Medical School FAQ

The Interview Process

4.1 How can I prepare for my interview?

You should do research on the school itself. Learn a little about the city it is in, the programs offered, grading policies, and instruction method (Problem Based Learning or traditional or mixed). Look at the school's information packet and their web site. If you're interested in doing research in a particular field during medical school, find out which faculty at the school are doing research in that area. The more you read about the school, the more questions you will have to ask your interviewer.

4.2 What should I wear to the interview?

Dress professionally in your style. This simply means to dress like you would if you were a doctor, but do not lose all of your personality (i.e. if you are a guy with long hair, don't cut it; if you normally have a mustache, leave it...you are not trying to produce a standard image, you want to be yourself).

4.3 Should I bring anything to the interview?

Bring a list of any questions you wish to ask (you will probably forget most of them if you try to memorize them). Always have a pen and paper on you. Find out what the weather will be like and bring a coat if necessary. Bring your application to look over between interviews.

4.4 What will I be asked?

This is largely dependent on the school and on the interviewer (in other words, on chance). Be prepared to answer questions about "defining" moments in your life--elaborating on what you do for fun, what your favorite activity is, what sports you play, and just about anything that interests you.

Some schools still drill you though, so beware (these interviews can truly be draining). Stress interviews (empty rooms with phones ringing, being asked to open windows that are nailed shut) are very rare. If you've done research, and it's on your application, be prepared to discuss it.

Many students have recorded their interview experiences at the Medical School Interview Feedback Page: http://www.med.jhu.edu/meded_feedback/.

Some commonly asked questions:

The favorite--Tell me about yourself. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? (this question is often asked)

What does your family think about this?

What is the biggest problem facing medicine today?

What are the disadvantages/downsides of a career in medicine, besides no time?

What are you looking for in a medical school?

What do you think about "insert current hot topic here"?

(HMO, PPO, Doctor-assisted suicide, ethical/moral issues of cloning, other financial issues in health care delivery)

What field of medicine are you interested in?

What do you like to do that isn't science related?

What will you do if you do not get accepted somewhere this year?

What are your strengths/weaknesses?

And, perhaps the most popular... 

4.5 "Why do you want to be a doctor?

" If you want to say "to help people," please just make that an introduction to a much deeper soliloquy! You can tie this answer to personal experiences (i.e. things you may have seen while working/volunteering in the medical field, or possibly an illness that you or a family member went through).

The key is to come across as someone who has genuinely thought through the decision.

4.6 What questions should I ask?

Ask anything you want about the school. Many times faculty or students may not know the answer, but will be willing to find out and get back to you. A good source of questions to ask is the Association of American Medical Colleges' pamphlet "31 Questions I Wish I Had Asked,"

4.7 Should I do anything after the interview?

Sending a thank you note is purely optional, and some consider it an outdated practice. Others feel that acknowledging time spent on your behalf is just common courtesy. One suggestion is to follow up with the admissions office, expressing your interest in the school.

4.8 What does "waitlisted" mean? What does "hold" mean?

The terms "wait list," "acceptance range," "hold," and any others synonymous with these all mean that the class was full, but you have been placed on a ranked list. If spots open up, people on the wait list will be moved up and offered seats in the class. In general a school will accept twice as many people as its class size when all is said and done. Also, even though waitlists ARE ranked, they do not have to pull from them in order, so if something about you really stands out (such as a follow up letter stating how impressed you were with the school and how much you would like to become part of their institution), you can increase your chances of getting in off the wait list.

4.9 What if I don't get accepted?

Try again. Trying 2 times seems to be the norm these days but after 3 times you might want to consider doing something else (there have been some people who have finally been accepted after applying 4+ times, but they are the exception rather than the norm). The most important thing to do is to consult each school as to why you were rejected or not taken off of the waitlist and ask what you can do to improve your chances. Follow their advice.

4.10 How should I choose what school to go to?

This depends on several factors. Important ones include location and what the school "typically" produces. In other words, if you want to specialize, it may not be in your best interest to go to a state school where most of the class goes into family practice. Financial issues are also a factor, as state-funded schools are often much less expensive than private schools.

Going to a school with an established reputation may be of benefit, especially when applying for residencies, fellowships, and positions in academic medicine. If you feel that you may end up in an academic position, or are considering a very competitive specialty, you may consider going to a "name" school.

If you narrow it down to two schools which are virtually identical, go to the one that feels right--that might be your best choice. How do the students at the school feel? Are they treated well?

4.11 What should I do during the summer before medical school?

Nothing at all. Take a deep breath.