, but I think that in order to understand why you’re telling these answers, you should kind of get into the interviewer’s head, and just realize that it’s a conversation between you and them. So in order to establish a good connection with the interviewer it has to be first and foremost, a very friendly and amicable conversation. Too many times, we kind of see the interview as an adversarial reaction in terms of, you have what I want, I want that, so I’m gonna go head to head with other people in order to get that, so it’s not really like that. It’s much more a conversation about a synergistic meeting of the minds than it is a you have what I want, let me get it type of interaction.

For example, one of the questions that I got was about the most pressing problem in medicine today, and it was about current events, and it’s not a question that is very tangible to science or medicine or something, it’s a lot about policy, and how physicians don’t just practice in a vacuum. I think that was one of my most favorite questions just because, first I like policy so it plays into my interest, but also I was able to display a passion for things outside of medicine, but still related to the science and the passion that I had for medicine, but I was able to explain something that I was passionate about outside of medicine, and they could really see why I was interested in melding together policy, medicine and technology.

I’m really glad you said that, I almost forgot about that. I think having something outside of medicine, outside of school, outside of even academics, just an interest or passion to talk about, whether it be like an interest that you have in policy, or like in even an interest in sports that some people might have, kind of like some people like cooking, really any interest that you actually like and that you could actually talk about, can help you make that bridge that you were actually talking about earlier. It’s about making that bridge from an interview to a conversation. Honestly, the more you can keep your interview as a conversation the better it will go for you, that’s my strong opinion.

Right now actually, I’m a first year medical student, so is Shree, and we’re just starting patient interviews which is obviously a very different skill. Now I’m the one interviewing a patient and trying to elicit information from them, but still those same key components that keep coming up, like they have information that you want to get from them, but you want to keep this conversation as conversational, as friendly, like as nice as you can, all while kind of doing your job of hitting all the key points, and that’s actually exactly how you should be thinking about interviews for med school or jobs or anything it’s like, yeah you want to get your points out there, but at the same time, this is another person you’re talking to, it’s not like a robot, so if you can make that personal connection, then that’s a great place to jump off from.

Yeah. I think that even makes your answers a little bit better because you’re more relaxed when you’re telling it, something that we didn’t really touch on is people get nervous when they interview. I’m one of them. So my anxiety is like through the roof when I’m going for these interviews, and that can really trip you up, especially when you forget what you’re going to say, or you think you’re looking like a fool. I just wanted to give the true sense that I was given, no one really cares about how you look, and like how you answer these questions, as long as you get the point across in kind of relaxed manner. If you’re visibly nervous, obviously like that throws people off, just because they’re thinking about, hey if this kid’s a doctor and he is acting nervous in front of patients, or he’s acting nervous before like the interviewing skills that you were mentioning, it’s going to not look as good as a doctor, so you just having to think about presentation. If push comes to shove, then just do that many that many more mock interviews before you go, just to prepare yourself for the eventual nerves that’s going to come. Obviously on the day of, you’re gonna be nervous, you’re gonna be thinking about all these different things, but if you’ve prepared yourself that many times, it just becomes that much easier to hit your stride during the interview.

Yeah that’s a great point. I think that actually brings me to what I probably want to say last, like my concluding thoughts is that if you’re at this point you should already feel pretty good about yourself. Like I know once you get the invitation to interviews, most people just jump right into preparing, and write about like stressing about the interview, which is honestly kind of what I did. But you should celebrate the fact that you got these interviews. So many kids apply to these programs, and not everyone gets an interview, like a very small subset of people even get the interview, which should also help in terms of the thinking about like anxiety and nerves for this. If you start feeling kind of anxious or kind of stressed the day of the interview you’re leading up to it, just remember that you were picked from a large pool of candidates, and that, the imposter syndrome cuts in early on, but that’s something that you were picked to be there for, you belong and just go out and just be yourself, and honestly I know that’s cliche, but I’ve seen that work, which is why I think people say it over and over again for decades.

Yeah. My concluding thought is kind of on a different note, it’s not inspirational it’s more of like a more practical one. Dress properly to these, and make sure that you get like a suit, or like if you’re a girl just make sure you have all the necessary components to like your wardrobe when you’re going, because these interviews are professional, and you already know that but…

I bought my first suits for these interviews actually. I still have em.

And I think I think that’s my concluding thing, just to go out there and have a good time in terms of you’re going to be meeting people, like fun fact, I actually like met one of Yosh’s friends who’s in his program right now during my interview, and I friended him on Facebook and stuff, and it was funny my first conversation with Yosh, I kind of brought him up and it was like oh wow, he was in my interview, and now he’s attending the program. It was kind of funny that we had that connection in common, and because some of the people that you meet, like you never know down the line, they might show up like as colleagues, or someone in your residency program, so it’s just like nice to have those connections while you’re on the interviewing trail, because you’ll see the same people over and over again, if you’re going to the same BS/MD interview days.

Honestly and enjoy the process like how many other 17 and 18 year olds get to fly around the country, wearing cool suits, going into medical schools, and high end hospitals, and talking to doctors, just appreciate it for a little bit.

Yeah, and I think that that’s a really great place to end off our interview preparation podcast. I just wanted to let you guys know about our next podcast, which is gonna be all about on the interview day. What should you do? How should you act? What’s going to happen? and that’s gonna be coming to you next time. So stay tuned. My name is Shree. That’s Yosh my co-host and catch us next time.

See you guys later.

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