Staying cool, calm, and collected before your medical school interview

interview prep medical school admissions strategy
By Ephraim

For years, you’ve worked towards this goal of going to medical school. Countless hours of fine tuning your AMCAS, asking for recommendation letters, and writing secondaries have come to this: your first interview. How will you handle it? This article focuses on how to strengthen your standard medical school Zoom interviews and stay calm during the process. Whether you’re a natural interviewee or struggle to find the right words, brushing up on the basics will only make you that much better.

Practice, practice, practice

To improve in your interview skills, you should practice earlier than you think you should. By the time you have written most of your primary application materials, you should consider finding people to do mock interviews by the end of the summer. It might be helpful to do this interview with someone who has experience (a med student, a dean, a physician you know), but the most important thing is to find someone who can listen to you for 20-30 minutes and give feedback. 

In addition to experienced mock interviewers, you can also get jitters out with your non-premed friends! Especially in the days leading up to your interview, I would recommend starting up conversations with whomever you come across: the person next to you in line at Starbucks, your neighbor, or even just a professor after class. Anything that can help get out the jitters will pay dividends in the long run. 

Know the main questions

Be ready to answer the questions most likely to come up on the interview trail. I have provided a few below:

  • Why are you pursuing a career in medicine?
  • Why do you want to attend our school?
  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a time you worked on a team and it went well? And it didn’t go well?

Have a few examples (ideally not yet reflected on your application) to answer these questions. It is fine to have some things overlap with your application—the application is about you after all—but spinning the same situation in a new light or providing a fresh, new anecdote can help the committee gather more information about you.

Be sure to review your AMCAS application and your secondary essays, so you can talk about anything from your application. For example, some interviewers take the time to ask about every single one of your activities. If it has been several years since you have done an activity, you should refresh yourself on the experience before and not during the interview.

Relaxing Rituals

It is perfectly normal to feel somewhat anxious about how the day will go. You’ve worked hard for this, and any interview is somewhat unpredictable. I usually got nervous in the final minutes before the opening session began, so I created a “pump-up” playlist of my favorite motivating songs to put me in the best headspace before my interview. Consider praying, meditating, dancing, moving around, or any other strategy that gets you mentally ready for the hours of an evaluative Zoom ahead. Whatever your pre-game ritual is, do your best to be ready to excel during the interview.

Celebrate!

Congrats, you finished your interview! Despite the long hours on Zoom, you made it through. It is easy to continue the day, week, or month without acknowledging that you have made a significant step to getting closer to your dream. Do whatever you do to celebrate—read a book, hang out with friends, eat the dessert you’ve been saving. You’ve earned it.

Ephraim graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, where he was selected as a Barry Goldwater Scholar, BP-ENDURE scholar, and regional finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. He is currently an MD Candidate at Harvard Medical School.

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