Hi there! This is the first post of a three-part series on how to prepare for your med school interviews. After attending 5+ interviews this past cycle, I wanted to share my interview experience and advice for med school applicants beginning their interview season. From the types of interviews you will encounter to making the most of your interview day, I hope this series helps you prepare and thrive on your interview day. Not applying this year? Read my letter to pre-med me here.
I remember my first interview invitation came in mid-July. At this point, I was not even done submitting all of secondaries. Some schools I applied to were still screening my application, deciding whether to send me a secondary or not. When I saw the words, “Interview Invite” in my email, I squealed, screamed, and proceeded to tell everyone in the car that I got my first med school interview.
Preparing for your interview:
1. Find out what type of interview it is
From my experience, the interview format was included in my interview invitation. If not, SDN interview feedback is an useful resource to check out. Some schools send out their interview day schedule a few weeks before your interview and other schools go over what the day will look like on your interview day.
Your interviews may be…
1) open-file, meaning that the interviewers have access to your file during your interview or have read your application in advance.
I had one interviewer that had my entire application (including the headshot I submitted) and highlighted parts of my application he wanted to ask me about.
A faculty member at a different school only had my CV. I was asked to elaborate on one particular research program I participated in.
2) closed-file, which means the interviewers do not know anything about you, other than your name and (maybe) the undergrad you attended.
From my experience, med schools that do MMIs have a closed-file interview.
You may have a(n)…
1) individual interview
2) group interview
4) some combination of 1-3.
Being an introvert and being more comfortable in an one-on-one setting, I did better with the MMI and individual interviews.
For the MMIs, you have two minutes to read, take notes, and process the question. Once those two minutes were up, I had six minutes to answer the question. Someone will come by and knock on the door, letting you know you had one minute left.
I’m naturally a fast-talker (and talk even faster when I’m nervous). One of the things I practiced beforehand was to slow down and pause after each sentence. I personally did not need the entire six minutes for any of my MMI stations. I used my remaining time to ask my interviewer questions I had about their school or I left the room before the time was up.
The MMIs I had were made up of 5-9 stations (including one break). Even if I felt like I “screwed up” in one station (usually the first one), I was able to regroup and do well on the rest of the stations.
Depending on your interviewer, they may chat with you after you finish answering the question, or they may maintain a cold/distant demeanor (supposedly on purpose). I had one MMI station where my interviewer did not make eye contact with me the entire time and that threw me off. I thought I said or did something wrong. Later, I was talking with another interviewee and was relieved to find out that she had a similar experience with the same interviewer.
I found it challenging to speak up during group interviews, especially when everyone was trying to talk over each other. One school also incorporated a group activity where they gave us a scenario and observed us working together.
2. Print out your AMCAS/AACOMAS application, as well as secondary essays for the school you are interviewing at.
Know your application inside and out. Print or have a copy of your application saved on your phone.
A couple days before my interview, I spent an hour or so going over the med school’s website and re-reading my application/secondary essay. I looked over my application and secondary essays in my hotel room again the night before and the morning of my interview. I found this to be helpful and it became part of my pre-interview ritual.
Know your school’s mission statement. The admissions presentation will usually go over the mission statement, but I found it helpful to reflect on how I fit their mission statement.
3. Practice typical interview questions
Having signed non-disclosure forms at all my interviews, I can’t share any specific interview questions I was asked.
That being said, I’m glad I practiced answering generic questions such as “why medicine,” “why _______(insert med school name here),” and “tell me about yourself.”
*note: it’s okay to not have a strong “why ______ med school” prepared. I found that the admissions presentation, talking with current students on interview day helped me formulate a strong, specific answer.
Ethical questions: I received a few of these (during MMIs and one-on-one interviews). I borrowed a medical ethics book before my first med school interview and I ended up not reading it. I don’t know how I did on those questions, but it seemed to me that they were interested in seeing how I think on my feet and whether I am able to see a situation from multiple perspectives.
4. Have questions for your interviewers
Remember that as much as the med school is interviewing you, you are interviewing them as well. If you are fortunate to have multiple interviews/acceptances, it’s important to figure out which school is the best fit for you.
If you are having trouble thinking of questions to ask, take a look at some of the questions I asked during my interviews or at some point during my interview day.
For med school faculty, administrator, volunteer physician:
What do you like most about working at _______ medical school?
What kind of student do you believe will succeed here?
What is the curriculum like?* (pass/fail, letter grades)
How many weeks do students have for board-studying?*
*this question was usually addressed during the admissions presentation
Why did you choose this school over other medical schools?
What do you like to do for fun?
What is your med school class environment like?
What clubs/extracurriculars are you involved in?
What service opportunities are available at this school?
What field of medicine are you interested in?
What was your experience like from transitioning from undergrad to med school?
How often do you have quizzes/exams?
How accessible are professors?
What do you like least about this school?
Where do most students live?
Do you need/recommend having a car?
Hope you find this helpful! Stay tuned for Part II!