Applying to Medical School, Part Three: Interviews and What to Expect Next

You got an interview? CONGRATS! The ball is now in your court.

Getting an interview means that they like you on paper, and now they just have to see if you are the same person they read about on the application you submitted, and if you would be the right fit for their school.

If you got an interview, it means that the medical school either emailed you, or they called and then emailed you a confirmation, regarding the date and time of your interview.

Most of time, if you get an interview, you are notified anywhere from at least 2 weeks to 2 months in advance. This gives you time to prepare, whether it be brushing up on your interviewing skills, buying a plane ticket, booking your hotel, etc.

How to Prepare Leading Up to Interview Day:

  1. Know yourself. This is SO key to a good interview day. Read and reread your application and essays because more likely than not, one (if not all) of your interviewers will ask you about your experiences/your personal essay/secondary application, etc. Know why you want to go into medicine, and be confident in that reason.
  2. Acquire an Interview Questions/Discussions List. You can either research online, borrow, or buy someone else’s guide(s) to an interview questions/discussions list. I personally bought and used Why Medicine? by Dr. Kansagra on Amazon for less than $10. This is not an ad. There are many resources out there for you to use! Once you have the guide, take at least 30 minutes every day to look over some of the possible questions that you might be asked to talk about, and write down in bullet points some key things that you would like to mention in regards to a specific question.
  3. Record Yourself. Yes, I know it is weird to hear your voice. However, when you practice your interview skills by mock-answering a given question, the only way you will hear what you did well on and what you can work on is if you listen to yourself when answering a question. This also gives you the chance to try out different ways you can answer a question. The more familiar you are with how you interview, the better off you will be on Interview Day.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice. Have a close friend or family member ask you a few interview questions from time to time. Ask for their honest critiques and reflect on them. I know it can be awkward, trust me, I know. But, the sooner you get over the nerves, the better it will be for you in the long run. If your current school (college) hosts mock interview days, use your common sense, and PARTICIPATE. My university hosts multiple mock interviews and workshops, and I attended every single one of them so that I got to practice with what essentially is a simulation of the real Interview Day.
  5. Research Your Schools. Know their mission and vision, what they are known for, and a good gist of what their curriculum is like, etc. Know what you like and what you don’t like about the school. Doing this can open a gateway to a lot of questions that you may want to ask your interviewer or any of your interview hosts. Also, your interviewer just might ask you if you know anything about their school and why you want to possibly go there for the next 4 years of your life.
  6. Read up on Basic Ethics Codes and Current Events. You may or may not get an ethical scenario, so it is nice to have some knowledge about basic ethical codes that physicians have to follow. Also, you can easily be asked, “what do you think about our country’s current healthcare plan?” It would be a shame if you did not know zip about the country’s healthcare plan that basically dictates the profession that you are working oh, so hard for.
  7. Buy a Nice Interview Outfit. A good first impression begins with your style. For women, a dark, neutral pantsuit or skirt suit will do. Wear comfortable black shoes because Interview Day requires a LOT of walking. I personally bought my interview outfit from H&M because they are super affordable and they have a really nice collection of business attires. Not an ad. I do not condone their tasteless ad mistake of the past, but I still got my interview outfit from there to support their hard-working employees abroad. For men, a dark, neutral suit and tie with matching socks and shoes are recommended. I am not an expert at where to find the best and most affordable suits for men, but I would guess that you can find a good suit and tie at Men’s Wearhouse. Wear minimal jewelry, and this goes for both men and women.
  8. Groom Yourself. Ladies, get your hair done, nails done (appropriately), eyebrows done, and avoid cakey makeup. For men, get your hair (both on top of your head and on your face) and nails done (clip them at the very least). For all, do not forget to wear deodorant/antiperspirant. Just remember that this is the first and only impression you get to make at your interview, so look the part accordingly.
  9. Know the Location of Your Interview Check-In. I suggest that you drive to the place where your interview will be located at so that you can gauge how long it will take you to get there from where you’re staying, and so you are not confused as to where you need to go on Interview Day.
  10. Transportation. If you are not going to use your car, schedule an Uber/Lyft the night before so that you do not have to wait for the Uber/Lyft the morning of the interview. If you are not comfortable with using Uber/Lyft, ask someone you trust to drive you to the location. If you are staying at hotel nearby, ask the concierge for any shuttles that they might have and the schedule of the shuttles.
  11. Rest. You need serious shut-eye the night before your interview. You don’t want to be tired on Interview Day because it requires a lot of energy from your social meter. If you have trouble sleeping, take a medically recommended amount of ZzzQuil or melatonin supplement. I do not recommend this on a regular basis, and make sure to consult with your doctor first in the case of any allergies or medications that you are currently taking. If you do use ZzzQuil or melatonin, make sure you sleep early enough so that it wears off early in the morning and not later, and make sure your alarm is on LOUD!

