Selling yourself in the Medical School Interview (Part 2)

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interview-successOne question that you should have a solid answer to before your interview is “why do you want to go this school, specifically?” If you do not have a reasonable answer to this, then it will be sure to leave a bad impression in the mind of the interviewer. In fact, I’ve heard that this is the question that interviewers pay the most attention to because it shows how much you care about going to their school. Your interviewer will not offer a candidate admission to their school if he thinks you will reject it or worse–drop out later on. So make sure you have some reasons lined up. In thinking up reasons, consider anything that stood out to you in researching the school. They could be reasons of locational preference, unique opportunities the school offers, or proximity to loved ones.

Afterward, don’t forget to send thank you cards to your interviewers stating your continued interest in the school. And try to mention an inside joke or a unique way you connected with your interviewewer. For example, if you talked about how you both played on a Rugby team, then mention that it was a pleasure sharing stories of hard tackles and injuries during our interview. “I’ll look forward to future conversations with you” and so on.

Another tip is to try to stay with a student host the night before. In addition to crashing at a person’s house for free, you can gain some valuable insight into the school. Your student interviewer will often ask about who you stayed with the night before, and then you can talk about the experiences you had with this person. It’s always a good ice-breaker.

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Some undergrads have asked me how much they should be informed on healthcare and ethical questions. I was asked about our healthcare system about 3 times in my 15 interviews and only once on an ethical dilemma. You should know generally how our system is set up and be able to compare it to a few other industrialized nations. It is a good idea to know some of the weaknesses of our system (cost, lack of insurance) and have some idea of how we might work on those problems. To be safe, you should be able to lay out the reasons for your position on Abortion, Euthanasia, and Stem Cell Research. Your goal should be to support your view, but still remain open-minded to other ideas. Be aware that your interviewer may be on either side of each issue and try to test you by citing counter-arguments. In that case, consider each objection carefully, but don’t back down from your original stance.

A lot of people ask me what kind of questions they asked. Each interview varies greatly in the types of questions. Mainly, because they are 30-45 minute conversations with little guiding framework. The number one most asked question was “why do you want to be a doctor?” Not surprising. In fact, this was asked by every interviewer I talked to. There are two ways to answer this question. One is to list reasons for why you want to be a doctor or why you would be good at it. The other is to essentially tell a story of how you were inspired to pursue medicine and what experiences reaffirmed your desire for medical school. Although, it should sound a lot like your personal statement, I would choose the latter. Stories are simply more interesting than reasons and they allow you to name reaffirming experiences that you want to have a conversation about. This gives you some level of control during your interview.

Remember, in the interview, YOU are in control. YOU set the pace. And YOU are a rockstar that THEY wanted to check out.