The traditional medical school interview is a two-way street: it gives medical schools the chance to ask applicants questions about their past experiences/future goals but it also gives applicants the opportunity to ask questions about the school. The interview helps each medical school get to know applicants better and envision them as members of its incoming class (or not) and as physicians caring for patients in the future. Applicants, in turn, should ask insightful questions so that they can learn as much as possible about the school and decide whether it is a good fit.
The Interviewer’s Role: The interviewer will be assessing your ability to communicate and convey important information, as you’ll have to do with patients, while also getting additional information about activities included in your application. Through the give-and-take of conversation, interviewers will assess what applicants might contribute to the medical school and to the medical profession. They will also weigh whether an applicant is a good fit for that particular medical school.
The Applicant’s Role: Asking questions during the interview is incredibly important in helping you understand a school on a deeper level than is possible through written materials, such as its website. Asking good questions not only shows that you’ve done your homework and thought about the school analytically, but it also allows you to gather crucial information to help you understand the school. Here are some tips in regard to asking questions and assessing each school during the interview:
- Look and listen carefully. In addition to asking questions, take in your surroundings. Be observant. See how medical students interact with one another. You’ll learn about the atmosphere and culture just by being observant.
- Prepare questions in advance. Do your homework; know how the curriculum is structured and about opportunities/student groups at the school. What would you want to become involved in? If questions occur to you as you look over the school’s website prior to the interview, see if you can find answers to those questions; if so, do NOT ask them during the interview.
- Ask real questions. Ask questions you truly want to know the answers to—don’t throw softball questions. Figure out what you want to know, and then ask it. Ask questions that will allow you to get information about the learning environment, culture, support in the residency application process, anticipated curricular changes, etc.
Here are some sample questions to give you ideas of appropriate questions:
What kind of students thrive at X school? This allows you to get an idea as to what the school values in its students.
How do students find mentors at X school? Mentoring is important in medical education; if there’s a mechanism in place to help you find a mentor you know the school believes it’s important.
What are three distinctive strengths of X school? This will allow your interviewer to encapsulate what he/she thinks are the school’s strongest aspects and will give you insight into the school.
If you want help preparing for your interviews please contact me to set up a mock interview or to discuss any upcoming interviews. Good luck!
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting