Just finishing up the second week of medical school, it’s been a really busy week. I have a test coming up on Monday, we’re covering a semester (or quarter) of histology within a week — though, we’ll revisit it again in more depth next year. We”re the first year they’ve tried experimenting with this “crash course” in medical histology so that everything, coincidentally we’ll also be the last as they’re switching to system based curriculum for entering students next year. Though, it should be noted that our second year is clearly system and diagnostics based. Regardless, a medical school will make you a doctor, but it’s our job to try to get the best out of the experience to later to good physicians. Some of you have been given a chance to attend a medical school interview, if so congratulations! If not, there’s still plenty of time to receive an interview, some people in my class were invited rather late and accepted almost the week before school so keep pushing through. And remember, if you don’t get in then improve your application and re-apply.
So, with that aside, here are some interview tips (this list got longer than I expected, sorry not much time to edit it down!):
1. Do a ridiculous amount of homework for your interview: check the local news online, check their website for their local interest groups and try to see how you’d fit into their program and mission.
2. Know your application better than anyone on Earth. Nothing is worse than coming off as a fraud, and the easiest way to do that is to appear like you fluffed your application. Know your application, know why you participated in X groups, why you took a gap year, understand your influences and weak points. They can only go off what ever you’ve presented them with, don’t let them know you better than you know yourself as it won’t go well.
3. Practice coming up with main themes for you answers for the interview. You can try doing a few mock ones if you wish, I’m lazy and shy about those types of things so I just came up with main themes and practiced by myself (lack practicing for a speech). Though, to be fair, I’ve given a lot of speeches and talks so it’d probably be better to just try with others. There are plenty of books with “sample” interview questions, just pick one up and go through it to come up with your own answers. Also, just search Youtube for interview tips, some of it is baloney but it’ll get your gears turning.
Logistics and Transportation
4. Purchase airplane tickets at least 6 weeks prior to the interview, after that they rates really will jack up. Note that the rates change throughout the day, so check multiple times (or set alerts for price deals etc). You probably won’t rack up enough miles to make use of any frequent flyer program, they tend to do a good job of keeping you away from cashing in, so don’t get too picky about riding on a certain airline.
5. Rental cars are pretty pricey to hang onto during an interview, but they offer a lot of flexibility. If I were interviewing again, I would have rented a car less and probably have just used Uber (with a back up plan of using a cab). Though, depending on how far out you stay from the school while visiting a rental car may be the most logical way to go.
6. Show up and find the place you’re supposed to arrive at about 45 minutes to a hour early. It’s okay to ask the staff if you’re in the right place, after you’ve confirmed just hang out and have a seat and try not to bother the staff. Be extra friendly, the staff and faculty at medical schools are infinitely closer than your undergraduate experience so treat everyone you meet (even the janitor) as if they’re potentially the dean of admissions. If you’re early and nice to everyone it’ll help cut down on the nervousness, at least it did for me.
7. If you’re a male, learn how to tie your tie. There’s no shame if you don’t, but if all you have to depend on is your pre-tied tie done by your uncle three years ago then you’re setting yourself up for stress during you interviews. It’s not hard if you practice it a few times in the mirror — you can find plenty of videos on Youtube. Also, don’t dare go to your interview without going to a tailor to get your pants and suit cuffs hemmed to fit you. This is the secret to looking professional: you can start off with a relatively cheap $100 suit and pay another 20-30 for tailoring and the result will make it look like a $1000 suit. You don’t want to go looking like you’re wearing your dad’s suit. You don’t need to go get a customer tailored suit, just go to a cheap place that’s been around for a while and ask them for suggestions about fit. Ideally, when you sit your paints should reveal your socks by a few inches and not drape over your shoes when you walk or sit. The cuffs of your white collared shirt should show just barely by perhaps half a centimeter when you’re wearing your suit-jacket, furthermore the jacket should be long enough to stop at your wrist but not after your wrist widens to your hands. However, the caveat here is that if you don’t at least try to start with a suit that fits you in the chest and back especially, then you’ll likely spend another few hundred dollars to get those sections tailored as it takes a lot of work and a skilled hand. If you’re fashionably inept then consider bringing a “professionally dressed” fashioned coordinated friend with you. If you have a thin frame, I’d suggest going with an Italian cut (slim fitting) in the standard medical school charcoal — it’s significantly cheaper to tailor a suit that almost fits you, hemming is usually the cheapest and most bang for you buck thing you can do. And of course, don’t neglect on your shoes, but don’t splurge either however don’t come into the place with squeaky clogs either. You whole goal should be to look like a respectable doctor, after all you will be one soon right?
