The medical school interview is a huge day for you. As a premed student you’ve worked hard to get to this point. Only about 15-20% of applicants to a medical school get interviewed at that school, so if you received an invite, you’re ahead of the game.
As a physician and host of The Premed Years podcast, I get asked a lot of questions about the interview process. I pulled out five common and interesting questions that I hope will help you as you prepare for your big day.
Question 1 – “How do you approach the interview if you have issues with saying “umm” or “ahh?”
Verbal pauses are hard to fix immediately, but they can be fixed. As a podcaster, I had to overcome this myself. The goal is to slow down. Let yourself think about each word as it goes out and when you are about to open your mouth to use a filler word like an “umm” or “ahh” you just stop. Let silence take over until you are ready to say your next words.
One of the hardest parts about using silence is that we don’t like it. When you are in a conversation, as soon as there is silence, it gets awkward. Someone wants to try to break that silence immediately. In this situation you have to be okay with it and you have to be practiced at it.
The best way to do this is to do mock interviews. The more you can practice giving answers and practicing not using any filler words, or utilizing silence, the better you’ll be.
Question 2 – “How can one avoid sounding too rehearsed”
The best way to avoid sounding rehearsed is actually to be very rehearsed and prepared. The best way to do that is through mock interviews. Knowing common questions that may be asked, and having answers prepared for them is a good start. The problem is that many students try to memorize the answer. There is a difference between memorizing your answer and rehearsing it.
Think about a first date that you go on with someone. Do you rehearse and memorize your answers? No. You go into the date, with some understanding of what will be asked, and you have some general outlines ready to answer those questions. You let yourself fill in the outline as you go and it allows you some flexibility once you start talking to change course based on their response.
This is exactly how you should do it for your interviews.
Question 3 – “What are some questions to ask the interviewer that can’t be answered by doing research on your own?”
When I’m doing mock interviews with students, having good questions ready to ask seems to be one of the hardest parts for them. The majority of students ask very specific questions related to the school curriculum or about programs or clinics the school may be associated with.
You have to understand who is interviewing you. Some interviewers are very closely tied to the medical school and may have no problems answering questions like that. Some interviewers are volunteers that aren’t associated with the medical school outside of doing a handful of interviews each year. These volunteers wouldn’t know how to answer very specific questions.
In the end, I would say it’s not good to ask specific questions to either type of interviewer. Specific questions get specific answers and aren’t memorable. Asking opinion based questions allow for much more dialogue and have the ability to be memorable to the interviewer. This is exactly what you want.
One examples of this question is “what would the graduating class say is one of the best experiences they had here at this school?”
This question allows the interviewer to think outside the box and give you an opinion based answer. They don’t have to have specific knowledge of a program to answer your question. This is perfect!
Question 4 – “In case they ask, how far in-depth do you have to talk about your mental illness?”
A variation of this question can be asked a little differently to – “how much should you talk about a mental (or physical) illness in your application?” This is a very straightforward and easy answer. You don’t talk about it at all.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) clearly states that you cannot be restricted employment, or in this case, enrollment in school, based on any disabilities. Does that mean it doesn’t happen, even subconsciously? No.
The last thing you want to do as an applicant to medical school is give the school any reason to put your application in the “do not interview” pile or once you are at an interview, give them reason to doubt your ability to be successful in medical school and beyond.
If you need accommodations for anything, take that up with the school after you have an acceptance, not before.
Questions 5 – “What are cliché things to say and do they really impact what the interviewers think of us?”
Cliché answers are like nails on a chalkboard when I’m doing mock interviews with students. It tells me that they haven’t prepared well, or else they would have known that it was a cliché answer.
Look up the definition of cliché and you get this: “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.” Focus on the last part – “lack of original thought.” This is the biggest problem with cliché answers.
When I ask you what your biggest weakness is, and you give me the cliché answer of “I am a perfectionist,” it tells me that you didn’t put in the time or effort to really dig in to find your true weakness. You didn’t ask friends or family. You didn’t do any self-reflection. You just blurted out an answer that I have heard a hundred times today alone.
So yes, I will judge you based on your cliché answers. You need to do better. I can’t give you a list of cliché answers, I think you just know them when you hear them or say them.
I hope those five common questions about the medical school interview will help you as you prepare for your big day. Congratulations for making it this far.
If you are looking for more insight on how to prepare for the medical school interview, check out my new book “The Premed Playbook: Guide for the Medical School Interview”
Dr. Ryan Gray is a former Flight Surgeon in the United States Air Force. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida (GO GATORS!) with a B.S. in Exercise and Sports Sciences, and received his M.D. from New York Medical College. After graduating from medical school, Ryan completed his internship through a Tufts Medical Center transitional medicine program at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital.
Ryan is the publisher of MedicalSchoolHQ.net and OldPreMeds.org and the podcast host of The Premed Years and the OldPreMeds Podcast. He is also the Director of the National Society of Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students.