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How to Ace Your Medical School Interview

Posted by Scott Harrah
May 25, 2013

After a long and arduous application process, the official interview stands as the final obstacle before your medical school acceptance.  For students, the interview is perhaps your best chance to stand out from the thousands of other applicants.

At UMHS, we tell prospective students: think about the root of your passion for medicine, and how you have developed as a medical school candidate during your undergraduate education.

Think about any relevant work or shadowing experiences you've had, and how this makes you a better candidate. If you have experienced any personal or academic obstacles, be prepared to discuss how you have dealt with these difficulties, and what you learned from them.

Woody Allen once said that 50% of success is simply showing up, and this is quite true when it comes to medical school. One of the worst things a prospective student can do is either show up late or fail to show at all for an interview. Doing so simply says you are not serious about medical school. Always ask the school to give you directions on how to get to their office, and allow plenty of time for traffic or bad weather.  If you cannot make the interview for any reason or will be more than a few minutes late, it is best to telephone the person with whom you are meeting. Do not rely on an e-mail or text message to cancel or postpone.  This is unprofessional, and e-mails and texts may not be received in time.

In addition, remember to dress appropriately.  Because you want to make a good first impression, an academic interview is similar to a job interview.  In most cases, you don’t need to dress corporate, but do choose something comfortable and professional.  Don’t arrive in torn jeans, shorts, a T-shirt, or flip-flop sandals.

Here are some general tips from the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) website for preparing for medical school interviews.

Filomeno Maldonado tells the AAMC that prospective medical students need to prepare for interviews in three ways: timeliness, attitude, and uniqueness.

“Once invited do not procrastinate, confirm your interview immediately,” says Maldonado. “Communication with the medical school is critical. Know the interview schedule in advance if it is at all possible. If the entire schedule is not available, find out at least the time that your interview will begin.”

Attitude is also important.

“Smile,” says Maldonado. “Be pleasant to everyone you encounter during the interview and be pleasant at all times even if there are snags in the schedule, etc. Also, remember that you are under observation the entire time you interact with the medical school.”

Uniqueness is key.

“People notice exceptional deviations from the normal pattern,” Maldonado continues. “Therefore, it is important to be noticed for something positively. Leave your mark. While you are at your interview, add to the positive feeling that you have already worked so hard to create via your application. Bear in mind that people forget much of what they learn, and forget it quickly. Make certain that the interviewers remember you.”

Be yourself.

Maldonado suggests just being yourself, and not to sweat the tough questions. “Be prepared to respond to all kinds of questions, many unrelated to the study of medicine. Similarly, be prepared not only to discuss your motivation for a career in medicine, but also any activities or experiences that are relevant to your goal, and times you have served others.”

Norma Wagoner tells the AAMC about two things prospective students must keep in mind when interviewing at medical schools: Body language, and being honest when asked questions about your academic record.

It may sound trivial, but proper body language is indeed crucial for making a good impression.

 “Be aware of your body language as it conveys a significant amount of information regarding your confidence and demeanor,” Wagoner says. “While cultures may differ with respect to greeting others, a firm handshake will be anticipated in most cases. It is important to look at your interviewer when responding to questions. Sitting in a comfortable position also denotes a level of confidence when communicating with others.”

Also pay attention to your body language when asked about your transcripts. “If questions are focused on the academic record, don't make excuses; provide the best forthright information or explanation of personal circumstances that were occurring at the time,” Wagoner continues. “The interviewer knows you are human.”

(Top photo) Photo: Deposit Photos

About UMHS:

Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.

Posted by Scott Harrah

Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City,

Topics: Admissions

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