For females, you don’t need to dress like a puritan or anything, just dress professionally equivalent to your male counter parts. I’d suggest not wearing shoes that “click clack” too much, as they’re both distracting for you and everyone else during the long interview day. Be sure to wear shoes that won’t bloody your ankles (or make adequate preparations in the heel for padding if you have choice). I won’t suggest much more about how to dress, especially as I never saw one female incorrectly dressed for the interview (guys on the other hand, that was a crap-shot). Just be sure that you can be confident in whatever you wear.
There are a lot of people in my class with tattoos (arms, back, etc.), while it’s okay to have them it’s also considerate to cover them for your interview. After you’re in, sure rock that tattoo of Satin devouring kittens, but at the beginning just try to be respectful of others’ beliefs. I personally think tattoos are awesome, but as a first impression don’t make it into a philosophical battle of the merit of tattoos and bias.
8. Be yourself (hopefully that has positive implications) — it’s much too tiring to be something else in my opinion. This translates to standing up for yourself and your opinions during interviews. If you have an opinion, and a rational manner of defending it then by all means it’s okay to disagree with an interviewer. However, you don’t need to pick fights or win battles, just be okay with being fine with “agree to disagree”. If they convince you, fine, but don’t just be a yes “wo(man)”.
9. It’s okay to ask the interviewer questions about the program, about their position etc. You’ll have to “imagine” that you’ll get into multiple programs and you’re just trying to evaluate the best one, this will keep you objective (but, don’t be arrogant about it). There’s a fine but discernible line between arrogance and confidence. In fact, ending the interview with no questions is a passive way to tell people you’re that interested, but don’t ask questions you could have/should have easily found out if you just did a little research. The better your questions, the more they’ll know you care and have given their program careful consideration.
10. Write down the interviewers’ names, this will make it easier for you to write them correspondence later if you choose to do so.
11. Jot down things you liked and disliked about the program immediately while it’s fresh. This way, if you do write a letter to the school (letter of intent, I didn’t write any so I can’t help you there) to let them know your intent of matriculating if accepted you can write legit things as opposed to blowing smoke up their butts’. If you receive multiple acceptances having this list is incredible when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of the program. I kept notes throughout the day, but I wrote them in another language so no one else could peak at what I wrote; if you don’t have that advantage then just write sloppy short hand that only you can read. These notes can in handy actually even during the interview when I was able to address brand new things I found out during the tour about their patient population etc.
12. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t become complacent because you’ve landed a few interviews. Until you’ve landed your acceptance it’s best to treat every interview like it’s the most important interview in the world, heck if afterwards you should be serious about them. If you’ve already gained an acceptance, unless your dead set on going to that program, consider continuing to a few more interviews as you might learn something new about other programs. It’s also decent experience for what you’ll need to do next for residency interviews (though, those are probably a lot more fun).
13. Be humble. Congratulations, you’ve interviewed and whether you get it or not, it’s a monumental step. But, there are those who aren’t accepted for one reason or another, be sure to remember that not too long ago you were just as nervous and unsure as them.
Remember, if you’re invited to an interview then the probably already are at least interested in you (and may even sort of like you). All you need to do is either win a few people over who may not be sure about you and/or prove that you’re not a phony and all the stuff you said on your applications are congruent with who you actually are.