Medical School Interview Information

The answers to all frequently asked questions about medical school interviews.

When do medical schools send out interview invitations?

The majority of medical schools send out their interview invitations during the months of October through January, but this is no cause to concern if you do not receive an invite within this timeframe. It is largely dependent on the timing of when you submit your secondary applications. Oftentimes, the earlier you submit your secondary, the sooner you hear back from the institution.

Medical school interview invite timeline

Most interview invites are sent between the months of October through January; however, it depends on when the applicant submitted their primary and secondary applications. Should one submit these documents earlier in the cycle, they should expect to receive an interview invite sooner than those who submit later on. Once the individual has received their invite and completed the interviewing process, medical schools usually send out admissions decisions 2-3 weeks after the interview date.

Late medical school interview invites

While it is most common to receive an invite by January, some schools’ interview cycle can extend into February or March. Do not be quick to assume that this means you were not as “good” of an applicant! Your application may have simply been reviewed by the admissions committee later on, and regardless, you should be sure to enter with a positive mindset and prepared with your best foot forward with the goal of becoming accepted into medical school.

Scheduling medical school interviews

Medical schools will often provide you with a variety of interview dates to select from that can be spread out over weeks to months. While it is recommended to select an earlier date, you should always consider when you will feel most prepared and what fits in with your work or school schedule. After all, performing poorly on an earlier interview is undoubtedly less desirable than presenting yourself as a stunning candidate in a later interview.

Chances of being accepted to medical school after interview

Upon receiving an interview, your chances of being accepted into medical school rise considerably. It is difficult to state an exact percentage of your individual chance of being accepted following the interview itself, as it all comes down to how well you perform and prove your candidacy to the members of the admissions committee.

Frequent medical school interview questions

Most medical schools tend to use a few tried-and-true questions. Preparing your responses to these beforehand will go a long way in helping you answer them effectively and eloquently. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Tell me about yourself: Make sure to keep your answer focused and relevant in the context of your candidacy as a medical student but be personal with your approach. Remember, this may be your opportunity to show a side of yourself which has not shown through your primary or secondary applications. Try to describe your background while tying in your inspiration to become a physician.

Why do you want to become a doctor?: It is advised to stay away from answers such as “to help people,” or “because I love science.” Instead, reflect upon the moment you wanted to become a physician, what did you feel? How did you view doctors at the time? Is there a particular health disparity or issue that you hope to make a difference towards? Keeping your answer unique and relevant to your individual situation will allow you to create a response that will stun your interviewer(s) and come off as authentic as well as genuine.


How do you handle stress?: Medical students and doctors are under a great deal of stress in their daily lives. It is in the admissions committee’s best interest to evaluate your ability to practice wellness in times of hardship in order to ensure that you truly will thrive at their institution. To answer this question, think back on a stressful time you went through, what did you do to stay healthy and calm? Do you have a support system you turn to? Briefly talk about these to demonstrate to your interviewer your potential to handle a difficult medical school curriculum. Do not be afraid to take it one step further and anticipate how having these coping mechanisms under times of stress have prepared you to be a medical student.


What are your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?: Pick a couple of strengths that will benefit you as a future medical student and physician. For your weaknesses, pick one or two and mention how you have not only acknowledged them, but also put in the work to improve yourself. Be honest and transparent with your weaknesses – reflection is a large part of a career in medicine.


Why would you like to attend our medical school?: This is where admissions committees will see how much research you have done on their institution prior to the interview or if this is another school of which you have only applied to in order to increase your likelihood of acceptance. Try to tie your own interests to specific programs or initiatives that the school has for their medical students to show them that you truly belong there. If you have been in contact with any former or current students about their experiences, that is also something that would be great to include! Is this school local to you currently and you have a support system nearby? Mention this as well! The goal is to show your interviewer that you are both passionate about their school and have a plan of what you wish to accomplish as a student there.

Your interview may not be limited to these questions, but this is a great place to begin your preparations!

