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.
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.
-A great listener
-Humble but confident
-Inquisitive. A lifetime learner
________________ 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.