How to interview for medical school when you’re not a strong interviewee

interview prep medical school admissions strategy

I remember the paradoxical mixture of both elation and fear when I received my first medical school interview. I was excited by the prospect of embarking on my journey to becoming a medical school student. At the same time, I balked at the idea of an interview being the barrier between where I was and where I wanted to be. At that point, I would not have considered myself to be a strong interviewer – I remember stumbling through many questions in prior interviews, not having the practice nor the self-confidence to adequately answer each and every question. However, by utilizing the following tips and tricks, I was ultimately accepted at 11 out of the 15 schools I interviewed at and waitlisted at the other 4. Although the tips below are common and relatively well-known, they are difficult to put into practice. However, by doing so, you will ensure that you are adequately prepared for many of the questions you will inevitably be asked.

Think about what gets you out of bed every morning

Medical schools want students who are passionate about the activities and hobbies they are involved in. Reflect on what motivates you – is it the food shelter you volunteer at on Monday nights? Is it the dance group you joined on a whim but eventually grew to love? Is it the biology class that you tutor for every week? Regardless of what it is, think about what draws you to that passion and how the lessons and skills you have learned from it will transfer into medicine. After you have 2-3 passions you want to talk about, think about how you would describe them to a friend. The same way your eyes would light up in that conversation should carry into all of your medical school interviews.

Have responses prepared for common interview questions

Make sure you have responses prepared for the inevitable “Why medicine?” or “Why our school?” For why you want to go to medical school, think about the experiences you’ve had leading up to this day. Was there a specific moment when it clicked that you wanted to become a doctor? What experiences have you had that have shaped your decision to apply? Take time to reflect on the key aspects that led you to the path of medicine.

For questions about a specific school, make sure you do your research! Look for any unique factors in the curriculum, specific research opportunities or programs, or organizations you may want to get involved with. If the interview is an MMI, this website helped me in learning about some of the most prominent ethical topics in medicine:

Make sure to also have responses prepared for each of the following questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Describe a time that you failed and what you learned from it.
  • What was your favorite class (STEM and non-STEM) that you took in college?
  • What do you do to manage stress? What are some of your hobbies?
  • Is there anything else that you want me to relay to the admission committee?
  • And make sure to have your own questions prepared for your interviewer!

Practice, practice, practice!

One of the best ways to build your interviewing skills and self-confidence is to continually practice by doing mock interviews with others. You can get a close friend or find other pre-med students at your school (or on sites like Reddit!) to run through common interview questions with you. Make sure to generally keep your answers between 1-2 minutes long and be receptive to feedback from others!

Remember, this is the last hurdle in the application cycle (and the overall long-winded process that is applying to medical school). Stay calm and remember that the school chose to interview you for a reason. Just as much as they are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. Take notes, stay confident and positive, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a doctor!

Avina graduated summa cum laude and received her BA in Cell Biology and Neuroscience with minors in Psychology and Spanish at Rutgers University. She's currently an MD Candidate at Harvard Medical School.


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing English strategy MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT GMAT physics GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice law school admissions ACT interview prep language learning test anxiety career advice premed MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD test prep study schedules computer science Common Application mathematics summer activities history philosophy secondary applications organic chemistry economics supplements research grammar 1L PSAT admissions coaching law psychology statistics & probability dental admissions legal studies ESL CARS PhD admissions SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension calculus engineering USMLE mentorship Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning AMCAS DAT English literature STEM admissions advice excel medical school political science skills French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese gap year genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering Anki DO Social Advocacy algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics data science dental school diversity statement geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry proofs resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry units writer's block 3L AAMC Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian JD/MBA admissions Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function fellowships freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports letter of continued interest linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics music music theory nervous system