(Required by all medical schools and some allied fields)
How to Prepare
The final stage in the application process is the interview, and it is the hardest aspect of the process to fully prepare for. Data shows that the most significant positive factor in the interview is the ability of the interviewer to identify with the applicant. Another vital factor is the attitude toward interviewing held by the interviewer. You can assist, but not control these factors.
By the time of the interview, the applicant is assumed to have the necessary academic qualifications to study medicine. It is now a question of finding out about you as a person, to see if you fit their school, and to allow you to examine firsthand the school where you will be educated. This latter purpose is often overlooked by the applicant and should not be. It is your education. You should formulate some questions about the school.
Try to visit the school and have an on campus interview. Arrive well in advance of the interview; take a tour; talk to students. After all, not only must they like you, you should also like the school. Therefore, find out as much as you can about it. Admissions committees are generally flexible about interview schedules and able to accommodate a time convenient to you for out-of-state interviews, once you have passed the initial screening. You may be able to visit several schools in the same area on one tour, thereby saving money and time. To do so call schools in adjacent geographical locales and ask if they can accommodate your needs. If you can’t visit the school, interviews with regional representatives are sometimes possible.
Most interviews are positive experiences and quite routine in nature. Often two interviews are scheduled, one with a faculty member and one with a student. In general be prepared in the event that there is simply no feedback from the interviewer, or for a disapproving, antagonistic attitude. Some professional schools deliberately employ these tactics to test your performance under stress. Be honest; be prepared.
Questions Most Typically Asked
Note: some of the following questions (*) are of a sensitive nature or are not supposed to be asked of applicants; however, some interviewers may still ask them
Tell me about yourself. (Many interviews begin in this manner.)
- Why do you want to become a (______)
- What motivated you to seek a career in medicine: (Be able to show a reasonable progression of interest and personal motivation.)
- How much contact have you had with the medical profession?
- What sort of health care provider experience have you had?
- What experience have you had in dealing with sick people?
- What experience have you had in dealing with vastly different people from yourself (in terms of background/ethnicity/racial differences)?
- Is anyone in your family a (________)?
- What sort of specialty or career are you interested in?
- Where would you like to practice?
- Where do you see yourself in ten to twenty years?
- Why would you make a good (________)?
- Do you anticipate any problems with your professional school?
- What do you think would be the most difficult or unpleasant health care aspect in your training?
- What do you consider the most problems in health care today? What can be done about them?
- How do you feel about: abortion/AIDS/national health care/euthanasia/malpractice? (Be able to firmly back any strongly held positions.)
- What do you think is the most pressing problem in the country today? In your community?
- What sort of problems do you think are unique for new immigrants to the United States?
- What problems do you see for yourself or what are your weaknesses? – Your Strengths?
- If you are a woman (or minority) applicant: What special problems do you expect to encounter?
- How do you feel about marriage and establishing a family?
- What do you see as your biggest challenge as a future (_______)?
- How do you think your personality will change when you become a professional?
- Why do you wish to attend this school?
- *To what other schools have you applied?
- *Where else have you interviewed? Have you been accepted elsewhere?
- *What is your first choice in schools?
- Do you prefer a school with a grading system or one that employs a narrative system? Why?
- How are you planning to pay for your education?
- What kind of research have you done and how will it contribute to your career as a doctor?
- Are you interested in research or clinical medicine? Why?
- What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies? Expect follow-up questions.
- What do you like to read?
- What was the last non-required book that you read?
- What was the last movie you saw?
- What sports do you like?
- What do you do to cope with stress?
- How have you demonstrated that you can handle responsibility?
- What extracurricular activities have you participated in while in college?
- Describe your parents.
- What is your father’s occupation? Mother’s?
- Do you have any brothers or sisters?
- Do you have a close relationship with your family?
- Name one of your most successful events and least successful event.
- What three things would you like to change about yourself?
- How would your friends describe you?
- Do you think you were prepared adequately for college? Are you prepared for professional school? Why or why not?
- How do you think you’ve benefited from your undergraduate years?
- Why did you decide to pursue your particular undergraduate degree?
- What was your most/least favorite class in college?
- What’s the best part of health care delivery today?
- Where do you think medicine is going in the future?
- How should scarce medical resources be distributed?
- What would you do if you discovered that your roommate in professional school was selling drugs?
- If you were a family practitioner and a teenage girl asked you to perform an abortion with her parent’s knowledge, what would you do?
- If you were faced with two simultaneous medical emergencies, what criteria would you use to decide whom to treat first?
- What personal information would you like me to pass on to the admissions committee?
- Give me an idea of what kind of student you are. How do you compare with others?
- What makes you different from other applicants?
- We have a great number of applicants for a limited number of positions. Why should we choose you?
- What are your plans if you do not get into a professional school?
- Exactly what will you do next year in that case?
- Do you have any questions about this school, its programs, or anything in particular? (Know specifics about the school you are interviewing at and always have some questions in mind to ask them.) Most interviews end with this question.
Factors That Can be “Controlled” in the Interview
- Know about the school. See computerized data or read the catalog; see the curriculum director; take a tour; talk to a medical student; ask questions about the institution. Know why you want to go there. Applicants sometimes neglect to mention that they have relatives or friends in the area of a professional school. This can be a very positive factor because admissions committees realize that health professional students need a lot of emotional and moral support while in school. In fact, the presence of an “outside support group” can influence selection.
- Know about combination programs such as Ph.D./M.D. programs or graduate programs that may be available at the different schools. Don’t ask if there are any--find out in advance and, if you are interested ask more about them. This information is available in the suggested readings and in the catalogs. If you do apply to a combination program, you will probably be interviewed several times by representatives from the Ph.D. program. Be prepared for detailed questions on your research.
- Demonstrate that you are a good listener. Hear the question and do not ramble once you have answered it. Students forget that they are being “tested” for qualities that make a good professional, such as listening skills, and ability to communicate concisely.
- Review your total application, including evaluations. Most interview questions are about your application; this includes information regarding your family and your relationship to them.
- Be prepared:
- To be talked at.
- To be asked to just simply talk about you.
- To be confronted with a panel of people instead of one (rarely).
- To be interviewed by a medical student who wants you to prove you really want to be a doctor.
- To be asked a totally “irrelevant” question.
- To be interviewed by someone who has not read your file.
- To be kept waiting prior to the interview.
- To not have an answer for every question.
Dress for the interview should be professional looking. Remember the Health Professions are a fairly conservative profession. Wear clothing that is comfortable, neat, clean, and is considered “dressed up” without being formal or fancy. Men should wear suits or jackets and ties. Women should wear conservative dresses or suits, including pant suits. In dress, as in every-thing else concerning the interview, the key words are “be yourself but be realistic.”
*Information provided by Health Career Resource Office, MCD Biology Department, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Click here to return to Opportunities