Hardest medical school interview questions

There are a few questions that can potentially catch those who are unprepared off-guard. Knowing these ahead of time and composing your answer accordingly can help you to avoid any possible mishaps and allow you to sound more refined during your interview: 

  • Tell me about yourself: While being one of the most frequently used questions, this can also pose a great difficulty for students to respond in a manner that both answers the question and stays focused. By preparing a targeted outline beforehand, you will be less likely to ramble.
  • Why medicine?: This seems very simple. However, it can be almost too easy for students to give an answer that is overused and does not truly reflect their passions, such as “I want to help others.” To provide a response that will really show your interviewer what you hope to do with your career as a physician, reflect upon experiences and people in your life which have inspired you to pursue this noble profession. Developing an answer based on that is sure to produce something unique that will give the interviewer a better idea of who you are. 
  • Why not become a nurse or PA or another profession in medicine?: This question can be especially difficult to answer, as all of these professions have the aim of helping to improve the lives of others. It can also be tasking to explain your reasoning for becoming a physician while avoiding any negative attitudes towards another profession. The best way to go about formulating a response would be to first truly understand the role of the other healthcare provider in relation to the physician, and how they each tackle the common goal of treating the patient using individual skills they have gained through their unique training paths. From there, you can draw similarities between your own interests and skills, and how they ultimately would make you better suited to a career as a physician. 

How long are med school interviews

One-on-one interviews can range from 20 to 60 minutes. The length of the interview does not reflect your performance. Rather, the timing depends on various factors such as the number of questions the interviewer has prepared to ask and/or how many other students he or she has to speak with that day.

Questions to ask medical students

The medical student ambassadors/interviewers are just as important to interact with as the faculty. Oftentimes, they do have some say in whether or not a candidate will receive an acceptance letter to join their medical school family. Below are some examples of topics to ask about that will show the medical student your interest in their program, and excitement to join their ranks:

  • How they keep a work-life balance
  • Research requirements, medical mission trips, and community service
  • Life in the city where the medical school is located
  • Pre-clinical curriculum and preparation for boards (USMLE and/or COMLEX)
  • What factors lead him/her to choose this medical school

Caribbean medical school interview questions

Caribbean medical schools will often ask the same common medical school interview questions as those in the United States. However, there are a couple that may stand out, which you should prepare for:

  • What do you think of living in a different country?: because you will be completing your medical education in a country other than the United States, where you may have spent most of your life, Caribbean medical schools will want to gauge how prepared you are to move there. If you have ever been to the Caribbean, or have a desire to experience life on the island as you complete your medical education, this is the time to discuss it.
  • How did you hear about their school?: many smaller universities will ask this question simply to understand how you came to be at their institution from your original state/country of residence. Answer honestly, and avoid any allusion to Caribbean medical schools being “easier” than those on the mainland.
  • What does your family think about you moving to the Caribbean?: a move away from home is something big, no matter how far you go. As family often makes up a good deal of one’s support system in graduate school, the interview team will usually want to hear their input on your move to the Caribbean to pursue your dream. For this response, you want to answer with your true feelings, while staying away from going into too much negativity if your family is still on the fence about it.

Common medical school interview mistakes

On the day of the interview, many people find their nerves getting the best of them, causing them to fall into the trap of a few typical interview mistakes. Proper practice prior to the interview can help avoid this, as well as make you aware of what these mishaps are:  

