Interview Tip: Prepare Questions

Learn how to use sample essays to create exemplary essays of your own!

An interview is a two-way street.

Usually when applicants prepare for their admissions interviews, they spend their time trying to figure out what questions will be asked and how they can best answer them. This is important and a good idea. But it’s not the only step to prepping for an admissions interview.

An interview is a two-way street.

Your interviewer will ask you questions and listen your answers, and then will turn the asking over to you. When your interviewer says, “Do you have any questions?” you don’t want to shut the interview down by saying, “Nope, I’m set” but want to keep the flow of the conversation going by taking the reins of the interview into your hands and asking some questions of your own.

There are two things you can do before your interview to help you come up with intelligent questions:

1) Familiarize yourself with the program’s website and other literature. Never ask a question that can be answered easily online.

2) Review your application. Your questions should be specific to your unique situation – your skills, interests, and goals. Questions about the faculty or clubs, for example, should relate to your own education, career, and goals.

Since your goal should be to come up with questions that are specific to your situation, I can’t give you a list of must-ask questions without knowing who YOU are. But here are a few sample questions that you can review and tweak so that the questions are more appropriate for YOU:

• How difficult is it to enroll in a popular class like XYZ? (Insert a class that appeals to you. Not a required course.)

• Do recruiters from XYZ (a company or a particular field that interests you) visit the school? How do students get interviews with recruiters?

• Are business plan competitions (or something else that’s relevant to you) open to all students, or are there certain requirements to qualify?

If you are interviewing with school alum or a second-year student, then you should ask questions about their experiences, for example:

• Who were some of your favorite professors? Favorite classes?

• What is/was a typical day like for you?

• Are there clubs or activities that you would recommend for someone interested in XYZ? What clubs are you involved in? How important do you think it is to be involved in extracurricular activities?

• If you could change anything about your experience at this program, what would it be?

You get the idea. You want to come up with questions that personalize you and that show you have an interest in your interviewer’s experience (if relevant). Be specific, show that you’ve done your research, and most importantly, relax!

Good luck and let us know how we can further help you prepare for your interviews!

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The 5 Most Important Tips for Your Med School Interview

For more med school admissions tips, check out our Medical School 101 Pages

You don’t want to draw a blank on the easy stuff.

Looking for med school interview secrets? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to discover the 5 most important tips for acing your medical school interview.

1. Stay informed. It’s important that you know what’s going on in the world of medicine. Stay abreast of issues by reading medical blogs and journals, and take the time to speak to doctors or researchers whom you may encounter during work or volunteer hours. Reading or speaking about current medical issues will help you develop your own opinions. Your interviewer will be impressed with your up-to-date knowledge, as well as the fact that you’ve sat and thought about your personal views on the issues.

2. Read interview feedback. Having some idea of what to expect on the big day will enable you to think in advance about how to answer common questions. The Student Doctor Network offers med school applicants excellent interview feedback that will help you prepare for your interviews and build confidence.

3. Study the school’s website. In order to express your unique fit with your target program, you’ll need to know as much as possible about the program’s mission, teaching methods, student body and faculty, research initiatives, and resident/fellowship placements. The website is the best place to start to find this information, but you should also reach out to current students and alumni to obtain “insider” information on the details of the program.

4. Review your application, especially your AMCAS and secondary essays. Your interviewer will likely ask you some basic questions on information you provided in your application and essays. You don’t want to draw a blank on the easy stuff, so read up on the basics so you’re familiar with all your experiences, including important dates, awards, relevant coursework, etc.

5. Reflect on death. End-of-life issues may make you uncomfortable, but it’s important that you’re able to respond to a question on the subject seriously and with dignity. Questions like, “How will you handle losing a patient?” or “How do you feel about euthanasia or a patient’s right to die?” should not be approached lightly. Your interviewer will want to see that you’ve thought about these tough ethical and emotional questions and that you know where you stand.

Good luck!


The Medical School Interview: The Interview Itself and Afterwards (Part 3 of 3)

Click here for med school interview tips

Make sure you smile!

