Applying to Medical School

The Elephant in the Interview Room

How to Address “Why You?” in Medical School Interviews

As an advisor, this is the best time of the year for me. Why? Because I get to do interview prep sessions with dozens of incredibly bright, articulate young adults. They are ambitious and passionate about pursuing a noble profession. But the slick rejoinders are often replaced by a quizzical look and a rambling response when I simply ask, “Why should you gain an acceptance instead of hundreds of other well qualified applicants? What makes you so special?” Applicants must be prepared to answer the “elephant” of all questions since the competition is keener than ever, as evidenced by recent statistics. During the 2016-2017 cycle, 53,000 applicants, most with excellent qualifications, competed for 21,000 acceptances. And it’s getting worse. It’s not uncommon for applicants to submit 15 or more applications, straining committee resources. Despite this scenario, many schools are emphasizing a more holistic method of evaluation, looking past the metrics and focusing on the individual. In other words, the elephant is getting larger.

Read More: Inspiring Vs. Impressing the Admissions Committee

My approach is to first elucidate those qualities that we associate with the ideal physician. Specifically, what characteristics would you look for in a personal physician or a doctor caring for your family? These attributes could include:

-Competent and knowledgeable. This is an absolute prerequisite.

-Effective communicator

-Good collaborator

-An educator

-A leader

-A great listener

-Humble but confident

-Inquisitive. A lifetime learner

-Embraces diversity


________________ fill in the blank!

You get the message. Now flip it around and demonstrate how you embody or strive to incorporate these virtues into your persona. And don’t just say it. Prove it as you share anecdotes and experiences with the interviewer. Remember, you must present yourself as much more than a number. You should be proud of a competitive GPA or MCAT since that is what got you through the door to the interview. Now it’s time to define yourself in a manner that shrinks that elephant down to size.

Ed Lipsit

Dr. Lipsit received his medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1975. Following a residency in diagnostic radiology at The George Washington University Medical Center and a fellowship in ultrasound at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Dr. Lipsit has published articles in radiology journals and texts and has lectured both locally and abroad. He is currently an Associate Clinical Professor of Radiology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Inova Campus. Dr. Lipsit has been extensively involved in admissions consulting and tutoring as a Master Advisor for MedSchoolCoach.

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