Interview season is underway. If you have received an invitation for a medical school interview, you are likely feeling a combination of excitement and anxiety. Fortunately, with some preparation the medical school interview does not need to be a source of stress. The good news is that by being granted an interview, your chances of admission are greatly increased. It is estimated that a student who is invited for a medical school interview has approximately a 25-50% chance of acceptance at that particular school. This is much higher than the overall acceptance rate- where some of the most competitive medical schools accept only 2% of their applicants. Therefore, take a moment to congratulate yourself. By earning a medical school interview, you have demonstrated to the admissions committee that you have the potential to be a successful medical student. Your performance during the interview day can help you secure that coveted acceptance letter.
Tip #1: Be Punctual
Although it may seem obvious, it is very important that you do not arrive late for your interview. Arriving late will give a school the impression that you do not value their time and are not seriously interested in their program. In addition, if you are in a hurry to get to your interview, you will likely experience additional stress that will negatively affect your performance during the interview. Therefore, give yourself ample time to get to your interview. If the interview is out of town, plan your travel arrangements carefully. Flights are often delayed or cancelled, so it is a good idea to plan to arrive in your destination city at least one day prior to your interview day. This will allow you time to make alternative arrangements should your travel plans unexpectedly change. In addition, arriving a day early will give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the city that you will be residing in for the next four years if you go to school there.
Not only is it important to arrive in your interview city on time, but you should familiarize yourself with the campus of the school you will be visiting ahead of time. Except for the rare instances where the school provides applicants transportation to the interview, you will be responsible for finding your way from your hotel to the interview location. Many university campuses are a convoluted jumble of one way streets and have minimal parking. You can therefore save yourself a lot of time and aggravation by planning your route in advance. If time permits, drive to your interview location the day prior. If you do so, you will be confident about where you are going on the day of your medical school interview.
(As an aside, most prospective medical students must travel significant distances for multiple medical school interviews. This is often quite costly and time consuming. It is often possible to save on travel costs by grouping interviews in the same geographical location together.)
Tip #2: Review Your Medical School Application
The purpose of a medical school interview is for a school to learn more about the applicant. For this reason, interviewers often use information from your application to ask questions during your medical school interview. Therefore, it is a very good idea to re-read your application prior to your interview. Be prepared to give details about information provided in your initial and secondary applications. For example, if you mentioned that you enjoy reading, be prepared to discuss the last book that you read. If your application outlines research projects that you were involved in, you should expect to talk about them in detail. In addition, if your application has any deficiencies, such as poor grades or test scores, your interviewer may choose to ask you about your performance in these areas.
Tip #3: Dress Appropriately
It is a fact that people tend to judge others by their outward appearance. Medical school interviewers are no different in this regard. They are much more likely to respond positively to an applicant who is appropriately groomed and wearing professional attire than one who appears sloppy and disheveled. Although your medical school interview is not a beauty pageant, you should carefully plan your wardrobe so that you give the impression that you are a professional who respects the importance of the occasion. The field of medicine tends to be rather conservative, so dressing in a manner to distinguish yourself from the crowd will likely not be well received.
The recommended attire for ladies is a dark colored skirt or pants suit. Jewelry should be unobtrusive, and complement the outfit. Take care to wear comfortable dress shoes. Although heels are certainly appropriate, your interview day will likely involve quite a bit of walking and you will have difficulty focusing on your interview if you are preoccupied with the pain in your feet. Men should plan on wearing a dark suit and conservative tie. Any facial hair should be neatly groomed, and men with long hair should consider pulling it back into a tidy ponytail. Both genders should make sure that their clothing fits them well and is neatly pressed. If possible, purchase a good quality interview suit- you will have ample opportunity to wear it in the future for residency and fellowship interviews.
Tip #4: Prepare Your Answers
Although there is no way to know exactly what your medical school interviewer will ask, it is possible to prepare answers to some of the more popular questions. Most interviews begin with some variation of the question ‘tell me about yourself?’. Be prepared to talk about your interests, goals, and reasons for wanting to attend medical school. In addition, you will be given multiple opportunities to ask questions. You should have several questions prepared that demonstrate your interest in the medical school and what makes them unique.
Tip #5: Be Polite
Everybody that you meet during your interview day has the potential to affect whether or not you are accepted to that medical school. Therefore, it is very wise to be on your best behavior the entire day. Remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to everyone you meet, including seemingly “unimportant” people like janitors or secretaries. Medical schools want to admit students who are well mannered; arrogant or rude behavior can negatively affect your application. In addition, mind your manners during lunch. Choose foods that you are not noisy or messy, and be sure to use the appropriate utensils while eating. Uncouth eating habits are off-putting, and you do not want to give a school a reason to reject your application.
Congratulations on your upcoming medical school interview. If you relax and keep these tips in mind, you will likely have a successful interview day.