What To Do During The Interview

• Make sure you smile.
• Maintain eye contact throughout the interview.
• Relax as best as you can.  A good interviewer will work to help you relax during those initial questions.  Ideally you and your interviewer will have a conversation that flows rather than a disjointed and strained Q&A session.
• Definitely don’t bring a cup of coffee with you.
• Try not to fidget.
• Take notes if it seems relevant – this shows that you are truly interested.
• Be yourself.  You can’t reinvent yourself, but rather try to shine during the interview with your best qualities.  That means:

◦ If you are animated and outgoing go right ahead and show it.
◦ If you are describing an experience that was particularly important to you, do show your passion.
◦ If you are shy that’s fine, but still try to find a connection with your interviewer.

•   Present yourself honestly.

◦ If you are discussing a weak part of your record, own up to your mistakes and then stress your improvements.  Don’t minimize your past, but try to move on to future positives.
◦ Be sincere, especially when talking about strengths and weaknesses.  Confidence is fine but make sure you include a touch of humility.
◦ When answering questions about yourself think about what you really want the interviewer to know about you.  What defines you?  Make sure you share those traits.   Show some level of self-reflection demonstrating a clear understanding of how you’ve gotten to this point.
◦ If you have had to come back from adversity share the experience.  If you are one of the lucky ones who has not had many struggles in your life, then still think how to answer an adversity question.  Adversity comes in many shades – physical, financial, personal and/or emotional. Each of us has had some degree of struggle.

Most importantly go into the interview with a clear vision of what you want the interviewer to know about you and do your very best to get those particular key points across.

What To Do After The Interview

As the interview day is nearing its end, you may find yourself with other applicants.  Try not to engage in discussion about your interview in detail.  These conversations only serve to increase anxiety and often lead to self doubt.  Talking about the school or topics you may have discussed with current students is great, but steer clear of discussing the actual interview content with your fellow applicants.

In closing, make sure you follow-up your interview day with a personal thank you note to your interviewer.  If you had a special experience with a student or student group and/or a non-interview faculty include that experience also in your note.

As you walk away from your interview day, take stock of all you’ve heard.  Think about whether this school felt like home to you.  Did it feel as if you could blend in with the current students? Did you connect with the faculty?  Did you feel like there was a place waiting for you there – a place where you could grow both personally and professionally?  If so, then all that’s left for you to do is wait patiently for an acceptance.

Not So Secret Secrets to Nailing the Med School Interview

More med school interview advice.

Sorry, there are no magic tricks to interviewing and getting accepted to med school.

Journeys with Joshua: Joshua Wienczkowski walks us through med school at East Tennessee’s College of Medicine with his monthly blog updates. Get an inside look into med school down South through the eyes of a former professional songwriter with a whole lot of clinical experience — thanks Joshua for sharing this journey with us!

Right now, every week, there are a slew of fresh faces coming to interview for a coveted spot at our medical school. They come mostly from Tennessee; many have done undergraduate work all over the country, had previous careers, and are very impressive on paper, but they all share one thing in common: a feeling expressed on their faces that hints at sheer excitement and terror mixed evenly. Interviewing for medical school is one of the most exciting things someone can do; the hours have been poured into taking classes, studying for the MCAT, writing the lengthy application, shadowing in hospitals, researching in labs, and often times neglecting personal life to become one of the few to don the white coat as a student doctor.

There are a few things that I feel should be said to students getting ready to interview for medical school. Just a year ago, I was in those nervous, excited shoes and suit, and I’m incredibly thankful for the mentors that guided me in the following ways:

1. Practice. Hours are spent practicing for the MCAT, why not practice for the one thing that could make or break an acceptance into one of the extremely competitive seats of a med school? Each undergraduate school has a career development center that is well versed in preparing students for professional interviews, both academically and industry-oriented. I always recommend setting up a practice interview with a career counselor, and gaining invaluable feedback on some personal quirks that aren’t always apparent to ourselves. A fault of mine is that I have unfaltering eye contact with a big, forward personality to match, and this is sometimes mistaken as aggressive and commanding to people. This was pointed out to me in a practice interview I scheduled, and I was guided on how to lighten up my intensity to let the more communicative, and expressive parts of me come across more clearly. A good way to practice answering interview questions and getting solid feedback is to work through Dr. Jessica Freedman’s, “The Medical School Interview” with friends and family. It’s a quick read and I found it helpful to hear my parents’ perspective with tidbits they thought would be important in telling my story while answering interview questions.

