You filled out all your applications, and are now anxiously waiting to hear back from schools about interviews. Instead of nervously checking your email every 30 minutes, spend your time wisely by prepping for the interview. The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel walking into the admissions office. When developing your answers, move towards an answer that describes characteristics of a doctor, and demonstrates your passion for the medical field. There is a reason you have a desire to spend another four years in school plus several more for residency. Explain these reasons to the interviewer. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is a great resource for advice on the application process including interview prep.
The questions below are just a sampling of what you may be asked, and advice on how to answer them.
- If multiple schools accepted you, how would you make your decision?
This is a tough question, and can come out of left field. It’s best to have a list of criteria to help craft your answer. It’s not recommended to say, “I would choose you.” Demonstrate to the college you critically evaluate decisions (a characteristic of good physicians). Criteria might include: close relationships with faculty, research opportunities, global health rotations, diverse study body, evaluating early patient encounters, and overall experience of current students.
- What has been most helpful in your personal development during your college years?
When answering this question, think more than just a list of activities. Describe the circumstances – what you did, what you heard, how you responded. Paint a vivid picture in the interviewer’s mind of the activity and how your participation made you into the person you are today. If applicable, think of something that relates to the characteristics of a doctor like leadership, communication, and attention to detail.
- What bias have you overcome?
Interviewers love self-reflection questions. Be honest with them. We all have biases we have learned through the years. What’s important is that you have recognized the bias(es) and have restructured your thinking. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your willingness to learn and your desire to foster an inclusive environments.
- How would your peers describe you?
The prep work for this question is key. Ask your peers beforehand – both your friends and your acquaintances. Go to people who will tell you the truth. The interviewer is looking for transparency and humility. He/she wants to know you can laugh at yourself as well as strive towards becoming a better-rounded individual.
- What makes you sure you want to be a doctor?
You’ll have the most complete and sincere answer if you’re honest. If an event in your past drove you to the medical profession, describe it in detail. If you have a person in your life who inspired you to become a doctor, explain the actions and personality of the individual, and how he/she inspired you.
- What has been your biggest disappointment?
In medicine, unfortunately, you are going to have disappointment – a procedure goes wrong, you misdiagnosis an illness, a patient faces an incurable disease. Schools want to know that you are resilient and will keep going. Explain how you are able to persevere in the face of adversity. Give a specific example.
- What will you do if you don’t get into med school?
This is a dreaded question. No one likes to think about Plan B; however, an interviewer wants to hear how determined you are to get into medical school, and how well you think out all possible outcomes. A couple approaches to answer the question would be: seek feedback from interviewers, continue to better yourself through job shadowing/research hours/interning/working in front office, and reapply to med school the next year. Show commitment! Throughout medical school, you’ll probably have times you want to walk away when it gets difficult. The interviewer wants to understand your commitment level. In the interviewer’s mind, if you are “one and done” applicant, you must not be too passionate about becoming a physician. By demonstrating commitment and steady improvement of self, you’ll show the interviewer your determination – all important traits in physicians.
A handful of other possible questions:
- Why did you choose this school?
- What will be your greatest challenge in medical school?
- How do you deal with stress?
- What would you do if a patient won’t follow directions?
- Discuss a book you have read recently for pleasure. Why did it interest you?
- What major decisions have you made on your own?
- How will you finance your medical education?
- What stimulated your interest in medicine?
- Tell me about an experience you’ve had on a team. What role do you tend to play on the team?
- Describe your research.
Examples of questions related to the medical field that you may not expect:
- Would your plans to become a physician change if the U.S. moved to a universal healthcare system, similar to Canada?
- What hesitations or reservations do you have about being in the medical profession?
- What causes AIDS?
- What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
- What do you think the most pressing health concern is in the U.S.?