Tips for Interview Day:

  1. Wake up EARLY. This is NOT the time to be late!! Usually, the building/room opens at 8 AM and the day begins at 9 AM. From 8 AM to 9 AM, you need to be mingling with other interviewers and faculty to get a feel of the place. You also need to account for the possibility of traffic and any unforeseen events.
  2. Eat a Healthy Breakfast. Some schools will have breakfast provided, others will only have beverages. I do not care if you do not usually eat breakfast, you are going to have a LONG morning ahead of you before you get to lunch. Plus, you definitely will need the energy. Eat up!
  3. Arrive Early. The early bird gets the worm! The more time you have to make a good impression before the day even starts, the better off you are!
  4. Be Cordial. I get it, these pre-med students that you are interviewing with are technically your competition, but honestly, mostly everyone is just worried about themselves. Plus, interviews create a level playing field for everybody. It doesn’t matter that he or she went to Johns Hopkins for undergrad and is currently doing research at Harvard Med – if he/she is or isn’t a good fit for the school, that is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Do everyone a favor, and do not be obnoxious. Nobody likes a braggart or a kissa**. Support your peers! You never know what they have been/are currently going through. Just be nice. There is room for everyone to become doctors. Seriously, we have a physician shortage right now.
  5. Bring a Small Notebook and Pen. This is so that you can take notes, write down any questions you might have and any contact information you want to save for later.
  6. Do Not Disturb. Nothing ruins an interview faster than a ringing phone from the interviewee (you). Put your phone away; this is your medical school interview, for crying out loud. You can survive a couple of hours without it.
  7. Listen. This is the time to truly get to know the school. Not only is the school making sure that you are a right fit for it, but YOU are also assessing if this is the right school for YOU. Remember, you have to spend the next 4 whole years of your life in the school of your choosing. Make sure you are going to be happy there.
  8. Speak from Your Heart. This is what my mom always tells me, and it worked out for me, so now I am sharing her words of wisdom with you. The best interviews are derived from those that feel as if it is a conversation, rather than a questionnaire. If you have a question to ask your interviewer during your interview, then go ahead and ask it, given the right circumstances, of course. This is not a theatre production audition where you have to recite a monologue word per word. Don’t try and memorize your answers because you will come across too calculated, and frankly, kind of fake. Be candid in the way you express yourself, and this will come more naturally through practice. The more you are familiar with the realm of questions that they might ask you, the more natural you will get at answering them. Remember, the interviewer is just trying to get to know you more so they can see whether or not you are a perfect fit for their school. Be confident in yourself, and be honest.
  9. Ask Questions. At the end of your interview, your interviewer will ask you if you have any questions for them. Make sure you have a couple of questions ready. Do not ask something that the Interview Day Introduction has already clarified for you. DO NOT SAY THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY QUESTIONS. This is a ROOKIE mistake. Some questions you can ask the interviewer:
    • What is your favorite thing about working here?
    • What is the culture here like, in your opinion?
    • What brought you to this school?
    • What do you like to do outside of work?
    • What are some unique things about the teaching hospitals?
  10. Be Professional. You want to become a doctor. A profession of integrity, empathy, and intellect. Keep this thought close to you with everything you do.

