Medical School Interview Experiences

medical school interview experiences

Sophia’s Medical School Interview Experiences: Nontraditional Applicant

Before the interview

I was a non-traditional applicant with three years’ experience post-college, including work and graduate school. Even though I had been through a fair share of interviews, I was still nervous. Being nervous about your interviews is a normal part of the premed process. To mitigate my anxiety, I overprepared. I hope the lessons learned from my medical school interview experiences help you out! 

Below are some of my pre-interview preparation tips.

  • Do your school-specific research. For each school I interviewed at, I had a list of reasons for why I wanted to attend that school. Your list might consist of specific professors or projects you want to do research with, particular volunteer opportunities you are interested in, certain aspects of the curriculum you like, and more. The more specific, the better!
  • Prepare a list of common interview questions (you can find a list here) and write out your answers to them. You should not memorize your answers because then you will sound like you’re reading from a script! But it is helpful to be able to glance down at your notes during the interview if you lose your train of thought.
  • Print out and bring the above with you to your interview so you can reference these notes if needed. 
  • In addition to packing your interview day clothes in advance, it helps to pack an “emergency kit” with important items like Advil, band aids, phone charging pack, an umbrella, deodorant (you’re gonna sweat!), makeup if needed, et cetera.
  • The night before my interview, I set out my clothes in advance so that I could save time getting ready. Often you will have to wake up extremely early to travel for interviews, so time is of the essence!
  • Of course, always arrive early. I generally arrived about 30 minutes early.’

During the interview

I approached my first interview like I was preparing for battle! Padfolio in hand, fueled by caffeine, and with pages of school-specific notes and answers to common interview questions, I felt ready to conquer. Being so prepared helped me minimize my nervousness and feel more in control. Being an over-preparer, I arrived at my first interview about 45 minutes early. 

After waiting alone for the first 20 minutes, other students arrived and chatting with them helped me feel less scared. It was reassuring to discuss interview experiences with the other students while we waited. And since some people say that the school is always watching you on interview day, it probably doesn’t hurt to be seen socializing. After waiting some time, we all followed a staff member into a conference room where they told us about the school. I made sure to take active notes so as to show my interest. Then it was time for our individual interviews.   

Here are my interview day tips for success.

  • Take notes as much as you can! At many of my interviews, I noticed that most students were not taking notes. It’s best to appear as interested in the school as possible the entire time you are there, so taking notes is a great way to show your interest as well as gather potential questions for your one-on-one interview, learn more about the school, and inform your future decision-making.
  • Try to answer your interview questions with information that you haven’t mentioned in your application. The admissions committee is going to evaluate your interview as just one part of your application, alongside all the other information you have already provided, so it does not add anything new if you use the same examples that you’ve discussed elsewhere in your application.
    • For example, in my interview responses I focused on my hobbies and interests outside of those that I had already put down in my application. And if you’re not sure if the interviewer has read your application, it’s ok to ask! That way you know not to repeat information you’ve already provided.
  • In your one-on-one interview, do not be afraid to be vulnerable if you feel comfortable doing so. In some of my interviews, I was asked versions of the “adversity question” and decided to divulge some personal experiences that were difficult for me. When this happened, my interviewer responded with empathy and thanked me for sharing. I think interviewers generally appreciate applicants opening up, if they are willing to do so, and sharing aspects of their lives because it gives admissions committees a more complete picture of the applicant.
  • It is better to take your time to answer a difficult question well than to jump to provide an inferior answer right away. I had to do this several times and when I asked my interviewer to give me a second so that I could think of a good example, they did not mind. In each case, I felt that the stronger answer I provided was undoubtedly helpful in presenting me as an excellent applicant.
  • When your interviewer asks if you have any last questions, make sure you ask a question! I always asked a question or came up with one because it made me appear more passionate about the school. I don’t think it reflects very well on an applicant to decline to ask follow-up questions.

After the interview

I always sent thank you emails to the people who had interviewed me (unless it was an MMI). I wrote a general template for these thank-you emails that I edited for each school. Using the notes that I had taken on interview day, I would mention specific things I learned, saw, or experienced on interview day and why those factors made me want to attend that school.

For example, in my letter to my current medical school I mentioned a local center for health disparities, current students’ focus on social justice, and specific research opportunities.  

