Your personal interview with a representative of the professional school does not take place until your application is complete and you have passed an initial screening by the admissions committee. Admissions committees usually consist of faculty of diverse background, position and motivation, as well as administrators and medical students. Their task is to choose the applicants who will make the best physicians. This is not easy because there isn't one set of qualities that make the best physician, and there isn't a foolproof method of predicting who will have these qualities.
The interview is the chance (often the last chance) for both you and the school to learn more about each other. You are there to convince them to accept you over the many others who have applied. The interview can also be the source of some anxiety for the student, but if you know what to expect, it can be a beneficial experience. To help you prepare for the interview, the Health Sciences Committee holds practice or mock interviews during the spring semester of your junior year. We will try to duplicate what an interview will be like by asking you some questions, and then we will give you our immediate and honest appraisal of how you could improve your responses. A letter of recommendation will not be sent from the committee if you have not completed a mock interview!
Actual interviews vary considerably, so it's impossible to predict exactly what you may experience. Some interviews are "open-file" when the interviewer has access to your complete file; others are "closed-file" when the interviewer knows nothing about you, in order to remove any bias based on your application. Your interviewer is there to find out about you as a person, and might be evaluating you in certain important areas:
- Motivation: Why do you want to become a doctor? What and who influenced you to make this decision? How has your experience in health care affected your professional aspirations? Have you demonstrated self-motivation and commitment to life-long learning in other aspects of your life?
- Logical Thought: Do you analyze a new problem in a logical fashion, understanding the consequences of each step and seeing more than one side of the problem? You may be presented with a hypothetical problem having no single correct answer. Realize that you aren't supposed to have the "correct" answer or necessarily agree with the interviewer, but you should be logical and be able to support your ideas and opinions.
- Extracurricular activities: What do you do besides study? Do you have many superficial interests or have you bee involved in some activities in sufficient depth to have made a significant contribution? Have you been changed or have learned anything about others or yourself from your involvement? Did you develop leadership qualities?
- Maturity: What major decisions have you made on your own? What responsibilities have you had? How did you solve a difficult problem in your life?
- Preparedness: Do you know what you are getting yourself into and where did you get your information? Are you ready to commit yourself to a career in a demanding field like medicine? How will you finance you future education?
- Open-mindedness: Do you see both sides of a problem regardless of your personal opinion? Will you change your mind if you learn more about a situation? The interviewer may challenge your opinion to see how you react and also how you support your point of view.
- Sensitivity and Compassion: How have you shown that you have these qualities? How tolerant are you of people different from yourself? What biases do you have and where did they come from?
- Goals: Do you have any besides getting into medical school? What will you do if you aren't accepted? What is your definition of success and where did it come from?
- Strengths and Weaknesses: What are they? What have you done to overcome your weaknesses? What are your good qualities? How will you use your talents to contribute to health care? Be prepared to discuss any poor grades you have earned or any inconsistencies in your application. Don't make excuses or disparaging comments about yourself, rather, provide straightforward explanations of the situation. Has the experience made you learn anything about yourself that would make you a better physician?
- Knowledge of the Field: Are you familiar with current controversies and "hot topics" in medicine? Do you know some of the "buzz" words? What are your opinions on social, political, economic and ethical issues relating to health care? What do you see as the most pressing health care problem of today? Newspaper, magazines, and medical journals can provide good information. (Visit the "Suggested Reading List" for titles and resources.)
- Poise: Do you communicate clearly? Do you use correct grammar and avoid slang expressions? Do you maintain eye contact with the interviewer and avoid nervous mannerisms? Are you dressed appropriately - neatly, professionally and comfortably?
- Sincerity: Are you being truthful? At the same time you are trying to stress every positive aspect of your credentials and personal qualities, make sure that you are always honest. Good interviewers can detect insincerity, and if the interviewer doesn't believe you, what you say is worthless.
- Show of Interest from You: You must prepare for your interview, since you will only have a short time to project an accurate image of your entire personality. Most importantly, get to know yourself and how you relate to your chosen career. Write down your honest answer to each question above, not so you can memorize them, but so you can learn about your motivations, opinions and characteristics. Writing your autobiography helps to start this process, but you need to do it now in more detail. Decide what you want the interviewer to know about you. You may have the opportunity to steer the conversation toward aspects of yourself that you think are important. Frequently, you are asked if there is anything else that you want to add to the interview. It's a good idea to plan a closing statement that you can present in answer to that question.
Not only is it impossible to predict what an interview will be like, but it is also difficult to predict what an impact an interview will have on your application. Even if it's only a small part, it may be enough to throw the decision one way or another. After your grades and MCAT scores are in, the interview is the only part of your application that you can still control! Invest time and effort into making sure that you will project yourself in an articulate, sincere, and mature person who is serious about medicine, and who is confident of becoming a fine physician (or dentist, optometrist, podiatrist, etc.). The more you prepare the easier it will be for you to relax and do your best job. Also remember, always be on time and be courteous to everyone.
As a last note, if you feel that inappropriate question were asked during your interview - questions pertaining to your age, race, gender, marital status, religious beliefs - use a calm and polite manner to let someone know in the Admissions Office.
BREAK A LEG (no, not really) and GOOD LUCK!!!!!