2. Read up! I’m baffled sometimes when I give a tour to interviewees, and some have very basic questions that are easily accessibly on our website. The ones I know have invested time into reading about our school already understand the mission of the school, and want to know more in-depth things like what the student life is like, what things there are to do in the area, how accessible and helpful faculty are, and they essentially are interviewing me to see if my little corner of the world is somewhere they can see themselves fitting well in. It’s absolutely ok, and I encourage interviewees to treat the interview day like a two-way interview. When I was in the hot seat, I asked so many questions about why my interviewers chose that school, why they like the area, and the pros and cons of that school. You’re the one that has to spend the next four years with your hands at the grindstone, so you should absolutely be invested in choosing a school that YOU see yourself at, not just one that offers you a seat. This is YOUR education, and I am a firm believer that you should take control and command of it, starting with the school you want!

3. Don’t try and impress anyone. What I mean by this is that everyone already knows about everything you’ve ever done, because those things should have been well articulated in your application and secondaries. When we invite students for an interview, we’ve already thoroughly screened them, scrutinized their credentials, and know they are qualified to succeed in the rigorous medical education. The interview isn’t to test academic prowess, but it’s so we can meet the person we’ve been reading about, are excited about, and see if we like each other. Come to your medical school interview prepared to show everyone the person you’ve written about in your application! We already know about your awards and what everyone else to say about you in your recommendation letters, and now we just want to spend some time and see if we’re a fit for you, and you for us. Be yourself. Be yourself. BE YOURSELF! Interview day is a lot of pressure, but it’s the most enjoyable and exciting part of this whole process, in my opinion.

Having just gone through the rigors of applying and getting accepted to medical school a year ago, all I can say is that you should be extremely proud of the obstacles you’ve overcome to reach this momentous achievement. There are no magic tricks or secrets to interviewing and getting accepted to medical school; however, being an honest person with the integrity that I hope you wrote about in your application, and showing that person to us as a medical school and student body is a fast-track to an instant acceptance. The people we end up accepting are the people that I want to spend the next four years with, through the good and the bad, and they with us. The person I’m willing to go out of the way for and write an email to the admissions committee is the person that would do the same for me, and is also someone I’d want to have a beer with next year. So, on your interview, show them that person.

Good luck!

The Medical School Interview: Interview Preparation (Part 2 of 3)

Check out these 5 med school interview tips!

Why do you want to go to medical school?

This is part two of our Med School Interview series. If you missed our first post, check it out here.

Individualized preparation for each and every school you interview at is very important.  Spend time reviewing the curriculum, the school’s mission, the facilities, the hospitals you will be completing your clinical rotations at, available community opportunities – everything that defines the institution.  Look also at what the school is known for such as having an international or public health focus, a strong mission of treating the underserved and/or the underinsured, a strong program in primary care or a strong research component to education.  Try to figure out why you are a good match for this particular school so you can honestly state why you want to go there. Go in to interview day ready to share what you feel you can contribute to the entering class and why you are confident you are a good match for this particular program.

In addition, there are many standard questions that are asked by all medical schools and again you should prepare your answers in advance so that under the stressful interview circumstances you are still able to maintain your focus and speak confidently.

First and foremost on the preparation list: know what you have written in your AMCAS application.  It’s been months since you completed your application so review what you wrote.  Don’t be caught off guard. If you performed research, especially if it was a few years ago, make sure you know the science of the project, what your part in the project was and where the project is today.

