Medical school interviews - common errors of applicants part 3

Problem Area 3: Interviews

Interviews are the third area where applicants often fall short. “The interview experience can be highly variable,” Dr. Goldmakher notes. “You can predict some of the standard questions you'll be asked, but some interviewers will also use the time just to see if you can establish communication and rapport. Others will press you hard on your reasons for going into medicine, or even ask you to discuss some of the dilemmas you might encounter during the course of your practice.”

Although preparation will help your interview performance, it’s wise to avoid drilling yourself so much that you come across as ‘over-rehearsed.’ “It's important to have key points you can get across during the interview,” says Dr. Goldmakher. “But you don’t want to sound too rehearsed or mechanical, even if you are talking about

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something you've gone over a thousand times.”

Dr. Edney agrees that self-presentation makes a big difference in interview outcomes. “I interviewed several applicants at Dartmouth who were rock stars on paper but in person were boring, without personality, not willing or able to talk openly or to share their opinions and views,” he says.

“My advice to applicants going into interviews is basic: Be honest. Be yourself. Smile. Be receptive to humor. You don’t have to be a comedian, but show your personality.”

Referring to his experience as an interviewer, Dr. Edney notes that, “Many of us apply what we call ‘the mommy test’ in admissions interviews. We ask ourselves, ‘Would I want to bring my sick mother to this person for medical care?’

“Communication with patients and their families is part and parcel of being a physician,” he continues. “If you can’t talk and use emotion and listen and respond, you lack a key ingredient for being a good physician. Your interview is your chance to show you can do those things. You can get better at demonstrating these abilities if you need to. Practice.”

Dr. Wu notes that even the best-prepared applicants can come away from their interviews with a waitlist decision. Although this is inevitably a disappointing outcome for the applicant, “Being waitlisted to medical school is never completely bad news. It gives you another chance to win admission.”

Dr. Wu encourages waitlisted applicants to avoid making a final applicant blunder: passivity. Waitlisted applicants are much better off taking a proactive approach. “You’ll improve your chances of winning admission if you convince the school that you were made for each other,” Dr. Wu says. “Tell the admissions committee about your recent achievements. Submit updated grades. Ask your professors if they can put in a good word for you with someone they know at the school. Call the person who interviewed you and ask for their advice. And learn more about the school – ask if you can meet current students, observe classes, or speak with someone about your candidacy. The more interest you show in the program, the more likely you are to be the waitlisted candidate who gets a call when a class space opens up.”


About the Author Ann Driscoll writes for AdmissionsConsultants, an organization that provides admissions advice to premeds from physicians who have been on medical school admissions committees. For a 10% discount on their services, use studentdoc.com discount code NUCA.