Congratulations! You earned a great GPA, powered your way to a solid MCAT score and diligently showed up to all your volunteering followed by a well written personal statement. Now you are at the final and in my opinion, most important step in your journey to medical school. Obviously, getting into medical school is extremely difficult and competitive. The GPA and MCAT are the first things that get your foot in the door with your personal statement and reference letters accompanying your application.
After all that, you finally get the call that you have been offered an interview. Think of everything to this point, as showing them “I am smart and hardworking”. Everything from this point forward is showing them “I am a person”. Medical schools are becoming more and more progressive and are looking for applicants who are good people and are social enough to be part of a team. Yes you need some bookworm tendencies to get to where you are and no one is faulting you for being an introvert either. I myself am an introvert but the point is that you will be working with human patients on a team of human doctors, nurses and other team members. You have to be able to communicate and get along with those people. The interview is a way of screening for that ability. Below are some tips that I followed and wish someone had told me.
1) Always be “on”
This one should be obvious but just in case it’s not, don’t be an idiot. Be professional at all times. Smile and shake hands and treat everybody with respect. Don’t ever be arrogant or feel like you’re above others; everybody there is an incredibly hardworking, high achieving person. You do not know who you are talking to and what level of say they have in your interview result. If there is a pre-interview meetup or dinner, be courteous and don’t drink too much (if at all). Besides all that, just be a genuinely good, easy going person both on interview day and try your best in life as well.
2) Don’t talk about your MCAT and GPA
As we discussed above, the MCAT and GPA are the bare minimum to get your foot in the door of a medical school interview. There is no reason to bring them up at this point as they already know you are smart. If it comes up naturally or they mention it (they won’t unless your scores are anomalously low or high), then sure give it a second or two. But you don’t want “the biggest challenge” you’ve faced or “time you dealt with failure” to be those two things. Every other applicant also achieved high scores there so it won’t sound too impressive if those are the toughest battles you’ve faced (even if they really are).
3) Answer with stories, not “yes or no”
When you are inevitably asked “why medicine?”, understand that “I like helping people” and “I like science” can be themes of your answer but you are in big trouble if that’s all you’ve got. Every other applicant likely has the same generic answer. You want to captivate your interviewers with stories and experiences when you answer questions. This doesn’t have to be with every question but its the only way you get to show off the rest of your application and extra-curriculars.
So for example with the above question, my answer was “For me the decision to become a doctor came in pieces. When I was 10 years old my family moved to *city* from *country *. During my time here I was bullied for being different and felt rather helpless for this duration of my life. It was the first time I knew that whatever I did with my life, I’d want it to be centred around helping people. A few years later, my parents signed me up for martial arts to help me build up my confidence. Here, I learned the value of discipline and the long term commitment of pursuing a goal. The progress became addicting and I realized I love to learn. During this time I also saw my body changing because of all the changes I was making and this sparked my curiosity in the mechanics of the body and how changes happen within. This lead to me pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences and all of these factors came together in me deciding to pursue medicine”. This was my exact answer and it is all true. DO NOT EVERY LIE OR EMBELISH. Everybody has a story, you need to find yours and tell it in a good way.
4) Make it a conversation
Yes, mock interviews are good and practicing with family and friends is alright too. But the absolute best advice I have ever given premeds is “the more it feels like a conversation, the better its going”. Again, they just want to see that you’re a person and not some studying robot. Would I want to spend grueling residency hours with this person? Can I see this person being good with people in the hospital? Obviously be professional, but loosen up a little and have a chat with your interviewers rather than a stuck up interrogation.
5) Be humble
Yes, you have worked hard and achieved a lot to be sitting where you are. But the people across from you? 10x as much. Be confident in yourself and know that you deserve to be there but go in with the mindset of a student. Show that you are eager to learn and that you understand that medicine is a difficult, life long path of learning and you won’t ever “know it all”.
Hopefully these tips help you guys. As always, feel free to reach out.