  • Sounding too rehearsed: While you may have prepared your answers to various questions beforehand, it is best to avoid sounding as though you are presenting a script. As you practice for your interview, try to make sure you are giving your responses in a manner that sounds fluid, natural, and conversational.
  • Not knowing the contents of your application: Your interviewer may ask questions regarding specific aspects or experiences highlighted in your primary and/or secondary applications. Be sure to read through them and refresh your memory of what you wrote in order to effectively speak about your application during your interview. 
  • Not staying focused in your answers: It can be easy to ramble in response to a question such as “tell me about yourself.” Preparing an outline of what you intend to talk about for the most common questions can help you stay on track in these cases. However, be wary of sounding rehearsed, as stated earlier.
  • Not having a reason for attending a particular school: This question is almost inevitable in each interview, and it is important to make sure that your response reflects your knowledge and interest in the school itself. Be sure to read a little about the institution’s values and programs, so you can show the interviewer that you have done your homework on their school and have a clear goal in mind for your matriculation. 
  • Arriving late/dressing inappropriately: It can be easy to oversleep or miss your morning alarm, but make sure to avoid doing so on the day of the interview. A good rule of thumb is to arrive at your interview 20-30 minutes before the start time. Doing so suggests an aura of professionalism and interest in their school. Dressing professionally is also a big part of the interview. You have limited time to interact with your interviewer, and first impressions make a world of difference. Please see our “what to wear” response below for a more detailed overview of how you should appear for your interview!

Common MMI mistakes

The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format consists of various short assessments designed to test the applicant’s ability to handle various presented scenarios and questions. These require one to think quickly and decide on a plan of action with which to articulate clearly to the interviewer.

The most common issue that can be faced is often a result of nerves getting the best of the applicant. Oftentimes, the student may ramble in providing their response to the presented scenario and fail to make proper connections between it and their own experiences or opinions. The best way to tackle this would be to prepare prior to the interview by going through mock MMI scenarios. In these, you can practice such techniques as taking a deep breath to calm down before providing an answer, and drawing relevant parallels between your plan of action in the response and past experiences. Remember, like a traditional interview, if you fail to answer a question how you imaged, this is okay – do not let this weigh down your mind. Focus on the question at hand to knock that one out of the park!

Medical school interview prep course

Med school interview handshake

While we may currently be in the era of COVID-19, it is still essential to develop a strong handshake for future medical school interviews and beyond. Starting off with a confident, firm handshake, eye contact, and a smile as you greet your interviewer when you first enter will go a long way in establishing a positive first impression. Regarding the handshake itself, try not to make it too limp or overly firm, this is not a competition, and you should try to be as natural as possible. It would also be in your best interest to shake hands with the interviewer at the conclusion of the interview, smile, and thank them for their time. This will again cement a positive impression of you as a potential MD/DO candidate at their school. 

Should the interviewer for any reason decline to shake your hand, do not feel awkward or sheepish. Keep a focused mindset and sit down in preparation to ace your interview!

What to bring to medical school interview

There is no need to carry an entire backpack to your interview, but there are a few essentials you should bring with you for a well-prepared, relaxed day!

  • Folder/portfolio containing copies of your resume, personal statement, and any research abstracts you have written. You may also consider bringing a copy of your primary and secondary applications. 
  • Black or blue ink pen and a notepad. This is where the portfolio may come in handy!
  • Questions for the interviewer
  • Water and breath strips

As an aside, some medical school admissions departments arrange for a safe location for you to store personal items and luggage, should you be traveling for the interview.

What to bring to an MMI

The items needed for an MMI are exactly the same as those you should bring to any other interview. Please see our advice for “what you should bring to a medical school interview” for a more detailed outline!

Bring water to medical school interview

On the day of the interview, you will be doing a lot of talking. By bringing a neutral bottle of water, you will be prepared in the event that your mouth dries up. While coughing during your interview is not a fast-track to an immediate rejection, it does not present well to the interviewer. Taking sips of water when appropriate will help you speak smoothly and clearly. 

Another use of water in your interview can be in the event you need to take a little time to consider your response to a particularly thought-inducing question. Rather than staring into space, taking a drink of water as you internalize your answer can help you appear more composed in front of your  interviewer. 

