After all of the essays, tests, and letter requests, one of the most exciting parts of the medical school application journey is the interview. This is your chance to show who you are as a person, as well as get the measure of each particular school. Preparing yourself for the interview is crucial, but I think it’s equally important to realize how to use the interview day effectively to set yourself up best to make medical school decisions down the line.
1. Have an idea of your preferences before you go into interviews
There are plenty of great medical schools, but several of them emphasize different parts of a medical education. It’s important to learn what matters to you and which medical schools share your priorities. There are also several external factors to consider: geography, finances, and important extracurricular activities. As you start the application season, try to group your list into 3 different categories based on your preferences (very likely to attend, moderately likely to attend, and less likely to attend). The interview process can definitely sway these opinions, but it can be important to keep this list in mind as you start to schedule interviews. If two schools have a conflicting interview date and you can only pick one, having an idea of where those schools stand in your overall list is important. Also, if possible, it is nice to be able to schedule your first interview at a school that isn’t necessarily your top choice, to start to ease your way into interviews.
2. Identify what is important to you on your interview day
Even though it feels like your interview day should be about conveying your unique traits, it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t find the unique traits of the school that resonate with you. Pay attention to things like housing, financial aid, and extracurricular opportunities. Although these seem far away now, they will be the most important things when you actually enter medical school. It’s less important to remember all the specific details about how schools do their loans and scholarships, and more important to know where you can go back and look at that information later. Make a list of important questions or facts that came up during your interview day so that you can look them up later (see below).
Also, ask medical students for their honest opinion about the school’s support, workload, and social community -- they remember making the decision and will be able to give you the most relevant information. If a student or a speaker mentions programs or resources that are of particular interest to you, make sure to write it down - you’re almost guaranteed to forget it by the end of the day.
3. Research the school after your interview
Interview days are long and info-packed, and usually afterwards everyone is exhausted and looks forward to some time off. Definitely enjoy your well-earned relaxation, but try to dedicate some time to researching the school you just interviewed at while it’s fresh in your mind. Find a way to organize your school information - some people like to create spreadsheets, others take notes on their phone, and some will handwrite thoughts in a journal. Either way, set up a system so that you can take notes, remember questions, and keep specific information in mind about each school at which you interview. Take the time to go on the school website and try to find the answers to questions that came up on your interview day, and write down those answers so you know what was important to you later. Definitely note down important contacts - your interviewer, tour guide, student host, or whomever else at the school might be helpful to chat with later on down the line.
Focusing on the information gathering aspect of interview days might help take some pressure off of the performance aspect, and is a crucial part of the medical application. The more you learn about a school during the interview day, the more you can learn about your interests and priorities, and the more you can prioritize programs that fit your personality. Don’t forget that this process is about you! Good luck!