Secondly, think about what has changed since your AMCAS and secondary application submission so that you know what other information you want to make sure you share with your interviewer.  Include anything that may have changed in your application, such as your plans for the current year, a recent publication etc., so you can update your interviewer if necessary.

There are so many potential directions an interviewer could take so here are some of the general topics often discussed.

Initial Questions to Help You Relax

A good interviewer will work hard to help you relax initially so that you both settle and have a conversation, rather than a Q &A.  Questions such as:

  • Please tell me about your parents?  Your siblings?
  • How was your trip here?  Is this your first trip to our city?
  • Sports teams?  The weather?
  • What are your hobbies?

Standard Questions:

  • Why do you want to go to medical school?
  • Explain your transcript discrepancies from your undergraduate record.
  • Share your most meaningful extracurricular activity.
  • Describe a time when you were in a caring role.
  • Describe your clinical exposure –  Significant patient contact.
  • What was your most rewarding volunteer position?
  • Describe your research exposure?  What it bench or clinical?
  • Describe the activities you had during your Gap year?
  • Why did you enroll in a Post-Baccalaureate program?

Personal Questions:

  • Have you ever had to come back from adversity?
  • What qualities do you possess that make you confident you can be a physician?
  • What are your strengths?  Your weaknesses?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Who has had the greatest impact on your life and where you are today?

More Thought Provoking Questions:

  • Interviewers often challenge applicants with an ethical question which may be related to any number of controversial areas such as abortion, right to life, assisted suicide, Medicare, DNR….
  • Where do you envision yourself 10 years from now professionally?
  • How do you envision the field of health care in 10 years?
  • Do you feel the US is moving to managed care? Is this best?
  • Will physicians have lost all autonomy?

In closing, an interviewer will almost always ask you for questions.  Try to have a couple good questions prepared.  Don’t just ask a question to ask one, but do ask one that is relevant to your background, one that shows your serious interest in the school and your knowledge of the institution.

Stay tuned for Medical School Interviews. Part 3:  The Interview Itself and Afterwards

The Medical School Interview: General Preparation (Part 1 of 3)

Learn The 5 Most Important Tips for Your Medical School Interview

Do NOT go stand-by on a flight at the last minute!

The time is finally here and the medical school interview season is now beginning.  If you have an upcoming interview, you are one of the lucky ones.  Only a small percentage of applicants are interviewed. So if you have made it to this select applicant pool, then your admission chances have definitely increased.  Knowing this – what should you do to be best prepared?

Travel and Personal Preparation

Travel Plans:

Make your travel plans in advance so there minimal stress around the actual interview and definitely do not go stand-by on a flight at the last minute.

Make sure you arrive well in advance of your scheduled interview time.  Most schools offer a day long interview schedule therefore it is recommended that you arrive the evening before so you can get settled and relax.  Thoughtful planning safeguards against delays that could directly or indirectly affect your performance on interview day.

What to wear:

For the men, suits are most common.  You want to dress neatly and professionally. Applicants should have their hair groomed and it is best to wear business style walking shoes.

Women, on the other hand, do not need to wear a suit but often do choose to.  Some color is fine but make sure it’s in good taste – not overdone.  Applicants should not wear a lot of make-up or jewelry and they should definitely wear shoes that are comfortable.

The key is to wear something you feel comfortable in and even more importantly something you feel confident wearing.  Be professional.  Remember you have been selected based on your credentials on paper.  The interview is your chance to present yourself personally.  You want to look and act like a physician, someone that will be treating future patients.

Interview Day

Most interviews are a day event that includes a welcome session, a school walking tour, a financial aid session, a lunch and of course the formal interview.

Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early for the start of the day.  You definitely DO NOT WANT TO BE LATE.

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the big day.

Eat a reasonable breakfast so that your stomach isn’t empty but not too much.  You don’t want to have the stress of the day affect you physically.

Minimize your coffee consumption to keep anxiety low.

If you arrive to campus early, pick up a school paper (or other reading material) to keep you occupied while you are waiting and to get a more personal feel of the school.

