If you have completed your secondary medical school applications and been offered an interview, congratulations! If you have been offered an interview, go.
You never really know about a school until you have been there in the flesh, and an interview is a fact-finding mission. As the applicant, you are trying to assess the school's potential to fit your needs.
Interviews offer the chance to determine if a student likes the school and gain a sense of whether the students feel happy and supported. An interview is an opportunity to confirm suspicions or refute myths, so bring an open mind and come prepared.
Drive to the interview site the day before your appointment so you know where you are going and where to park. The day of the interview, arrive early, relax and take a deep breath before walking into the building.
Be sure to take a minute to use the bathroom before you begin. You should also wear comfortable shoes to avoid foot pain, as the interview day can be full of walking.
Keep in mind that you are under a microscope from the moment you enter the parking lot. Everyone, everywhere is watching you on some level. This includes the student who escorts you from place to place and the administrative assistant in the admissions office.
Each and every person involved in the interview process will be assessing you, the applicant. Bad interactions are memorable and communicated among the admissions staff.
Nervousness is OK during an interview. Remember, it's a conversation with another human being – exude warmth and think positive thoughts. This is an opportunity to sell your best product: you!
[Take time to highlight compassion in your medical school application.]
Your goal is to be memorable enough to receive support from the committee to gain admission. Be passionate about a subject and communicate an idea.
When asked why you want to be a physician, go beyond the obvious answer of many medical school applicants, "I want to help people." Everyone wants to help people.
Instead, identify what unique qualities you will contribute to medical school and what you hope to contribute to medicine. Explain how you add to the diversity and mission of the institution based on what you have done and what you have learned, and how will you apply this experience to medical school.
Prepare a list of three to four questions about the institution. Use the questions to probe about the institution and the interviewer – often you won't know who your interviewer is until you arrive. Nearly everyone likes to talk about themselves and their experiences as a physician.
Have a list of standard questions and ask the same questions at each interview. Doing so will allow you to more clearly compare apples to apples when deciding to attend school A or B – and yes, you will get into medical school. Avoid asking questions that can be answered by reading the university brochure.
Sometimes the interviewer has a thousand other things on his or her mind. It's common that the interviewer does not sit on the admissions committee and is simply there to gauge fit for the institution.
After your meeting, the interviewer will write an evaluation of you based on the in-person interview. A bad evaluation is hard to overcome in the admissions process.
[Understand factors behind medical school admissions.]
Be prepared to address areas of your application and experiences that are less than stellar. Be truthful and highlight what you have learned without giving spin.
It is understood that you can't relive the past; however, less-than-thoughtful answers about blemishes don't sit well. Interviewers have heard a lot of explanations, so make a point to be candid.
Know your personal statement and application and be able to speak to each and every item. If the interviewer did not ask about an area in which you are really proud or which displays leadership or team-building ability then by all means let them know.
Leave the interviewer with a positive impression at the end. Remember you have been asked to interview, which is a huge hurdle. So relax and make the most of the opportunity.
Sylvia E. Morris received her M.D. from Georgetown University School of Medicine and her Master's in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine and a community health advocate. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.