Congrats on making it to interview season! It’s been a long journey with the pre-med courses, long hours in the lab, grueling MCAT prep, and seemingly endless AMCAS and supplemental essays. You’re almost there. I found the interview portion really fun - I traveled to places I’d never been, got wined and dined by students and faculty, and talked about research with people who were equally passionate about it!
In this post, I’ve compiled a few absolutely essential questions to nail down before you walk into your interview.
1. Why do you want to pursue an MD/PhD?
If you’re applying to MD/PhD programs and you’ve written countless essays on it, it might seem like a no-brainer to be ready to answer this question. Yet, I often find that interviewers are left with the impression that the applicant did not adequately demonstrate a well-thought-out decision that justifies BOTH the MD and the PhD. Do not fall into the mistake that I find interviewees make in which they are perfectly aligned with the PhD but the MD sounds like an afterthought. Make sure you practice answering the “Why MD/PhD?” question and get feedback from others so that when it’s time to shine, you can seamlessly justify why your professional pursuits require a marriage of the MD and PhD.
2. Tell me about your research.
As researchers, we often find ourselves gravitating towards granularity. But, I cannot stress enough how important it is to articulate the big picture idea of your projects, in addition to your knowledge of technical skills during interviews. Also be prepared to share future steps and directions with your project and research goals in general. These components are crucial to your interviewer’s evaluation of your readiness for an MD/PhD program.
The depth in which an interviewer will delve into your research is case-by-case. If they know your research area well, they might ask very detailed questions. If they are unfamiliar with your scientific niche, then there might be surface-level, big-picture questions. Be prepared to answer questions of all depths. Some ways that I prepared when I was an interviewee involved reviewing all papers/posters I had written for my project, relevant papers from my lab related to the research I was doing, as well as published literature on that topic. I’d also do a Google search if you know who you are interviewing with to see if they have a background in your topic so you can tailor the depth at which you answer questions. I find that interviewers who are very familiar with your research area tend to be more critical, so be prepared.
Also, don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know the answer. It is better to acknowledge that you do not know than to pretend that you don’t know and stumble at a follow-up question.
3. Why do you want to come to this school?
Do your research, talk to students, and show that you are interested in attending this school. For example, note specific faculty members with whom you’d be interested in working if you were accepted as a student. Also, talk about some student groups that you found during your research on the school and why you would want to join them.
And, that’s a wrap! This post is by no means comprehensive, but I hope that you find these tips helpful in your interview preparation for this exciting season. Remember that you got the interview because the institution wants you as a student. The interview is just a way of making sure you match up with the person whom they’ve been reading about on the written application!