Stay tuned for Medical School Interviews Part 2:  Interview Preparation.

Presenting Yourself to Medical Schools: Other Communications

Med School MazeIn the last part of our Medical School Reapplicant Advice: 6 Tips for Success series we discussed the importance of assessing your dinged application, especially your personal statement. Today we’ll talk about other opportunities for you to shine – not through the personal statement, but through secondary essays and interviews.

With the multi-staged admissions process, applicants can make an impact at each step – or be weeded out. Your assessment continues by looking at other ways you communicated with the admissions committee, and whether or not they helped you past the next hurdle.

Secondaries: Your secondary essays go beyond the initial introduction and flesh out your application. The questions asked will generally give you a good indication of what the program values. In your review, you need to determine how well the information you provided demonstrates your fit with the values and offerings at that particular program.

• Did you answer the particular questions asked?
• Did your secondary essays offer a new or deeper look at your activities rather than regurgitating your personal statement? Viewed alongside your initial application, do they create a consistent but broader profile or is there a significant divergence from what was presented before?
• Did you research each school to see what made it unique? Did you bring this information into your answers, even if it was not specifically asked?
• If you recycled secondary essays from another program, did you tailor it to fit the new program? And did you make sure to use the right school name?
• Did you integrate their particular strengths and offerings into your skill set and interests?
• Did you return the secondaries in a timely manner?
• Were your secondaries free of typos and grammatical errors?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, your secondary essays are probably not the source of your rejection. But if you aren’t confident of your answers, this is an area that you should note for your reapplication. Another sign of a problem is being invited to fill out a secondary essay, but not being invited to interview. This is a natural “weeding out” that happens throughout the season, but it indicates that your secondary essays need more punch to move to the next stage.

Interviews: If you were invited to interview at a number of schools, but didn’t receive any acceptances, it’s a pretty good signal that your interview skills need a polish.

• Do you think you practiced enough? Were you comfortable talking about yourself?
• Were you exceptionally nervous at the interview or did you feel at ease? If you were nervous, was it your first interview? If not, was there anything in particular that triggered your nervousness?
• Could you speak credibly about each program and did you know what made each one unique? Were you able to explain why you wanted to attend each program?
• If you had a multiple mini-interview, were you prepared for the format?
• Were there any questions that stumped you? Did you address these either in your thank you notes or in later communications with the program?

If you didn’t get any interviews, you should examine the issues in the sections above – you’re likely to find clues that explain your rejection there.

Finally, there are two remaining issues that have can significantly affect your application success:

Timing: Applying late might not be the only concern in your application, but your chance of admission declines as the season goes on. Those who start the process early tend to have much better results.

• Did you register with the AAMC and/or the AACOM in May and submit your application in June?
• Did you line up your recommenders early? Did you follow up to make sure they sent their recommendations in a timely manner?
• Did you take the MCAT early? Were your scores available when you submitted?
• Did you return your secondary essays in a timely manner?
• After an interview, did you send promptly thank you notes expressing your interest?

Answering “no” to any of these questions could signal a problem. Although some extremely competitive applicants do manage to secure acceptances late in the season, many more are “held,” wait-listed, or just rejected. Those who do apply later must face a larger applicant pool competing for fewer interview slots and, in many cases, fewer seats in medical school.

School Choices: It should go without saying that you need to make sure you meet each program’s admission requirements. But there are other issues to examine:

• How many medical schools did you select?
• Did you choose a spread of schools, including programs both above and below where you think you might be competitive?
• Were your state’s medical schools included in your list?
• Above all, did you consider your fit at these programs or did you just choose schools out of the blue?

The average med school applicant submits applications to 14 programs. Some submit fewer applications – if, for instance, they will only consider a particular geographic area – while some submit 30+. Highly competitive applicants can target fewer schools, but if your profile is less competitive, the number of schools should be higher.

