The Medical School Interview

What are the most common interview questions that I might be asked on my medical school interview?
Click here.

What can I do to prepare for my medical school interview?
Practice interviews are an excellent idea. The career center offers mock medical school interviews which may be scheduled by calling (314) 935-5930.

Can you tell me more about the mock interview?
Yes. Click here for a list of FAQs regarding the mock interview.

For medical school interviews, what's the proper dress code? 
Suit with tie for men. No question. This is the most important interview of your life to this point. If there is a time to dress nice, it's now. Women should also dress professionally. Colors should be sedate (navy, black, dark gray). Have your suit cleaned or pressed before your trip or when it starts looking wrinkled after multiple interview trips. Shoes should be clean. For women, any makeup should be in sedate tones. Avoid brightly colored nail polishes. Men - shave, comb your hair, trim your nails. Remember, you need to look the part. 

How early should I arrive for my interview day?
Generally show up no more than 15 minutes early. Arriving too early simply makes the administrative staff uncomfortable in feeling the need to keep you occupied. It's not a bad idea, however, to locate the admissions or student affairs office the night before the interview just so you know where it's located. This way you don't have to worry about getting lost. The other option is to arrive early, located the office and then go do something (get breakfast, go to the library, etc) until about 15 minutes before the time the office expects you.

Is it a good idea to talk with the administrative staff in the admissions office?
There is nothing wrong with saying hi and introducing yourself, but it's probably best to keep the small talk to a minimum. The staff is busy and too much chatter that causes a disruption in their work flow can only harm you in the end.

What are some common interview pointers?
Be punctual. Be yourself. Have a firm (but not too firm) handshake. Make eye contact. Use the interview's name when introducing yourself ("Hi Dr. Smith, I'm Mike Johnson, nice to meet you). Smile. Listen to the interviewer's questions. Answer the question throughly but don't ramble. Try to pace your rate of speech. It's ok to laugh occasionally. Be humble and don't boast about yourself - most interviewers will have already reviewed your application and will know of your accomplishments. Let them bring them up in most circumstances. Realize it's ok to take a moment to think about a question before answering. If you don't know the answer to a question, it's better to say I don't know than to make something up. 

What are some interview no-no's?
Arriving late. Arrogance. Being rude to the office staff. Lying. Boasting too much. Talking negatively about another school. Being negative in general. Talking too much or not answering the question that was asked. Not knowing anything about the school or asking questions that could easily be found on the website. Asking too much about the admissions process itself (for example, "When will you let me know if I get in?"). Instead, it would be better to say, "Would you mind if I ask when I might hear back from the admissions committee on their decision?"

What if I freeze on a question?
Realize that this is ok and not that unusual. Instead of panicking, simply take a moment to think about your answer. It's perfectly ok to ask for clarification of the question if you didn't understand it. If you don't know that answer it's even ok to say, "Hmmm, that's a great question. Let me think about that."  

Are there any questions I shouldn't ask?
I would avoid asking any questions regarding the likelihood of your acceptance. I would also avoid questions about the school or about medical school in general that you should already know such as, "So what's the format of medical school? Are we in the classroom for two years and then the hospital?" Such a question would make you appear ill-informed about the general process of becoming a physician. 

Is it a good idea to send a 'thank you' note to my interviewer?
Yes. If you really enjoyed your interview experience and your time at the school you can state so in your note. E-mails are also considered acceptable as well.

It's been a couple of months since my interview and I haven't heard back from the school. What should I do?
It's always a good idea to send a brief letter stating your continued interest in the school. At that time, you can also update the school on any new achievements since your interview. 

What is a letter of intent?
Applicants who know for sure that they want to attend a particular school and would turn down all other offers if accepted to that school, can send a 'letter of intent'. How much impact such a letter has on a school's decision to accept an applicant is unclear. Students who choose to send such a letter, however, should think carefully about it as not attending the school if accepted would be viewed quite negatively. And of course, the student should send a letter of intent to one school only.

Is there anything wrong with asking my interviewer when I should expect to hear back from the school?
In general there is nothing wrong with asking such a question, however, I recommend that students ask this question during the orientation session at the beginning of the day. This is probably a better time than the interview itself to ask this question. I would keep the question limited to this and would not ask about further details of how the school's admissions process works.

I've heard that some schools interview students in groups of 2 or 3 at the same time and will ask you to comment on another student's answer. Any tips on how to do well on such an interview.
In such an interview I would always stay positive. Instead of reacting negatively to the answer of another student, I would focus on positive aspects of how you would answer a question differently. Interviews like this are not just trying to assess how an applicant reacts under pressure, but also how they respond to questions in a professional manner.

Are there any questions that interviewers are not allowed to ask?
Interviewers are not permitted to ask any questions regarding religious or political beliefs, sexual orientation, family planning or details about a medical leave of absence. They are permitted to ask you to assess your strengths and weaknesses, fit for medicine, and personal beliefs regarding ethical issues that intersect with medicine such as your views on stem cell research or euthanasia. 

What should I do if I am asked an inappropriate question by my interviewer?
If you feel that an interviewer asked an inappropriate question, you should let the admissions office know immediately. Most schools will offer another interview for you that same day. If, however, you feel that the interviewer simply wasn't very friendly or asked questions that 'put you on the spot', this is different. Interviewers have different styles. While you would hope that most interviewers would do everything possible to make a student feel comfortable and relaxed, you might get an interviewer who feels it's his/her job is to see how you perform under pressure. While such a mindset is unfortunate, it's best to simply maintain a calm and professional demeanor throughout the interview. 

What is the medical school interview really trying to assess?
Several things. On the most basic level the interview allows the school to screen for obvious psychopathic or sociopathic personalities. But on a deeper level schools want to see if the student has a genuine desire to become a physician, good interpersonal skills, and a mature and professional demeanor. Interviews also give the applicant to see if they would be a good fit for the school and visa versa. What students should remember is that if you are offered an interview, it already means that you are academically qualified to attend that institution. Schools would not take the time and expense to interview you if they didn't feel you were qualified for a position.