After reviewing your primary application (such as AMCAS), test scores, secondary application and committee letter, health professions schools that are interested in you will invite you for an interview. Interviews will generally be with members of the admissions committee, which is typically composed of faculty and administrators, and sometimes students. Your interview will usually include other activities such as a tour of the facilities, meals, and a chance to talk to current students.
Admissions committees meet regularly throughout the application cycle and offer interviews to students with completed applications. Completing your applications early will certainly increase your chances of being interviewed early in the cycle. However, even if your applications are finished early, invitations to interviews can come at any point in the cycle, which runs roughly from September through early April. Early decision candidates will be among the first to receive offers for interviews from medical schools, because their admissions decisions must be made by October 1.
Some students are put on hold and not offered interviews immediately. This status can persist for a long time and, understandably, can be difficult to cope with. Schools vary considerably in their practices regarding notification of applicants on hold. It is best not to call admissions offices numerous times or on a weekly basis about your status. Although waiting is challenging, you can jeopardize your candidacy by constantly calling about your position on a list. A legitimate reason to call is if an admission committee clearly indicated that there is a missing application element that requires action on your part.
Be sure to prepare for your interviews! CareerLAB offers practice interviews, including a newly-adopted Practice Interview module which allows you to review your recorded interview. Log into the Job and Internship Board to access it. A great number of health profession school questions will be available during the first weeks of November. When you receive an invitation for an interview, be sure you know when, where, and at what time it will take place. If you are unfamiliar with the area, be sure to leave enough time to find the school, find the building where your interview will take place, and then find parking and walk back to the interview site. These little details can eat up much time quickly and cause you to arrive late for your interview.
Dress formally and conservatively for your interview. CareerLAB can help you identify appropriate attire; they can even vet a particular outfit for you! If you do not own an appropriate set of clothing, this might be a good time to update your wardrobe!
Note that professional behavior is expected from all interviewees. This means that you should be courteous and respectful toward everyone you encounter on your visit regardless of their position (i.e. faculty member, administrator, receptionist, medical student, custodian, etc.) Never assume that someone you encounter during your visit for an interview is more or less important than anyone else. Negative attitudes or interactions with anyone during your interview visit can hurt your chances of admission
Before going for an interview you should:
- Research the school you will be visiting for an interview. What special programs do they have? What is that school’s specific mission? Are there members of the faculty conducting research that is interesting to you?
- Be prepared to answer the question, “Why do you want to come to this medical school?”
- Don’t forget that you are aspiring to a career of service to patients. Whenever possible, keep your answers or the discussion focused on patient care.
- Have a good grasp of current issues in health and medicine. You may be asked what you consider to be some of the serious problems facing health care professionals today, and in the future, and why. You are not expected to be an expert on these issues. If you begin to discuss a topic, be careful not to overstate your knowledge of the area.
- Any information you have given to the schools in your application is fair game for an interview. The day before the interview, review your personal statement, activities list, and other application materials. Be prepared to talk about your reasons and motivations for aspiring to your chosen health profession as well as any special circumstances you might have discussed in your application materials.
- Prepare a list of your own questions. The interview provides you with an important opportunity to gather information that will assist you in choosing which medical school to attend. Asking questions specific to the institution also demonstrates that you do your homework and that you are in fact interested in matriculating to that school. Questions about residency, affiliated hospitals, financial aid, etc. are always appropriate and may be particularly important to you.
To research the schools at which you are interviewing, look at school websites and materials in the Health Careers Office (for those schools that still have paper versions of their information). Another great source of information is Brown alumni currently in medical school. The Health Careers Office is developing such a list and may have contacts at some of the schools you are interested in.
Remember that interviewers are trying to learn more about you. They are interested in why you aspire to a career in health care and the depth of your commitment to the profession. They also want to know about your interests beyond academics and the medical profession, how you communicate your enthusiasm, and how you express your ideas. Answer questions concisely, honestly and briefly. Be sure you are answering the question that is being asked, not what you expected was going to be asked. If you don't know an answer, say so, and then be inquisitive.