How do you know where you’re competitive? Your basic stats are a good indication. Being within 2-3 points of a program’s mean indicates that you are a strong contender for that program – in other words, if a school’s mean GPA is 3.5, a 3.2 GPA with a strong MCAT score can be competitive. While it’s fine to deviate with a few “reach” schools, these should not make up the majority of your choices.

Also take a look at the percentage of applications accepted. Oklahoma State University accepts one in every 5 applications; Mayo and GWU accept one in 50. If all your chosen schools have a low acceptance rate, your profile will have to be much better than average.

Beyond your chosen program’s requirements, it’s also important to look at their admission preferences. Did you choose a lot of public programs in other states? Many state schools accept only a handful of out-of-state applicants. (And if your state’s medical schools aren’t on your list, this is a serious omission.)

Finally, take a good, hard look at your list of schools. Do you know something about each of them? Are these places you’d really like to attend? If you’ve completed the secondaries for each school and still can’t answer “yes” to these questions, that is a problem – one you can rectify when you reapply.

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of any missteps in your application. Unfortunately, addressing them is rarely a fast process. Often it takes years. Many people, fearing the time is ticking away, get impatient and reapply before they’re ready. Nine out of ten times, this backfires.

Instead, reapply when you are at your strongest. This will take time, but now that you have a good idea of where you went wrong, you’ll be able to focus your energies, enhance your profile, and ultimately submit a successful application.

In the next post, I’ll show you how to enhance your profile. If you want to improve your chances even more, take advantage of’s application review service to get a tailored assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.

Cydney Foote

By , Accepted consultant and author of Write Your Way to Medical School, who has helped future physicians craft winning applications since 2001.

Med School Blogger Interview: Danielle’s Journey

Danielle Jones

Danielle Jones

Next up in our series of featured med school bloggers is Danielle Jones, a fourth year med student at the Texas Tech School of Medicine and the author of the blog, Mind On Medicine. Enjoy reading Danielle’s views on life, medicine, and the future here in our interview and on her blog!

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to school and when did you graduate? 

Danielle: I grew up in the Texas Panhandle and went to college at Texas A&M in College Station, TX. I graduated in 2008 with a bachelor of science in Psychology and spent the next year working as an allergy technician doing allergy testing for patients.

Accepted: I see you applied to med school twice. What do you think went wrong the first time and how did you improve your candidacy for the second time around? 

Danielle: I decided later than average in college that I wanted to go to medical school and really was unprepared the first time I applied. I wasn’t sure what the process entailed and didn’t understand the importance of getting your applications in early. I took the MCAT that year without having completed Physics 2 or any upper level Bios and really just didn’t put myself in a very competitive position.

The second time I applied I had taken more science classes, re-taken the MCAT and gotten a bit higher score, gained significantly more clinical experience through shadowing and my job as an allergy technician and received stronger letters of recommendation. Another huge improvement to my application was getting it turned in early – at least for the Texas application system this is HUGE and always one of my biggest pieces of advice to pre-meds.

Accepted: How many med schools did you apply to? Why did you choose the Texas Tech School of Medicine? 

Danielle: I only applied to Texas medical schools, mostly because we’re on a separate application system and it just made things easier that way…I think that ended up being 8-10 schools. I was drawn to my current school mostly because of the atmosphere I encountered at interviews. The students seemed to truly enjoy both their program and their classmates. The camaraderie was obvious during my interviews and I just really enjoyed the fact that it seemed very laid back. Another huge point for me was the block curriculum. I liked that the students were in one class at a time, rather than having a full systems-based approach where each class covers a lot of different subjects on one system. I felt like I would thrive in the environment here.

Accepted: Has the program lived up to your expectations? Are there any surprises? 

Danielle: Absolutely! I think the first and second year curriculum layout was pivotal in my success during pre-clinical years. The students and our camaraderie was exactly what I expected and the administration and staff is wholly supportive. Overall, I feel like I attend a school that truly cares about its students and does everything possible to decrease stress and increase learning.

Accepted: Have you chosen a specialty field yet? I see you completed a clerkship in surgery — what was that like? 

