Since medical schools are inundated with applications, most admissions committees use the interview as the final cut. Whereas the initial step in the admissions process (reviewing your numbers) may seem impersonal, the interview introduces an element of humanity—it’s where you can let your personality and charm shine through.
Once you have reached the interview stage, the academic credentials of the group are probably pretty comparable. The quality of your interview may make the difference. Remember, once granted an interview, your fate is in your own hands. So by all means, be prepared.
Many students go into their first few interviews completely unprepared, hoping to get the hang of it as they go along. Few people would attempt to run a marathon (or take the MCAT) untrained. The same principle applies here. You want to anticipate the questions and formulate the key points of your responses, maximizing your potential for success.
More often than not, the interviewer will base his or her questions on your personal statement and your med school application. This is especially true if you have an “open file” interview where the interviewer sees your application beforehand.
On occasion, an interviewer may ask you to comment on a medically-related current event or ethical issue. It’s not expected that you be an expert on these topics—just that you have thought about them and have something reasonably intelligent to share.
Mock interviews are invaluable trial runs. Have someone evaluate your speaking style, the content of your answers, your body language, and your overall presentation. Some colleges offer mock interviews, so check with your pre-med advisor or career center. Even if a formal mock interview is not available, you can always have a friend or relative act as the interviewer and evaluate your performance. Honest feedback will help you realize if you speak too quickly or softly or if you should enunciate more clearly, etc.
Whether you like it or not, your physical appearance will be the first impression you make on the interviewers. You want to be remembered as the self-confident candidate with loads of charm and wit, not the one with the wacky hat or braided facial hair.
Be Early for Your Med School Interview
Interview invitations usually begin to arrive in the late summer or early fall. The sooner you have your interview with a school, the sooner you’ll be considered for acceptance, so schedule the interviews as early as possible.
Financial reasons may compel you to schedule groups of interviews in particular geographical regions. Do not hesitate to request alternate dates if available; this can save you considerable time and money.
Try to arrive the night before the interview in order to familiarize yourself with the area and the school. This will also give you the opportunity to unwind and get a good night’s sleep. Nothing is more underwhelming than an inattentive and dreary-eyed applicant.