Medical school interview tips

Medical school interviews are nothing to sweat as long as you have prepared accordingly. Here are some helpful tips to guide you in getting ready for your big day!:

  • Compose your answers to the most common interview questions 
  • Get a good night’s sleep prior to the interview day
  • Dress professionally and comfortably
  • Set a strong first impression by introducing yourself with a firm handshake
  • Ask insightful and curious questions, not just for the sake of asking a question.
  • Communicate with current students and fellow candidates in a kind and respectful manner 

Group interview tips medical school

Group interviews are often structured to not only learn more about the applicants, but also observe their interactions with fellow candidates. Here are a few tips to help you stand out in the crowd: 

  • Introduce yourself early on: The interviewers will be faced with a number of candidates to evaluate, and by introducing yourself early, you will not only ensure that they remember you, but also establish that you are confident and unafraid to take the lead. 
  • Listen to your peers as they speak: This is just one large group conversation; make sure that you are taking interest in what your fellow candidates are saying in response to certain prompts and avoid interrupting. Interviewers will take note of your body language and how you conduct yourself, even when you are not in the spotlight. 
  • Make sure that you balance leadership with allowing others a chance to contribute: Speaking the whole time and not letting other interviewees have a turn will give the interviewers a negative impression of you as someone who does not like to work with others. Group interviews are a good indication of how well you will collaborate with your peers later on as a medical student and physician. Giving your peers a chance to provide their input in response to a question, while also establishing your own answers, will display you as someone who will excel in a healthcare environment. 

Medical school interview dos and don'ts

Here are three simple “do’s” you should keep in mind as you conduct yourself on interview day:

  • Do: prepare your answer prior to the interview and rehearse how you might articulate them
  • Do: read about the school, what they value and their unique programs, initiatives, and curriculum
  • Do: dress comfortably and professional, and interact with kindness as well as interest in those around you

Here are a few “don’ts” that you should try to avoid: 

  • Don’t: sound as though you are reading from a script or come across as arrogant 
  • Don’t: busy yourself with your phone while on campus
  • Don’t: assume the interview is over once you leave the room

Night before medical school interview

The night before your medical school interview should be spent mainly relaxing and getting into a state of mind ready to excel. Lay out all of the items you will take with you to the interview, as well as your dry cleaned/pressed attire to ensure that it is ready for you to put on in the morning. Eat a nutritious dinner, and make sure to verbally practice your prepared responses. Most importantly, plan to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Having the proper amount of rest is essential, as it will allow you to present to the school sharp and ready to speak in favor of your candidacy for medical school.

How to ace a medical school interview

Medical school interviews are no cause for stress or concerns as long as you follow some basic guidelines to excel. Please refer to our outline of “Medical School Interview Tips” for more information on what exactly you can do to ace your interview!

Resume for medical school interview

In your portfolio, you should make sure to include a few copies of your resume. This will come in handy if you see an opportunity in which to make it available to your interviewers, or to refer to it as you respond to the committee’s inquiries. 

Your resume should follow the basic outline of your education, relevant experiences, research, leadership and community service, and your awards, honors, and skills. 

Portfolio for medical school interview

A portfolio is essentially a nice folder in which you will carry documents that may be needed on the day of your interview. This should be simple and in a neutral color, such as a black leather. Inside your portfolio, you should place at least two copies of your resume, personal statement, primary, and secondary applications. If you conducted previous research, copies of your abstract(s) should be brought, as well. Carrying a portfolio allows you to look more prepared, professional, and interested, which are important in establishing a strong first impression. 

