After completing the MCAT, one big hurdle has finally been passed but that does not mean that this road gets any less problematic. You are at the point in your journey where you are starting to experience stress for a prolonged period of time. There is anxiety and apprehension as Interview Season approaches. Fear not, the further you progress in Medicine, the more stress actually builds but for this period in your life, it is a new feeling that is not very pleasant.
With any luck, your application and your MCAT scores were adequate enough to garner some interest for Medical School Admissions Board members and you have been cordially invited to interview for your right to enter the program. A common urban legend that circulates around the Pre-Med upperclassmen during this period if that once you have an interview, you are guaranteed a spot. Some claim that "it is just a way to make sure you are not crazy."
Although it is true that if you have received an invitation, you are qualified and should find placement somewhere in the United States for the following year, this may not always happen. It is your job to take this interview very seriously because this is the final chapter of your Undergraduate life. If you do well, you will be able to start your life-long dream of becoming a doctor, but if you fail, that could leave a red flag on your application that may threaten your chance of receiving another invitation to interview anywhere else. Here are the top 3 essential tips that should have you adequately prepared for the interviews.
Number 1: Do Intensive Mock Interviews
No matter how well you may feel you present yourself or how you could talk yourself out of any potential mark against your application, if you do not practice the interviews at least daily for a month prior to your first interview, you may found yourself floundering in front of the Board members. It is useful to seek help from an Medical adviser at your Undergraduate program because they will be able to present you difficult questions that you must be able to navigate through on Interview Day. You need to be able to have a thorough and complete answer for some general questions like "why do you want to go into Medicine?" I guarantee you that if you have a generic answer like "my Dad was in Medicine so I always had a passion for it," or "I really want to help people," you will not receive a high score on your Interview component.
If you have a weak answer, the Admissions Board will pick that answer apart and you will lose all your composure. You may be able to recover but you jeopardize the quality of the rest of your interview if you do not have a strong psyche to forget a negative event. You have to remember that there is an excess number of interviewers compared to the number of slots available for the incoming class and the Admissions' Board's main focus is to make sure they select the highest level of talent available to choose from. Don't put yourself on "the outside looking in" due to insufficient preparation.
Another point is to expect the unexpected. A friend of my was questioned about why he decided to take a Minor in Business while completing his Medical track during one of his interviews. The Admissions Board viewed this as a negative and that it suggested that the candidate was only interested in the financial aspect of becoming a doctor.
Two More Essential Tips to Survive Interview Day
Number 2: Research the Medical School as Thoroughly as Possible.
When you come in to interview, you need to be a walking encyclopedia of facts about the Medical School you are applying to. You need to make sure that you are able to ask intelligent questions and come of as being as enthusiastic as possible about the school. In most cases, you will receive information about who is going to interview you and which students you may have to show you around the campus during your interview day. You don't have to have access to WikiLeaks to be able to find some useful information about these people on Interview Day.
This may feel awkward to those of you who are not familiar with "playing to someone's ego" but realize that most students do this on Interview Day already. Even if it feels superficial, you don't want to fail to use everything you have to make an impression. Make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the research so you are able to "fake" an interest (in some cases) to make their research a topic. It may play to your advantage and a doctor might look at you favorably if they seek you are interesting in something that they had worked on previously.
Number 3: Be As Enthusiastic as Possible (Without Coming Off Too Excessive)
When you are doing your interview, you may be surprised at how many people actually have input into whether you are a viable candidate or not. Even if you are walking around with a Medical student, this is not a time to let down your professional demeanor and talk to them like they are your friends. These students are "pseudo-spies" for the Admissions Board and they will give a recommendations that may influence your placement into the program.
You have to be as excited as you can to convey that you are interested in the program. Ask as many useful questions as you can to figure out what student life is like, what your work load may be, and what opportunities there could be for volunteering in a clinic or getting involved in research. You need to be able to convey to every one you come in contact with that as soon as you receive confirmation into the program, you will become involved in multiple projects. Everyone else interviewing is just as smart as you and if you suggest you may take the first year or two to ease into Medical School, no matter how logical that may appear, it will most likely lead to you being passed over or "Wait-listed."
Another important thing to remember is Medical Schools talk. There are no school rivalries in professional schools and most Medical School Directors are friends with each other. Among the normal gossip, these directors will also talk about possible applicants and how students may have done at interviews hosted at each other's schools. If a director points out some negatives about your interview at his school, that may jeopardize your chances at another school so during Interview Season, do not let your guard down at all until after you get a Letter of Acceptance. It may also be wise to erase all questionable Facebook photos and even deactivate or change your profile names before sending out applications. The Internet is a wonderful tool but it could also help a Medical Director see a controversial photo that may hurt your chances of making it into their program.