What to Expect on Interview Day:

  • As you walk in the welcome room, you will be handed your Guest ID/Pass and a folder filled with handouts, such as a brochure about the city, a pamphlet, a guide to the school’s programs and curriculums, a paper with information regarding where and what time your interview will be at.
  • Interview Day typically starts off with a speaker to welcome you and tell you a little bit about your itinerary of the day. The speaker will usually pass it off to another speaker, who will then talk about the school’s curriculum, additional programs that they might have, a virtual tour of the city, the school’s culture, students, and statistics.
  • Depending on how big your Interview Day batch is, you all might be split up into two groups: the interviewers and the tourists. Half of you will interview before lunch and tour after lunch, and the other half, vice versa.
  • Interviews have a time limit because there are many students to be interviewed. Also, do not be surprised if your interviewer (who is usually an M.D. or PhD or a medical student) takes a phone call mid-interview or is late. They are busy bees, and you should be grateful that they are interviewing you.
  • Some interviewers look tougher than others. If they do not show any emotion, do not be alarmed. As long as you have not said or done anything offensive, do not take it personally.
  • Although you are expected to be interviewed at an allotted time, always knock on their door first. Once they welcome you in, introduce yourself, and give a good, firm handshake.
  • Interviews can be held anywhere from the interviewer’s personal office or the quiet section of a library.
  • Tours are SO much fun. You get to learn about the school’s history, tour the teaching hospitals, see the clinical labs, test out some of the medical dummies, learn about the school’s paid actors to act as patients during medical school training, maybe see the helipad, etc. Your tour guide will most likely be a medical student, so this is also a good time to really get to know the school from a student’s standpoint.
  • Get ready for a lot of walking, so wear/bring comfortable shoes and a jacket, depending on the weather, of course.
  • Don’t expect too much out of lunch. A lot of schools are on a tight budget.
  • Believe it or not, the schools are now trying to woo you.

Types of Interviews:

  1. One-on-one. The most common type of interview. You and your interviewer will be alone in a private area, where nobody else can hear your conversation. He will ask you anywhere from 5 to 10 questions, depending on if your interview becomes a conversation that might get side-tracked, or if it is more like a questionnaire. Remember, we like a conversation that gets side-tracked! This type of interview usually lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the school.
  2. Panel Interview. This is where you have more than one interviewer in the same room. This will be more like a questionnaire, since it will be tougher to turn this style of interview into a regular conversation. Be confident. Be honest. Speak from the heart. You should be fine.
  3. Group Interview. You and a group of peers will be instructed to work together to solve a problem, play a game, and/or discuss an issue. You will most likely be recorded. There will be a proctor in the room who will not be allowed to talk or help your group. This interview usually lasts about 20 minutes. They are testing to see if you are a team player, or if you are just looking out for yourself. Make sure you get everyone’s opinions heard and that you are not belittling or talking over anyone.
  4. Multi-mini interviews. A set of small interviews, where at each station, you will be given an ethical scenario. You will have two minutes to read the given scenario, then you will walk into a room where there will be a host with a pen and paper. You then have six minutes to talk about your answer. They are instructed to keep quiet and a straight face. They are allowed to ask you follow up questions regarding your answer. Do not be alarmed if they ask you multiple follow up questions. They are just trying to get you to express your thoughts more. There is no right or wrong textbook answer to these ethical scenarios. You should probably be aware of some of the most basic ethical guidelines that doctors have to follow, such as HIPAA, etc., but other than that, they just want to know how you think critically in a stressful situation. The key to this type of interview is to THINK OUT LOUD.

Ex: You are a geneticist. A couple comes to you to get them and their son tested for a rare, genetic disorder. You test the couple and the son. Neither the mother or her husband have the disorder, but the son does. You are about to talk to the mother, knowing that her husband is most likely not the father of her son.

What to Expect After the Interview:

Pre-match offers. If you interviewed early enough, you might get an early acceptance offer from one or more schools. Check your email regularly.

