September 24, 2020

How to Shine On Your Medical School VITAs

Miscellaneous
Sofia Ahsanuddin

How to Shine On Your Medical School VITAs


Applying to medical school is hard enough; applying in the midst of a global pandemic is even harder. 


Here at AcceptMed, we have made it our mission to prepare students like you to face the challenges of the medical school application process head-on. As one of several changes that have been for this application season in light of COVID-19, many medical schools are now using the AAMC Video Interview for Admissions, or VITA for short [1], to supplement alternatives to in-person interviews. The AAMC VITA is a one-way, one-time recorded video “introduction” to yourself as a medical school applicant. 


According to the AAMC website, it is designed to help medical schools screen applicants’ pre-professional competencies in order to see if they will succeed in medical school and beyond. Moreover, the VITA is intended to allow medical school admissions committees’ to understand if your goals align with their own. For a list of participating medical schools, visit this website [2]. 


But interviews are nerve-wracking, and more so when they’re conducted virtually and without an audience. That is why we’ve decided to go over some strategies you can use to make a positive first impression with your VITA. Let’s get started!


Tip #1: Use Your Time Wisely


When preparing for the VITA, the AAMC recommends that you complete it within 2 weeks of receiving an invitation from HireVue. Students will be understandably working on their secondary essays during this time, but it is imperative that you prioritize the VITA and submit it by the medical school’s deadline. 


For the VITA itself, make sure that you are as precise and concise with your words as possible. You are allotted 3 minutes to make your case, but this doesn’t mean that you should use up all of the allotted time. In fact, up to 2.5 minutes should be sufficient for your VITA, since going on for any longer than that may lead to coming across as redundant. Just like with your secondary essays, keep your prose short, to the point, impactful, and make every word count!


Tip #2: First Impressions Matter


Treat the VITA as you would a regular, in-person interview; that is, understand that appearance DOES matter and make a difference. We know that the AAMC has specifically instructed medical school admissions teams to not factor in appearance, technology, and backdrop into the equation, but we think that not paying attention to these factors would be a misstep, because we all know that first impressions matter. Irrespective of socioeconomic background, virtually everyone can try to find a nice, quiet environment to record their VITA, preferably with a clean, crisp background. 


In terms of technology, the AAMC has clearly stated that free and open source platforms like Zoom, Skype, or Photobooth can be utilized to complete the VITA [3]. It is “on demand” which means that you simply need to record the VITA at a time and place that is convenient for you. Therefore, using the “touch up my appearance” option on Zoom (which does not drastically alter your appearance, it simply minimizes any facial blemishes like acne scars) or using the free and open source sound-editing software, Audacity, are reasonable to use for this purpose.  If you don’t have access to a personal computer, no worries; try to borrow a friend’s, relative’s, or head on over to your public library to use one of their computers.


As you would for a real, in-person interview, wear your best business attire (navy blue, anyone?) and absolutely avoid wearing flashy or gaudy accessories or jewelry. You want to ensure that your audience is focused completely on you and what you have to say, and so minimizing any distractions -- both on you and around you -- will be ideal in this scenario. 


Feel free to adjust your clothing and background based on how everything “looks” on camera -- sometimes, the proportions may be a bit skewed or the background may be too bright. For instance, ensure that your blouse or dress shirt fits appropriately and that your clothing is not too low-cut; this may come across as distracting and possibly unprofessional if the rest of your shirt is out of the camera frame. In the case that you wear glasses, try to wear contacts so that you minimize any glare from your screen or the background. 


Lastly, good posture sets the tone for meaningful engagement -- don’t slouch during your VITA! Good posture exudes confidence, and you want to ensure that your audience knows that you are serious about the prospect of attending medical school.


Tip #3: Simulate the VITA On Your Own (and preferably NOT with others!)


For this part of the application process, it is essential that you learn how to speak to the camera as if it is a real person. That is, you need to be comfortable with speaking to an audience without really seeing them. We recommend that you practice and rehearse what you’re going to say in front of the camera, in the bathroom, on Snapchat, PhotoBooth, Instagram, or any other resource that helps you practice! 


The more comfortable you are speaking in front of a camera, the better equipped you will be for the real thing and the more confident you will come across to medical school admissions teams!


Tip #4: Thoroughly make use of the available AAMC VITA Online Resources


The VITA consists of 6 questions that are personal, situational, and behavioral [4]. These questions are intended to measure the following core competencies [5]:


  1. Social skills
  2. Cultural competence
  3. Teamwork
  4. Reliability and dependability
  5. Resilience and adaptability


The latter two are not unlike the types of questions you will encounter during either your secondaries or your CASPer test. Why did you decide to pursue medicine? If you were in a group with three other people and you were left to do most of the work, what would you do? If you got into a conflict with a classmate, what was the reason and the outcome?

The AAMC has provided sample questions, a sample interview video, and other essential resources that are high yield to leverage to prepare for your own VITA.


Finally, if you have a disability or a medical condition that warrants a modification to the VITA, go ahead and request an accommodation form at the link below [6]. Take a look at the AAMC website regarding accommodations to ensure that you are submitting the appropriate documentation to ensure that your request for accommodation is approved [7]. 


References 

  1. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/aamc-video-interview-tool-admissions/
  2. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/medical-schools-participating-aamc-video-interview/
  3. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/5-things-you-need-know-about-aamc-vita-video-inter/
  4. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/aamc-vita-sample-questions/
  5. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/about-aamc-video-interview-tool-admissions/
  6. https://students-residents.aamc.org/content/downloadable/3346/
  7. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/video-interview-tool-admissions-accommodations/

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