Five tips and tricks for the medical school interview day that will make you a more comfortable and confident applicant.
Stay with a student host
Many medical schools offer a student host program that pairs you up with a current student to stay with the night before. Medical students at each school are the most valuable resources – financially and educationally. First of all, it’s free to crash on their couch, inflatable mattress, or spare bed. Rather than spending $150 on a hotel room for a night, staying with a student host keeps that cash in your bank account. With primary application fees, secondary fees, plane flights, and taxi rides, any penny saved is a penny earned.
A student host will also be able to answer any questions you have about the school or interview day. Being in a new city can be intimidating, but staying with a current student makes the area friendlier. They can provide directions to the admissions office, show you the best way to get there, and make sure you’re there on time. Personally, one of my greatest fears on interview day was waking up late, especially when changing time zones. With a student host, that’s one less stressor you need not worry about.
Most importantly, the majority of student hosts are not connected to the medical school’s admission committee in any way, so they have no reason to be anything short of brutally honest. Use this opportunity to ask them about the strengths AND weaknesses of the medical school. Do they feel like the school is competitive, or is it collaborative? What is a typical day like? What do they do on the weekends? What would they change about the school? Are they happy?
That being said, these are medical students with busy schedules and heavy course loads, and sometimes they might not be able to keep you company throughout the evening. Be courteous and considerate to your hosts. Did I mention they’re doing this for free?
||Read: Secret Tips for Medical School Interview Success||
Bring a Padfolio
“What do I do with my hands?!” The best-selling professional padfolio on Amazon is under $20, and it adds a professional touch to your interview attire. In addition to looking snazzy, it provides functional value as well. With a padfolio, you can write down aspects of the school that interest you throughout the day during presentations, tours, and lunch. The programs and opportunities that the Dean and tour guides are proud of are the same things that they hope you get excited about. When your interviewer asks “why do you want to come to ____ medical school?”, they’ll be impressed that you’ve been investing time into getting to know the school.
You can also use a padfolio to write down questions that you think of as you talk with faculty and current students. It never hurts to get your interviewer’s perspective, and also shows that you are genuinely curious about the school. This will provide excellent material for the interview once your interviewer asks “do you have any questions for me?”
Wear a Watch
Interviewing at a medical school is an incredible opportunity and is integral to the application process, and thus every little detail matters. Keep your phone away for the entire extent of the interview day – your email, text messages, and social media can wait. This includes pulling it out to check the time. Checking your cell phone conveys boredom and disinterest. Admissions committee members and faculty are everywhere on interview day, hoping to meet you, and if they see you perusing your phone instead of getting to know their school, they won’t have a problem finding another applicant who expresses more interest.
The solution? Invest in a watch. Make sure it’s simple and appropriate for an interview. You’ll need it in medical school to take pulse anyway, may as well get used to wearing one now!
|| Read: What To Wear To Med School Interviews: Men | Women ||
Do some bathroom stall research
This tip is my personal favorite. At the beginning of the interview day, you will receive a schedule for the entire day when you sign in. If the school holds traditional 1-on-1 interviews, the schedule will most likely provide where and when your interview is, as well as the names of your faculty interviewers. Here’s where it gets good: If you are given some time to yourself and you own a smart phone, take the opportunity to look up your interviewers online. Why do I call this bathroom stall research? Because in the bathroom is the one place where looking at your phone isn’t being rude to others.
Now I know that this piece of advice contradicts everything I said in the last paragraph, but hear me out. Knowing a little bit about your faculty’s specialty, research, and interests can give you an edge when deciding which aspects of your application you highlight and how you guide the conversation throughout the interview. Does your interviewer spend 4 weeks a year volunteering in South America? What a perfect time to talk about the your travels to Peru! Have they published numerous papers on clinical trials? Discuss your own experience with and appreciation for clinical research! Are they faculty in a department you are interested in? Let them know and ask them why they enjoy it!
|| Read: How to Prepare For A Medical School Interview ||
Send thank you notes
Within 24 hours of your interview, send your interviewers a thank you letter via email. The note should start with a heartfelt thank you, remind them of some of the ideas that were discussed during your interview, and finish with a reiteration of why you believe you would be a great fit for the school. This thank you letter serves as both a show of appreciation for the interviewer’s time and remind them about the If your interviewer doesn’t give you his/her business card after the interview, ask any of the school’s administrators for the best way to send a thank you letter.
A great step-by-step for thank you letters can be found here.