During the Interview
During the day of the interview, medical school faculty, staff, and students pay attention to the behavior of applicants. They are interested in admitting people who are collegial and friendly, so do your best to maintain a good attitude and to interact positively with school personnel and your fellow interviewees. Some medical schools may offer you accommodations with a medical student during your visit. This provides an opportunity to learn more about the school atmosphere and resources from a student perspective. If you choose such an option, maintain professional behavior at all times, just as you would during your interviews and facilities tours. Be courteous and respectful to everyone you encounter on your visit regardless of their position (i.e. faculty member, administrator, receptionist, medical student, custodian). Never assume that any one person you encounter during your visit for an interview is more or less important than anyone else. Negative interactions with anyone during your interview visit can hurt your chances of admission.
Typically, an interview day will be organized to include a few presentations and orientations, including financial aid, student life, resources and facilities, a campus tour, and a concluding survey. You will be evaluated at all times, so make certain you maintain your professional, engaged, and personable comportment throughout interview day.
During your interview you will be evaluated not only on the basis of your professional appearance and verbal presentation, but also on your manners and body language. The non-verbal aspects of your presentation can be more telling about your comfort and confidence than your words. Offer a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, articulate clearly in a confident, enthusiastic and thoughtful manner. Be mindful of your posture, do not fidget or clasp at your chair, pen, or folder. Demonstrate active listening by engaging in a dialog with your interviewer, following up in an interested manner on the questions you have been asked. If you did not understand a question, ask for clarification, indicating that you are particularly interested in discerning the nuances of what you are being asked. In addressing questions, think how you can connect the experience you have gained through activities, course work, research and reflection to the subject you are addressing in your response. If there is a way for you to integrate “show, don’t just tell” into your response, this can further strengthen the favorable impression you make on your interviewer.
Some of the questions you are likely to get may be very broad-asking you to tell your “story”; describe your strengths and weaknesses; your passions and hobbies; the periodicals you read and programs you watch; or the places you envision yourself working and living in long term. Some of the more specific questions you are likely to get include how you have overcome significant challenges; your most effective study techniques; the alternative professions you have explored apart from the health profession you have chosen; the ways in which you defuse stress; and any specific experiences that propelled you to commit to your chosen profession. You may also be asked questions that prompt you to think critically about matters of ethics, policy, and science. You may be asked to describe approaches to curbing underage substance abuse; summarize some of the key challenges that face the health care system in the US; speak about a global health challenge and discuss some of the strategies that may alleviate systemic problems in access to quality health care and entitlements internationally. Although interviewers are broadly experienced and positively disposed, you may get an occasional question which you consider inappropriate. You do not have to answer questions that focus on your race, origin, sexual orientation, handicaps, marital status or plans, personal attributes, health concerns, financial background, or credit history. Politely state your discomfort with such questions and note the person and the question you encountered.
Take the opportunity to ask questions that convey your interest in the school. Thoughtful questions will demonstrate your interest in the school, your advance preparation for the interview, and your familiarity with and commitment to health and medicine. You may ask questions about the curriculum, academic and career advising, the student body, the particular focus on research, and clinical practices or public health that the school prides itself on. Ask questions about the pedagogical philosophy espoused by the school and its connection with the type of physician the school aims to create; the prominence of student groups on campus; the diversity of students the school looks to attract; the community service and research aspects of students’ preparation for the profession; and the assistance students receive to meet their financial needs and to plan for the future transition into their career.
Lastly, do not forget to smile and show your genial, human side in appropriate balance with your professional, prepared, motivated yet humble side. Your interview will be much more successful if it presents you authentically and in your natural element.
After The Interview
Following your interview(s), you should send your interviewer(s) a thank-you note. If you must miss or wish to cancel your interview, be sure to notify the Admissions Office early. If you plan to withdraw your application, please also cancel your interview as early as you can (not the day before!!). It will allow the school to offer your slot to another student (perhaps a classmate) who is waiting for an interview. No news from you means a delay in the application process and more anxious waiting for deserving applicants.
Note that traveling to multiple interviews is time-consuming and can affect your course work (if you are still at Brown) or job (if you are a graduate). For this reason, competitive candidates who have received multiple offers for interviews may want to begin making decisions about withdrawing their applications from less attractive schools. Once you have had a few interviews and received positive feedback from schools that are high on your list, you may want to consider limiting future interviews.