According to TMDSAS:

“Prior to the match, medical schools may extend offers of acceptance to Texas residents for a period between November 15 and December 31.

  • Applicants may accept offers from more than one medical school during the pre-match offer period without the risk of an offer being withdrawn by a medical school during the pre-match offer period.
  • An applicant who receives more than one offer should decline any offer from a school that he/she definitely does not plan to attend as soon as that decision is made.
  • Offers of acceptance should only be considered valid if an acceptance letter is received. Verbal offers of acceptance or ranking are not binding to either the applicant or medical schools.”

In-State TMDSAS Ranking. Remember how I said the ball is on your court if you were offered interviews? It’s because you get to rank all the schools you interviewed at, 1 being the highest ranked school (the school in which you most want to get into), 2 would be the next school that you would like to get into, and so on and so forth.

In-State TMDSAS Matching on Match Day. In Texas, this occurs on February 1st.

How matching works:

On your end, you have ranked the schools in the order in which you want to get in.

On the schools’ end, they rank all of their interviewees from 1 to however many seats they have available plus (+) however many seats they have on their waiting list.

Bare with me, this gets tricky.

Let’s say John Doe Medical School is your first choice and it has 300 seats that it will offer on Match Day. If John Doe Medical School ranks you anywhere from 1-300, you will match to John Doe Medical School because you ranked them first, meaning if you accept their offer, that is where you will go. You are only matched to one school, meaning that when you check your match status, it will only show one school, and you won’t get to know whether or not you got accepted into all your other lower-ranked schools that you interviewed at. It is highly recommended that you accept your match immediately because it is not guaranteed that you got into your 2nd or 3rd or 4th ranked school. What do I mean by this?

So, say that you made a mistake in your ranking order and you actually ranked your most desired school #2 instead of #1. The school in which you labeled #1 accepts you, so you get matched to #1, BUT you decline their offer. Only when you decline your match will you be able to know whether or not you get into the next schools you ranked, in the order of which you ranked them. You find out that your most desired school in which you labeled #2 did NOT accept you and neither did the rest of the schools that you interviewed with. You’re not going to medical school.

OK, new scenario. Let’s say you matched with the school that you ranked #2. This means that you were not accepted at your #1 school (yet), but you got into #2. You will not know whether or not you got into school #3 and school #4 and so forth, unless you decline your #2 offer. If you did not match with your #1 school or your higher ranked schools, you may be waitlisted.

If you are waitlisted, they have until June 1st to offer you an acceptance. Even if you want to wait to see if you got off the waitlist, you should accept who you matched with immediately to secure a seat. You have until June 1st to be taken off the waitlist or be bound to your previously accepted school, meaning that if you got taken off of the waitlist of your dream school but you already accepted the offer from the school that you matched with, you can still revoke your acceptance, and accept your dream school’s offer instead, as long as it is by June 1st (in Texas).

Rolling Admissions. After Match Day, if schools still have seats to offer because some of the students they accepted chose other schools, they will offer the seats to that school’s waitlisters until their class seats are all filled. This is why it is important to decline or accept your offers immediately, so people on the waitlist can get accepted somewhere. You do not gain anything by holding onto multiple offers because you can only physically attend ONE school. Do NOT be selfish, and let others have the seat that you are not going to accept.

Out-of-State Offers. This is completely separate from the Match process. You will get an email and a letter of whether or not you were accepted.

I know that this was a lot of information to throw at you, but I hope you learned something! I literally dug through every bit of knowledge I have about the application cycle and organized it into four parts so that you have a better understanding of what you are getting yourself into. If you are reading this, know that I am ROOTING FOR YOU to achieve your dreams!

Waiting is the worst part of the application, but the view at the top of your acceptance offer is definitely worth every ounce of dedication and hard work that you put into this.

Good luck, dream big, and stay true to yourself.

Read. Share. Repeat.

“No matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will somehow make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things that you desire may not happen today, but that they WILL happen. Continue to persist and persevere.”

Brad Gast

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