What to wear on a medical interview

Your appearance on the day of the interview is just as important as the responses you give to various questions. Below is a brief overview of what you can wear to ensure that you are dressed as nicely as your application: 

  • Men: select a well-fitting suit in a neutral color such as black, navy blue, or dark gray. It is a good idea to have it tailored in order to ensure that the shoulders and pants fit properly, so you are not tempted to fidget or adjust your clothing on the day of your interview. Your shirt should be a lighter color, such as white or light blue, with a tie that is of a contrasting color in either a solid or simple, undistracting pattern. 
  • Women: you have the option to either select a well-fitting pantsuit following the same guidelines as the male suggestions above (neutral colored with a white or light blue shirt), with the exception of wearing a tie. You may also choose to wear a skirt with a neutral colored blouse; however, be sure that your skirt falls to knee length and your neckline is not too low. Dressing modestly helps exude an air of professionalism and will allow you to focus on the interview rather than adjusting to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions. Hair can be worn either down or tied back. If you have a habit of playing with it when nervous or in thought, it may be best to tie it up to avoid doing so. Jewelry should be kept to a minimum and simpler pieces should be favored. Nails should be short and kept either natural, or painted a neutral color.

How to stand out in medical school interviews

On the day of the interview, the admissions team will meet and interact with many hopeful premeds. To avoid being lost in the crowd, try to keep in mind these helpful tips to shine: 

  • Everyone from the school is part of the interview team: Medical school is not just a place to learn more about the human body, disease, and cures. Rather, it is also a home away from home, made up of a close-knit family. The way in which you interact with those who are a part of it outside of the interview room itself can greatly determine your placement, so make sure to be respectful to all you come into contact with. You never know who is watching!
  • Prepare for your interview beforehand and use personalized anecdotes: By rehearsing your answers to common questions, and paying attention to speaking them in a natural and fluid manner, you will come off as being very composed before the interviewers in what is undoubtedly a stressful situation. Mentioning your own individual experiences on top of that to solidify any points you make can further help the interviewer remember you in the midst of speaking with a myriad of candidates.
  • Understand what the school has to offer to its students: Doing your homework on the program prior to walking in on your interview day will provide you with an additional tool with which to communicate to the admissions team. It ultimately allows you to ask insightful questions at the end of your interview, as well as during any potential presentations or tours, effectively conveying your interest in attending their medical school. 

Thank you notes or emails to interviewers during medical school admissions interviews

Your interviewer will interact with and meet plenty of hopeful pre-meds throughout the admissions cycle! By sending out a thank you note to each individual who interviews you, you ensure that he or she remembers you specifically, and more importantly, allows you to thank the interviewer for taking the time to get to know you as an applicant. Try to have this sent in no later than 3 days after your interview. Here is an example for you to emulate:

Dear Dr. Smith,

Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me on September 25th. I greatly enjoyed speaking with you and learning more about Motivate MD University’s dedication to serving the underserved, which perfectly aligns with my own interests and aspirations to resolve disparities in healthcare across various socioeconomic backgrounds. I especially appreciated the on-campus free clinic, where I could both practice skills learned in class and further the efforts to improve the health of the surrounding community.

It was an honor to be invited to Motivate MD University. If you have any questions, or would like additional information to support my candidacy, please feel free to contact me at 1234@mail.com / (123) 456-7890.

Best regards,

Student

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Ravin is a mentor a part of our mentorship program for pre med students​

Ravin P., D.O.

2020 D.O. Graduate at NSU-COM

Background: Completed a 7-year accelerated B.S./D.O program

Michaela is a mentor a part of our mentorship program for pre med students​

Michaela B., M.D./MBA

2020 MD/MBA Graduate at the University of Virginia School of Medicine

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MS2 at NYU School of Medicine

Background: 99th percentile score on the MCAT

Emma

MS3 at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine

Background: Published Writer

Ankitha

MS1 at Wake Forest School of Medicine

Background: Has a love for narrative medicine

Sam

MS2 at the University of Minnesota Medical School – Twin Cities

Background: Minored in Global Health

Jackie

MS2 at the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine

Background: President of the Surgery Interest Group

Mitchell

MS3 at the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine

 

Nada

MS2 at Nova Southeastern University’s Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine

Background: A part of the Dual-Admissions program: B.S./D.O.

Lakshmi

MS3 University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine

 

Caroline

MS4 at Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine

Background: Editor for 2 years

Jamie

MS2 at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Background: Tutor for incoming med students