“Preparing for the Big Day” is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Interview Success. To download the entire free special report, click here.
When should you start prepping for your interview? As soon as you get that invite! So let’s jump right in…
Below you’ll find 9 tips to help you become perfectly prepared for your 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.
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.
Also look at what the school is known for – does it have an international or public health focus, a strong mission of treating the underserved and/or the underinsured, an emphasis on 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.
Your interviewer will likely ask you some basic questions on information you provided in your application and essays. It’s been months since you completed your application and 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.
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.
5. Consider how you’ve changed.
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.
6. Anticipate typical questions and prepare answers.
There are many standard questions that are asked by all medical schools. 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. (I’ll share a list of sample questions in an upcoming post in this series.)
7. Prepare questions to ask.
An interview is a two-way street. Your interviewer will ask you questions and listen to 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.” Instead, keep the conversation going by taking the reins of the interview into your hands and asking some questions of your own – but don’t just ask a question simply for the sake of asking one. Ask one that is relevant to your background, one that shows your serious interest in the school and your knowledge of the institution.
Two important tips:
1) Don’t ask a question that can be answered easily by looking online; and 2) make sure your questions are specific to your unique situation.
You’ll find a list of sample questions here.
8. 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.
9. Finalize travel plans.
Make your travel plans in advance so there is minimal stress around the actual interview. Do not go stand-by on a flight at the last minute.
Additionally, you should 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.