Medical school interview: my two cents

Recently I have received many questions on medical school interview so I thought it might be good to share my tips with you.

First, congratulations on receiving an interview invitation. It means that your application has passed the first few steps of screening and now you should discard any inferiority complex (if you have any) and believe that you have as much chance of getting in like any other people if you can shine in the interview.

Second, ask yourself what is the purpose of the interview. In most cases, it is a way for the interviewers to assess your suitability to the medical school that you are applying. So look at the admission criteria and jot down stories that demonstrate your fit. What is especially important (and neglected by many) is that the interview is an opportunity to be a three-dimensional person. For places like Cambridge, the interviewers are going to select the students that they are going to meet on at least a monthly basis so you want to behave like one. It is not about acting, but about being authentic and the best part of yourself. The same will of course apply to any other medical school. Although you may not have interactions with the academics on an as frequent basis they want to meet a student who is ready to become part of the university community. Remember to smile.

Third, and this is specific to academic interviews and somehow a continuation of the second point. Treat academic interviews as a free lesson from the world’s top researchers in this field. Yes, seriously, engage in the academic discussion, explain your thought process and ask questions about the topic because you truly want it to be an enriching experience. The interviewers care much more about whether you are a teachable student than whether you know a bunch of facts. Knowing some facts will help, and it may be helpful to look up the “syllabus” in the first year and get yourself familiar with the topics, but what is more important is you can engage with the discussion, explore different possibilities, and do not fixate on a single answer. Be curious.

Fourth, practice. Practice makes perfect and like any mocks, they should be as close to the real experience as possible. That is about finding someone familiar with the interview process, wearing the same outfit and being in the same environment.

Fifth, take it easy. Remember, if you want to be a doctor, you will be one. You can apply this year, next year and many years after that. Your life goes on and you can always develop the knowledge and skills that help your medical career outside a professional training course. Perhaps you will also find something that fits you better, or you will develop some skills that make you a truly unique doctor. So think about your best alternatives. It can be another medical school, a different degree, or a gap year. The fact is any degree is probably just a means to an end, with the ending being the person you want to become. I told myself this when I was waiting for Cambridge’s application results: “even if Cambridge rejects me, I can still become the clinician-scientist who makes an impact on healthcare”.

That’s it. I wish every best with your application and if you want personalized tips or mock interviews, feel free to email me with University admission in the subject. I will try my best to respond, but if I am too busy (like this year), I can forward to my friends who may be available.

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Tim

Personalizing medicine

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