Danielle: I will be applying to residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in September. I am so excited to embark on this new journey and can’t wait to see what lies ahead. My surgery rotation was…in a word…busy! It was very interesting and I learned a lot, but it’s definitely not the field for me. You can read more about my surgery rotation here

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? 

Danielle: The blog wasn’t initially started to document my experiences in medical school, but more as a way for me to document what was going on in my life and challenge myself to get back to something I loved – writing. This is why I still tend to blog more than some other medical bloggers about my personal life and I’m proud to share both sides of my journey. However, Mind On Med has definitely evolved into a great way for me to share my medical school experiences with others and encourage those who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine to go for it! I hope to convey a sense of work-life balance through the blog and I fully intend to eventually continue sharing with others my struggles (and hopefully triumphs!!) as a mother in medicine. I want to share my experiences with people who may be apprehensive to choose this career due to family concerns, which is one of the main worries I had when choosing this life for myself.

Do you want to be featured in’s blog, Accepted Admissions Blog? If you want to share your med school journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at

Working on your medical school or residency application? Learn how can help you polish your application so it shines! ~ Helping You Write Your Best

Med School Blogger Interview: Ryan’s Journey

Ryan Nguyen

Ryan Nguyen

Next up in our series of featured med school bloggers is Ryan Nguyen, a medical student at the Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific. He blogs about his medical school experiences at WhiteCoatDO and also ran PracticalPremed from 2010-2012 to document his application journey and strategies. Enjoy Ryan’s thoughtful answers and use them to help you make your way through the med school admissions process.

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to school and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?

Ryan: My name is Ryan Nguyen and I grew up in Huntington Beach, California. In 2012, I graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.S. in microbiology.

Accepted: How many med schools did you apply to? Why did you choose the Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific?

Ryan: I applied broadly to 30 schools all across the country. WesternU COMP was one of my top choices from the very beginning due to its location and history of placing graduates in strong residency programs. On my interview day, I got a strong sense that WesternU students were well supported but also challenged to realize their full potential as future healthcare leaders. This pushed me to choose WesternU over the other programs where I had acceptances.

Accepted: What is the major difference between osteopathic medicine (a DO) and allopathic medicine (an MD)? Did you only consider osteopathic programs?

Ryan: According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, osteopathic medicine “provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of therapy known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.”

Additionally, Harrison’s Principles Of Internal Medicine states that “the training, practice, credentialing, licensure, and reimbursement of osteopathic physicians is virtually indistinguishable from those of allopathic (MD) physicians, with 4 years of osteopathic medical school followed by specialty and subspecialty training and [board] certification.” The major difference in curriculum is that DO schools teach 300-500 hours of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM).

Applying to both MD and DO schools was an easy choice for me as I had both incredible allopathic and osteopathic physician mentors through my premed years.

Accepted: What do you think is the smartest move you made during the med school application process? What do you think you could have done better?

Ryan: I knew my stats weren’t going to wow any admission committees, so I put a lot of effort into interview preparation. For each interview, I’d spend a couple hours researching the school’s specific SDN Interview Feedback site as well as the school’s official website. This gave me a feel for the type of questions they asked and what they were looking for in applicants. Did they focus on being at the forefront of the research field, producing the next generation of healthcare leaders, or bolstering the nation’s primary care workforce?  From this, I tailored my experiences into specific talking points I could strategically bring up during the interview. For example, if a school’s website said they were looking to produce healthcare leaders, I’d make sure to bring up a specific example of a time when I took initiative and was a leader.

Another strategy that helped for interview prep was doing mock interviews with a couple different people, all with different personalities. I’d give them a cup of coffee and a list of commonly asked interview questions, but also told them to ask any other question they felt was appropriate. These mock interviews were where I really developed my interviewing style, as I could get instant feedback on answers and mannerisms. For example, when I briefly mentioned in passing that I’d like to get involved in healthcare policy in the future, one of my mock interviewers grilled me for five minutes to expose that I didn’t really know much about the topic. After that experience, I worked on becoming a more disciplined interviewer and sticking to my strong points (and also reading more about healthcare policy). Over time, these sessions allowed me to “warm-up” and walk into my real interviews with confidence.

