A personal interview is required for acceptance to medical school. Interviews usually take place at the medical school and two or more members of the admissions committee typically interview applicants. The interviewers can be faculty members of the school, practicing physicians in the area, current medical students, or individuals in the admissions office.
The format of the interview varies for individual schools. The interviews can be one on one in the interviewer’s office or they can be a more formal panel interview. Other schools are starting to use the new Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format originally started in Canadian medical schools – Oregon Health and Science University is one example. The information available to the interviewers varies. Some schools prefer a blind interview. In these situations the interviewer has not had access to the student’s application and has no previous knowledge of the candidate. Other schools provide the interviewers with all the information available, and still others use a semi-blind format withholding some information from the interviewer, for example MCAT scores and/or GPA. It is helpful to find out which type of format the school is using in order to better prepare for interview day.
Being invited to interview means you’ve passed on paper! Now it’s time to shine and show the school that you’re the right candidate for them to select for admission. Schools begin inviting applicants for interviews in early September. Most institutions admit students on a rolling basis, which means that the schools start filling their classes with the first pool of applicants they interview. There are more openings available in September than there are the following February, so applying early is advantageous.
First, find out everything you can about the school. Every school has something that is unique to them. This information will help you get excited about the school and also give you some things to ask about at the interview.
Second, schedule a mock interview is scheduled through the Pre-Medical Sciences office. This interview is a panel interview and involves members of the Pre-Medical Sciences Advising committee. We will ask you the same kinds of questions you’ll expect to hear at your interview, will practice an MMI scenario, and will provide feedback on how your verbal and nonverbal communication skills might influence your interviewers.
Once you have been invited to the interview the admissions committee has already determined that you are academically qualified to attend their school. Therefore, the purpose of the interview is to assess your motivation for medicine, your communication skills, your understanding of current topics in medicine, and your personality and if you are a good fit for their program. The following are a sample of some of the questions that you may be asked at an interview:
Tell me about yourself.
Why do you want to be a doctor?
What branch of medicine are you interested in?
Why do you want to go to this medical school?
What experience do you have in the medical field?
What do you see as being the biggest issue facing health care today?
What is your opinion on stem cell research/abortion/physician-assisted suicide?
Would you be willing to work for a HMO?
How would you solve the high cost of medical care?
Dress conservatively. A dark suit is appropriate. A white shirt is not mandatory but avoid flashy colors. Wear comfortable shoes. Many interviews include tours of the campus or walking from one interview site to the next. Depending on the school, there also may be several hours between the orientation and the actual interview. You may want to explore the campus on your own.
Travel and Expenses
Interviewing can be a costly process. You are required to travel to the school and spend at least one night. Airfare out of Missoula is expensive. As soon as you know the date of your interview begin checking fares. Many tickets are cheaper if purchased 21 days in advance of departure. Also, traveling from Spokane and Bozeman can be significantly less expensive than traveling from Missoula.
Many schools give you a choice of interview days. If you have multiple interviews it is possible to call the admissions offices and arrange your interviews so that you visit several schools in the same region during one trip.
Some schools offer a student host program. Medical students open up their home to offer those interviewing a place to stay. This cuts down on the expense of hotels and also gives you a chance to speak frankly with current students about the school. If this option is not available you will need to find a place to stay and arrange transportation from the airport to the hotel and the hotel to the interview. Many car rental agencies will not rent to anyone under age 25. It might be worth it to contact a travel agent or someone who is an experienced traveler to help you make these arrangements.
Thank You Notes
The people interviewing you have taken time out of their busy schedules to meet and speak with you. It is appropriate to send a thank-you note to all the interviewers as soon as possible after the interview. This is also an opportunity to express your excitement for their program and their school. Many times interviewers will give you a business card with their name and address or the interviewers names will be given to you at orientation. Personalized thank you notes can be mailed to the individuals or in care of the admissions office.