5 Tips For a Successful Medical School Interview (its not what you think)

Medical School
February 29, 2020

These medical school interview tips are only useful if you have already done the following:

  1. Read a dozen articles on medical school interviews already
  2. Read all the basic medical school interview tips (from common medical school interview questions to what to wear to your medical school interview to writing an interview thank you note
  3. Are looking for other actionable tips you may not have not thought about yet but may find helpful, or tips you already know about but have not yet put into action.

Tip #1: Use An App to Get Organized for your medical school interviews

Make sure your medical school application and medical school interview question documents are easily accessible to you on your interview day. The day before your medical school interview and the interview day itself is stressful. Many scientific journals and popular health blogs online have listed stress and anxiety as common causes of forgetfulness. Stress and anxiety can make you forget parts of your medical school application you thought you had memorized cold or forget common medical school interview answers you spent hours rehearsing. Limit your stress by staying organized. Instead of shuffling around through your folders and papers trying to remember your answers to a particular MMI question or ethical dilemma question the night before your interview, I have an easier system for you. Download an app on your phone like Google Drive or Dropbox and digitally store all your documents in one place. Have all your medical school application materials in one app so that if you run into a situation where you want to reference a certain part of your application or a medical school interview answer, you can get to it easily on your phone. Here is an example of a simple way to organize your Google Drive. 


Tip #2: Put the RBF away. Remember to smile and interact with other medical school applicants.

On your medical school interview day, a lot of thoughts and scenarios are running through your mind. It is easy to stay in your bubble until you get called in for your medical school interview. But part of the interview process is also how well you interact with others. Your interviewers will notice you outside of the interview. They may get feedback on how you interacted with the administrative staff checking you in, the medical students giving the tours, and the other interviewees. They are paying attention to how you are interacting in your environment. Do not overthink this, but this is a reminder to smile and interact. If you are an introvert and have trouble finding things to say, try the FORD method. FORD stands for the four topics you can use to start a conversation with just about anyone:

Family: Do you have family in the area?

Occupation: Do you have a part-time job?

Recreation: Are you in any clubs?

Dreams: What are you looking forward to doing during the holidays?

It doesn’t really matter what question you start off asking. Putting in effort to talk to people around you during interview day can give off a positive first impression. 

Tip #3: Have one great story in your back pocket. 

Medical school interviewers read a lot of applications. To give you some perspective, according to AAMC data, 52,777 people applied to medical school in 2018. There was an average of 16 applications per applicant. Of all those who applied, 41% of them got into medical school. Each interviewer reads hundreds of applications that are all very similar: good numbers, scores, research, volunteering, extracurricular activities etc. This is where having a great story in your back pocket can really help you stand out in your medical school interviews. There are many Ted Talks on the topic of storytelling. I myself have interviewed many medical students and residents. It wasn’t the impressive resume or their medical mission trip to a foreign country that I remembered. I would usually remember a specific story that came up during the interview that gave me a sense of who they were as a person. When I was a first year medical student, I met the general surgeon who had interviewed me. I had all the things a good applicant should have: the research, scholarships, brand-name university etc. But he didn’t remember any of that. He remembered a story I shared with him about my mom. 

Don’t overlook the power of a great story in your pocket. It may be the difference between being just another applicant they interview vs. someone they really remember. 

As an added piece of advice, don’t shy away from highlighting something you want your interviewer to know about you. There may be a change of schedule or interviewers the day of, or some interviewers may have just briefly looked through your application right before your interview. If you have that great story in your back pocket, find a way to bring it up in the interview. Take the initiative to highlight that story to the interviewer.

Tip #4: Have a wrinkle free suit on your medical school interview day.

This advice is just a reminder to set yourself up for success. The average medical school applicant receives 3-4 medical school interviews. Sometimes there are things beyond your control, like travel delay due to weather causing you to be late to your medical school interview. It is during these times that you will be glad that you had some fool-proof systems in place for your medical school interviews.

  1. Choose a wrinkle free suit to change into quickly, just in case you are running late due to travel delays.
  2. Create a packing checklist (and store the list on your Google Drive app). Check through the list twice. I met an interviewee who forgot his interview shirt at home, and his flight got in late the night before. He had to borrow a shirt that was 2 sizes too big for him from someone who worked in hotel guest services. Sometimes your mind tricks you into thinking you did something but totally overlooked it. Checklists can function as a second brain so you don’t forget the important stuff. 
  3. Use free travel apps and airline apps of airline carriers you tend to fly the most often with in order to keep track of your flights. This is really useful if you have a few multi-city flights and are combining interview trips. This is probably more common during residency interviews, but also applies to medical school interviews.

The point of this tip is to think about your medical school interview process from start to finish. From when you book the flight for the interview up to when you finish writing your interview thank you letter. Create a foolproof system to streamline this process. Use spreadsheets and checklists to make sure you don’t end up like that interviewee and forget something essential at home. 

Tip #5: Part of a successful medical school interview is a successful mindset. 

The day before your interview, avoid reading things that will not serve you. This means try to avoid going on forums like Student Doctor Network or Reddit. Take those comments that you read from forums with a grain of salt. Information can be misleading. For example, a popular forum thread popularized the “Turkey Day Rule.” If you have not heard of it, the rumor states that if an applicant does not hear back from a school by Thanksgiving, they have not been accepted to medical school for that cycle. This is not true, and reading these types of threads will just put you in an anxious and negative mindset before your interview.

If you need advice, there are other places to get advice outside of these forums. Ask current medical students, previous college alumni, or friends of friends that have through the application process recently. Ask them specific questions about their medical school interview experiences. For the most part, most advice will be generic, middle of the road advice. But there may be a few people who are willing to go into more details about their medical school application process. Listen to their stories of what worked and what didn’t work for them. Not all advice may be applicable to you so create a medical school interview strategy that is right for you. And as always, if you want more professional advice on the medical school interview process, the AcceptMed team offers comprehensive medical school consulting services.

Key Points

Medical school interviews are stressful. On top of the medical school interview itself, there is preparation before the interview and follow up that occurs even after the medical school interview is over. These are just 5 tips that can help you put your best foot forward. Be organized and create fool proof systems for yourself. This could mean creating spreadsheets or checklists, or finding a useful travel app to keep you organized. Have a great story in your back pocket, it may be a story that your interviewer remembers and the reason why he advocated for your medical school application. Part of a successful medical school interview is a successful mindset. Get advice from people that you can trust and that have your best interest in mind. 

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