I think something I definitely could have done better during the application process was managing my nerves and mental state while waiting to hear back from schools. Especially while waiting post-interview, I became a nervous wreck and a bit of a pain to be around (just ask my girlfriend). The thought that a decision could come through email/phone/mail at any moment was nearly always lurking in the back of my mind, and it was definitely a mental distraction I could have managed better.

Accepted: Have you had any exposure to the medical/healthcare field or clinical experience? How important do you think it is to experience the world of medicine before deciding to become a doctor?

Ryan: The summer before college I worked the front desk of a medical clinic and I also spent a year volunteering in the Emergency Department of the local hospital next to my school. However, the best clinical experience I had, by far, was volunteering and interning for a local non-profit, Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine. The doctors, nurses, and other professionals volunteering for the non-profit would go out of their way to help students, and the experience was incredibly rewarding. If you find yourself stuck in a rut in a typical medical experience, I’d highly recommend getting involved with a non-profit in your area!

Accepted: Can you tell us about your two websites? Who is your target audience? Why did you decide to blog about your experience?

Ryan: Bored and frustrated by the “typical” premed experiences I was getting in college, I started PracticalPremed in 2010 to engage with other premeds online. For some reason, people actually enjoyed reading my blog, and so I started posting more articles about the strategies I used during the application process. PracticalPremed is ideally for medical school applicants, and the thank you emails I get from readers make all the work put into the website worth it.

WhiteCoatDO is a brand new website I launched to document my journey through medical school. With the number of osteopathic medical students growing every year, I wanted to create a resource for future DO students to read. I’ve found blogging to be a fantastic creative outlet, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to parlay these experiences into a book.

Do you want to be featured in’s blog, Accepted Admissions Blog? If you want to share your med school journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at

Working on your medical school or residency application? Learn how can help you polish your application so it shines! ~ Helping You Write Your Best

5 Personal Statement Tips for Residency Applicants

Proofread Your Personal Statement


1.       Focus on what attracts you to this particular specialty. This isn’t the place to tell your full life story, or to rehash the story of why you decided to become a doctor. Instead, explain how you became interested in your specialty, and show you have the skills and personal qualities to succeed in the residency you’re seeking.

2.       Be specific. Draw on concrete examples from your experiences to illustrate your points. Was there a particular experience during a rotation that made you realize this specialty was for you? Did you have an especially memorable interaction with a patient or a mentor? What skills have you developed that will help you succeed?

3.       …But don’t just put your CV into prose! Your residency personal statement is not the place to simply list accomplishments from your CV. (Let your CV do that job!) This is your opportunity to tell a coherent story about your experience and goals—a story that provides context for the rest of your application.

4.       Be alert to your tone. You don’t want to sound arrogant (after all, your readers are considering you as a potential colleague). Describe your skills confidently, but be aware of the line between confidence and arrogance. For example, it can be very off-putting to a reader if you talk about how work was too easy for you (in a way that makes it sound like you think you’re more accomplished than everyone you worked with!) or if you claim to be the “best” or the “only.” Likewise, be careful of presenting your chosen specialty as the BEST one, or the only one a really smart or accomplished person would pursue– it’s the best choice for you! It’s a good idea to ask someone else to read your essay—ask them if you sound enthusiastic and confident, or if you’ve crossed the line into arrogance.

5.       Proofread! Make sure you avoid careless mistakes. One way to catch errors: take a step back and then return to your essay after a short break. You’ll be more likely to see things that you might miss when you’re tired. Another tip: read your essay aloud. This forces you to slow down, and you’re more likely to catch awkward phrases, typos, etc. Your ear will pick up what your eye previously missed on the screen.

Rebecca BlusteinBy Dr. Rebecca Blustein, author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your residency and/or fellowship personal statements.