  • Do this for all schools, even if you did not like the school that much on interview day. It is best practice to treat each school like your dream school!
  • Use strong, passionate language that connects to the interview and expresses your interest in the school. For example, “Speaking with you made me certain that [School Name] is the best fit for my values and interests and that I would contribute positively to your school’s mission.”
  • After you’ve interviewed and sent a thank-you email, try to take your mind off it. I know that’s close to impossible, but try to distract yourself with other activities because the admissions committee moves at their own pace. On the plus side, you now have great experience for upcoming interviews! 

Interview Day Routine 

By the time I went on to further interviews, I had developed a personalized “interview day” routine to maximize my success. 

  • For each school, I printed out a document of notes and my responses to common interview questions. At the top of each document I had a list of school-specific opportunities I was interested in, including extracurriculars, specific professors to do research with, etc. This was a helpful guide for questions to ask on interview day. On the first page, I also had a quick response to “why this school.” 
  • I always brought a padfolio (here’s a good inexpensive option) with a notepad, because I often had to take notes while not sitting in front of a table. 
  • I packed an “emergency kit” as mentioned above with medications, deodorant, makeup for touch ups, etc.
  • The morning of the interview, I would have a quick but filling breakfast such as oatmeal and fruit. I made sure to not eat anything smelly such as peanut butter.
  • When I arrived at the school early, I would review my school-specific notes to remind myself what questions I had for each school. Also, I reviewed my answers to common interview questions so that I could be prepared (but not sound rehearsed) if I was asked any of those questions. 
  • I always brought a water bottle with me because I found that talking so much was quite dehydrating.

 

Megan’s Medical School Interview Experiences: During COVID-19

While I was a “traditional” applicant in the sense that I applied to medical schools during my last year of undergrad, my application cycle was anything but normal. Starting with AMCAS application dates getting pushed back and MCAT dates getting cancelled and subsequently delayed, applying to medical school during the COVID pandemic led to uncertainty and changes in the format of interviews. All interviews during my application cycle were held virtually, a concept that had not been previously conducted for the majority of medical school interviews.

Interview Formats

Interviews were held in a variety of formats that for the most part mirrored the interview style that each medical school had held in previous years. MMIs, group, panel and individual interviews were still held virtually within various platforms. For MMIs, participants are typically placed in virtual “waiting rooms” in between various stations and rotated through virtual “rooms” with different interviewers for a set number of minutes for each station. 

I personally experienced individual (one-on-one) and MMI interviews virtually. I found that I was actually less stressed than I would have been for an in-person interview since there was no stress of finding the building or room where the interview would be held and no waiting in line, watching each person in front of me get interviewed and then leaving.

In addition, the comfort of being in my own home helped calm my nerves and allowed me to relax and essentially do whatever I needed to do to get in the mindset until moments before the interview started. While interviewing virtually may not have given me the entire experience of getting to see the medical school campuses and interact with faculty members and students in person, I feel that I performed better given the less stressful circumstances. 

Tips for virtual interviews:

  • Make sure you have reliable internet and a computer with a working webcam! Use an ethernet cable if you can, and test your webcam with adequate time ahead of your interview so you can fix any issues ahead of time. 
  • Test out the software (Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, etc) that you will be using for the interview ahead of time. Check your sound and microphone too- this is really important because you want the interviewers to be able to hear you and you want to be able to hear them!
  • Charge your laptop the night before or make sure that you can have your computer plugged in for the duration of the interview. 
  • Find a quiet spot in your home or somewhere else that you will be able to concentrate, and ensure that there won’t be any distractions such as pets. 
  • I listened to music until the minute before my interview started- definitely one of the joys of being in your own home! Do whatever you need to do to calm yourself down and get in the zone before your interview
  • Double check the time of the interview and whether there is a presentation before/after the actual interview. 
  • Make sure you have the documents you may need to check in with you- many interviews require that you show a photo ID. 
  • Virtual interviews usually come built in with breaks whether that is during the actual interview or between the presentation and the interview, so make sure you have a snack and some water handy!

