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.

Check out The Medical School Interview Part 3:  The Interview Itself and Afterwards.