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Medical School Admissions Interview

Medical school admissions committees usually make the decision to interview students on the basis of the information in the preliminary application form. The most important factors in the decision are your grade point average and your MCAT scores. Most schools accept about half of the students they interview, so if you are invited for an interview you have survived the first cut. The interview is generally a mandatory condition for acceptance, and you will be required to show up at the school's convenience and at your own expense. If you apply to a number of medical schools, you should figure both the application fees and travel costs for interviews into your budget.

You can and should prepare for a medical school interview. In a very real sense your entire future rests on what you say, what you don't say, and how you handle the interview. Your first step should be to talk with the Pre-Health Professions Committee members about your performance at their interview. They will tell you if you made a bad impression in any way and can suggest changes in your approach. Next you should learn as much as you can about the program at the school where you are interviewing. Get the catalogue (you should already have it!) and study it. If you know anyone who is attending or has attended the school, write or call them and ask for information. If possible, find out what the interview structure will be like. There may be two one-on-one interviews, a panel of four or five, or some other combination. The Pre-Health Professions Committee keeps records of the experiences of former students, and they may have information about what you are likely to encounter. If you can, learn the names of the people who will be interviewing you.

Each medical school interview will be different, and it is impossible to tell you exactly what to expect. In general, however, the admissions committee wants to find out what sort of person you are; why you are interested in medicine; what background you are bringing to the pursuit of medicine; if you are mature in your approach to life and learning; and how motivated you are to become a doctor.

The means used to elicit this information are various. You should be prepared for questions about any of the information contained in your application form and personal essay. If you said that you enjoy reading, you should be ready to talk about the books you have read recently. If your MCAT scores make you look like the village idiot, you should be able to explain why they do not show your true potential. If you will need financial aid to attend the school interviewing you, you should research possible sources of assistance. They are likely to ask you how you plan to finance your medical education, and a vague answer indicates a lack of seriousness. You may be asked questions about controversial issues such as: medical ethics, malpractice, Medicare, etc. There are many good books on these issues which you might wish to read before your interview. The Pre-Health Professions Committee keeps a file of questions asked previous students. You should study this and think out answers to all the questions. Anything and everything is fair game, and obviously you will not anticipate all the questions you are asked. The more questions you are prepared for, however, the less likely you are to get rattled.

Be sure you know the time and location for the interview, and get there early. Go to the bathroom and make sure that your hair is combed, your teeth brushed, your fly is zipped and/or your slip doesn't show. Give yourself a thorough once over. A piece of spinach lodged in your front teeth makes a bad first impression that is hard to overcome. You should dress neatly and conservatively. A tie, sportscoat and dress slacks are in order for men. Women should probably wear a simple, professional looking dress or suit. Anything low cut or too tight or too short is definitely out. Both men and women should eschew flashy jewelry and strong scents. Make certain that your clothes are clean and pressed and shine your shoes. Don't wear anything that is uncomfortable. You will not be at the top of your form if your shoes pinch your feet or your collar is a half size too small.

When the interview begins, be sure that you learn the interviewer's name. It will help to repeat it as soon as you are introduced. If you say, "How do you do, Dr. Smith," it may make the name stick in your overloaded mind. Do not shake hands until or unless your interviewer offers his hand, and if you do shake hands, do so firmly. Do not sit down until your interviewer is seated or offers you a chair. Don't smoke, chew gum or fidget. Be aware of any nervous mannerisms you may have and try to control them. You should look the interviewer in the eye and speak clearly. Be relaxed and confident. These suggestions are nothing more than common sense and common courtesy, but you are likely to be nervous, and you may overlook the obvious.

You want to come across in the interview as an honest, sincere person. "Here I am with all my warts" is the impression you want to leave. Don't dwell on your warts, but don't lie about them either. Medical school interviewers are pastmasters at calling bluffs; they get lots of practice. You should give the impression that you are self-confident and that you accept yourself for what you are without seeming egotistical.

Occasionally an interviewer will seem quite hostile toward you. This does not mean that he has taken an immediate dislike to you and that your chances of ever getting accepted at that medical school have just plummeted. He may be trying to gauge how you react to stress and difficult situations. Do not lose your composure. Stay calm and answer the questions politely however antagonistic they may seem. It is always a mistake to lose your temper or to let yourself be needled into rudeness. As a doctor you will often need infinite tact and patience; your interviewer may be trying to put these qualities to the test. Medical schools try to eliminate both those candidates who are too brash and aggressive and those who are too shy and withdrawn to relate well with other people. So control your impulses to throw insults back or to dissolve in tears if your interview does happen to take an unpleasant turn.

Often you will be given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of your interview. You should come armed with several questions about the college that could not be answered by reading the catalogue. When the interview is over, thank the interviewer for his time.

You should be aware that the interview is not necessarily over when you leave the interview room. It is decidedly unwise to be rude or unpleasant or overly confiding with the interviewer's secretary. If you are given a tour of the facilities by an upperclass medical student, he, too, may be asked to evaluate you. So be on your best behavior until you are safely home.

Do not let yourself be too discouraged about the interview. You may feel it was awful even if you actually did reasonably well. And if it really was awful, you should have learned something from your mistakes that you can put to good use in your next interview.

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