 

Emma’s Medical School Interview Experiences

With a profound nervousness in the pit of my stomach, I hovered over the submit button on my medical school applications. At this point, in May, there was no way to know whether I would get secondary applications, let alone interviews. Once I received the first interview invite, it felt as though they came quicker than I could get days off of work. At the time, I worked full-time at Johns Hopkins Hospital during night shift, which posed considerable challenges for me in terms of logistics. I would need to request time off of which I meticulously accrued in advance in addition to scheduling traveling accommodations. Aside from this, I spent time searching for the “perfect” interview outfit of which, admittedly, was not perfect since brand new flats and my heel skin had a scuffle. The flats won. 

After preparing, traveling for interviews was a renewing experience. It allowed me the opportunity to show exactly who I am as a person as well as demonstrate what kind of medical student I would be as well. Based on my experiences, here are a few of the overarching pieces of advice I have for pre-medical students:

Practice. 

Whether you are a good communicator or struggle to articulate your thoughts, practicing only perfects your responses and evolves your ability to communicate with your interviewer. Being afforded the opportunity to perform many mock interviews for students, I have been humbled to see student progress between interviews. I, myself, can also attest to the fact that my latter interviews during the time I applied were likely better than the initial ones. Think of it this way: we are all guilty of thinking up the perfect response or dialogue and then it not coming out at all how we planned. This is where practice comes in to obtain both muscle memory and repetition. Over time, your responses will evolve and you will correspondingly be able to make additional connections to prove your candidacy for medical school. 

Prepare. 

At this point, you likely think I have not had enough coffee because I just told you to practice. Practice and preparation are similar though here are the differences:

  • Prepare your interview attire. 

    • Men: suits with a non-distracting tie, dress shoes that are comfortable
    • Women: pant suits or skirt at approximately knee length with comfortable shoes. Minimal jewelry or distracting accessories. 

Do not wait until the last minute to purchase a suit or find your attire. Occasionally, alterations will need to be made. This can be pricey, though remember this is an investment to your success and you will absolutely wear this formal attire again. Further, do not assume your attire fits from years ago. Try things on and practice in your attire as well! 

  • Prepare questions to ask your interviewer. 

      • These should be thoughtful questions of which CANNOT be found on the school’s website or other informational pages. 
      • Do not ask questions “just because.” We want to use your questions as a mechanism to also demonstrate your candidacy. 
  • Prepare your interview environment. 

    • Admittedly, for my interviews, this was more in the way of preparing travel arrangements. Though for interviews for this current cycle, you will want to prepare where you will sit for the interview and control what you can about your environment. For instance:
      • Do you have a good internet connection with a reliable and charged computer?
      • Will your family be home or aware you are interviewing?
      • Will your pets have a place to be to avoid excess noise during the interview?
      • Do you have good lighting and a neutral background?
      • Does your chair prevent you from fidgeting?
      • Will you need to request time off of work to complete interviews at home?

These are a few of the considerations you might consider prior to sitting for your interviews, though additional considerations will certainly depend on the applicant’s individual circumstances. 

  • Prepare yourself. 

    • Know the school’s interview format and incorporate this into your practice. As you will learn, MMI’s are rather different from traditional mock interviews.
    • Read through your primary and secondary applications to familiarize yourself with that of which you have written previously. This will give you a good idea of what you have emphasized thus far as well as where you can guide your responses from here. 

Thank Everyone.

Expressing your gratitude for the school’s consideration of you as an applicant never hurts. This includes writing personalized follow-up thank you emails to your interviewers to express similarly. Remember to be professional and thankful throughout the interview day since you never know who is watching! 

Emma’s Closing Thoughts

While I submitted applications early in an attempt to offset re-application and two gap years to acquire additional experience as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist, it was hard to know whether interview invites would arrive or not. Needless to say, I refreshed my inbox incessantly. When interviewing at the school I currently attend, I had nothing but positive experiences despite being tremendously nervous. Above all else, I could imagine myself at that school as I formed connections during my interview with those who worked at and attended the college.

Walking away from your interviews, remember that you have done all you can. Often the interviews of which I received very positive feedback and correspondingly thought I had a good chance of earning acceptance ended up being the schools of which I was surprised to be met with rejection. Similarly, some of the interviews where I felt I had not performed as well during the interview ended up being schools of whom were, in fact, interested in accepting me. Sometimes you can just never know. Despite this, going into the interview with confidence that you have prepared and done all you can is certainly enough! 

Good luck! 

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