So you made it through the MCAT, the general application, and secondary applications. First of all, congrats! That is a huge accomplishment, and receiving an invitation to interview is something to be proud of. The invitation to interview signifies that the medical school is interested in you, and thinks you are an eligible applicant. They want you to attend their school. Why else would they spend so much time giving you a tour, talking about financial aid, feeding you lunch, and showing those cheesy promotional videos? The interview is simply to make sure that you are as good in person as you seem on paper. So relax. Take a few deep breaths, do some yoga, and put on your suit, because THEY WANT YOU.
Realizing that was the biggest step for me succeeding at my interviews. Once I accepted that the schools had already approved my paper application, I was no longer nervous for the actual interview. I knew that I was not a psychopath and was totally capable of talking to people. I do that every single day. The people interviewing me are no different than the cashier I interact with at the grocery store or my boss at work.
They simply want to have a conversation and learn about me, though perhaps in a bit more detail than the grocery store cashier.
This does not mean that you should not prepare for your interview or that you won’t be nervous. It is a big step on the way to becoming a medical student, and it is totally normal to feel anxious. Your interviewers will understand that. So here are a few “dos and don’ts” for the medical school interview process.
- Think that they are going to ask you a multitude of scientific questions. I was never once asked a question about general science knowledge. They have your grades, transcripts, and MCAT in front of them; they already know the material that you have learned.
- Act like you are “all that.” Everyone they are interviewing has a great GPA, MCAT, and clinical experience, some probably look even better on paper than you do. Your interviewers want to see that you are compassionate and interested in becoming a doctor to assist those in need, not for the prestige.
- Ignore your tour guide or current students during lunch. Often these students will get to write an opinion about you as well as your interviewers. They can also be a great source of reliable, real information about the school you might be attending.
- Stress out too much! The school wants you. Remind yourself of that throughout the day. I promise that it will help.
- Drive to the interview location the day before if possible. This will help ease your nerves the day of and prevent you from getting lost.
- Ask the interviewers questions. They want to know that you are interested in their school and have thought seriously about your future education. A good question to ask is, “If you could change one thing about this school, what would it be?” or “What makes this medical school unique and different from other medical schools?” You can also ask the interviewers about their personal lives. I had an extensive conversation with one interviewer about the movie Braveheart as he was from Scotland. I now know much more about Scotland than I ever thought I would and have formed a connection with a faculty member.
- Dress nicely. Your appearance is the first thing that your interviewers will notice, whether this is fair or not. Wear a suit. Don’t wear heels that you cannot walk in. Put on deodorant, nervous sweat always smells the worst.
- Read your application the day before. The interviewers will have often just read your personal statement and other essays and will ask you questions about them. It is always better to know what you wrote, rather than have to ask the interviewer to explain your own essay to you.
- Practice. I didn’t have the opportunity to do any mock interviews, but I talked to myself on the way to the interview. I asked myself questions and answered them out loud, so I could sort through my thoughts and practice talking in a coherent way. Some good questions to practice are, “Why do you want to be a doctor?”, “Why this particular medical school?”, “What is a challenge you have overcome?”, and “What do you think the hardest part about medical school will be for you?”
Relax! You can do this.