Your medical school interview is big.
For admissions, it is where you go from a name on a piece of paper to an actual person.
For you, it is make or break. A time to demonstrate that you have what it takes to succeed in medical school.
Now you are wondering what questions they’ll ask. Your first instinct may be to go to the largest “possible medical school interview questions” list possible, and individually prepare for each. Well, we have a secret for you.
No matter how many questions you prepare for, you will never be able to memorize a response for every question they could ask.
That is why this list is not some arbitrary 140 questions they could ask. This list is 7 questions that will cover the content of everything they will ask. If you understand the core of these questions, then you can adapt your answers to pretty much any question they may have.
There is a reason why this is the first question on this list. Because it’s often the first question they ask.
This question can be daunting because of how broad it is. But it is an opportunity to steer the conversation to where you want to go. What do you want to talk about?
This is not a time to list off experiences (your AMCAS has already done that for you) but a time to show what is unique about you.
Think of stories about yourself that emphasize flattering traits or major turning points that made you who you are today. Anything interesting that encapsulates you as an individual.
Craft a moment into a prepared story, and you have steered the direction of the interview where you want to go and started the interview off with a bang.
This is a big one (for obvious reasons). Admissions will ask something along the lines of: “why do you want to become a physician?” “What is important to you about becoming a doctor?” “Why do you want to become a doctor and not something else in the medical field?”
Everyone has their own unique story.
Maybe you had a family member that was a doctor. Maybe you were amazed by the human body in your high school biology class. Maybe a doctor saved you or your family members life.
Whatever it is, tell your story! Don’t say “well my dad was a doctor so I am just doing what he did.”
Go into detail.
What is it about your father that inspired you? What do you hope to do as a physician and how do you see yourself helping people in the future? (The second part of this question may be an interview question in itself. Have a good idea on “where you see yourself in X years”)
Show them that you care.
At this point in your journey, you have had a bunch of different experiences ranging from volunteering to research to academia to your job.
Be ready to talk about all of them.
Here would be a good way to prepare:
Step 1: List all your experiences
Step 2: Under each experience, list major takeaways. (Example: You volunteered at a hospital that has an underserved patient population. A major takeaway could be that it opened your eyes to the healthcare needs of the underserved. It does not have to be this deep either. A major takeaway from a research experience could be an interest in a future specialty.)
Step 3: Think of a story from that experience that can elaborate on those major takeaways
Step 4: Emphasize how that major takeaway has helped you grow as a person
Do this with all your experiences and practice telling these stories. Then you will be in a fantastic position to answer this question.
More than that, this technique will help with a lot of other questions (including the two we have already mentioned).
Naturally, you may feel more confident declaring your strength over your weakness. Strengths are easier! You just pick a strength and back it up with a story that proves that strength.
Your natural instinct in an interview is to avoid shining yourself in a bad light. It’s why weakness questions are tricky. But nobody’s perfect.
Be honest with yourself. They are really trying to find out if you are self-aware and actively improving.
If your weakness is that you are uncomfortable with uncertainty, you could start by talking about your struggles with uncertainty. Then demonstrate how you are always striving to better yourself by talking about a time where you overcame that weakness.
This question goes hand and hand with questions of diversity. When you work on a team, you are automatically working with people who don’t think in the same way as you. They also hold different values than you do. Tensions can arise
They want to see how you interact with those diverse viewpoints.
Start out with the obvious challenges that come with working on a team. Did you and a team member disagree on how to do something? How did you overcome that hurdle? How did you empathize with them?
Show you can work to overcome barriers inherent to diverse teams. Portraying this ability will prove you can work on a team with other doctors and serve a highly diverse patient population.
Admissions looks for people that really want to go to their med school. They want someone who cares about the school. They want to feel special.
For this question, it is best to do research beforehand. Does the school specialize in a field of interest to you? Have you dreamt of living in the area your whole life? (Admissions loves this because part of their goal is to supply good doctors to the state.)
BIG BONUS if you can find a personal connection to the school, like a doctor you know that attended the school.
It could range from abortion to euthanasia to ethical situations on insurance. Sometimes they can let you pick a topic on your own, but it is best to have a broad understanding.
Get informed. This is your career of choice, you better have some idea on what is going on with it. Google topics of debate in the medical field and do your research.
You may think “just let me tell you your opinion so we can agree and you can admit me!” But that is not what they want here.
They are determining whether you are informed. Show them you are.
Be respectful. Bring arguments from all sides so they know you have done your research. Then, given all that information, pick a spot where you stand.
As we said at the beginning of this article, there is no way you can prepare for every single question they ask you. But with a deep understanding of these questions, you can understand what they are asking you with each question, and tailor your responses to it.
Take the time to thoroughly prepare and answer these questions. If you want a test run, check out our interview prep packages. You can have a Harvard MD give you specific and actionable feedback to make sure you crush it on your interview day!