Medical School Application: Interviews and Selecting a School
Once you have been offered an interview, it means you are academically qualified to attend that particular medical school. I believe your numbers do not matter once you have reached this stage of the process. It is difficult for me to coach someone on how to give a good interview because I think you should just be yourself! Here are some tips that I found useful:
- Schedule some practice mock interviews- most college pre-professional offices and MCAT preparation courses offer this type of service.
- Video tape and review your mock interviews- you'll be surprised how much you can learn from this little interesting exercise!
- Do not schedule your top choices as your first two interviews. You'll find that your interviewing skills will improve over the first few interviews. Some people feel the quality of their interviews actually decline toward the end of the interview trail after having to repeat the same answer over and over again. Ideally, you should schedule your top choices in the middle of your interview cycle.
It is also difficult to choose how many schools to interview at. If you are getting offers from most of the places you applied, you are likely to be a desirable applicant. I believe
8-12 interviews are reasonable to secure at least 1-2 acceptances.
After your interviews, you should hand-write thank you notes to your interviewers. Include something personal in your card to remind them of your interview session. It is OK to call the admissions office to inquire about the status of your file if you have not heard back from them in the period of time stated by the individual schools. Remember to be polite when you call.
If you are placed on a waiting list, it is also a good idea to check on the status of your file periodically. A good way to go about doing it is to call and ask to update your file with any additional information such as grades, honors, or publications. You can also write a letter stating that you are still very interested in attending that particular school.
If you have multiple acceptances, you will have to choose a school. If you start getting multiple acceptances early on, please be considerate of others and hold only one acceptance and quickly decline the others. Here are some thoughts to factor into your final decision:
- Basic sciences: you may hear a lot of different types of curriculum (i.e. traditional vs. problem based) on your interview trail. I feel this does not make a big difference because medicine is a large body of knowledge and studying it is difficult regardless of the approach. This should not be a decision maker for you.
- Clinical training: you'll be trained well clinically in most if not all medical schools. I trained at a school with a university hospital (UCLA), a private hospital (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center), VA Hospital, county hospitals (Harbor and Olive View Medical Center), and a HMO (Kaiser Los Angeles). I was able to get a good exposure to different types of practice settings as well as different patient populations, both of which I found to be useful experiences. Therefore, the available clinical facilities may factor into your final selection.
- Research: if you have interest in research, then a top 25 school with a large amount of research funding and research opportunities maybe important to you. Realistically, it is difficult to carry out meaningful research unless you are pursuing a Ph.D. as well.
- Reputation: this becomes important when you apply for residency, especially for competitive residencies such as dermatology, radiology, and ophthalmology. I believe each residency applicant should be evaluated on his or her own merit but unfortunately the medical school's reputation will give you a distinct advantage.
- Student body: each medical school probably has a character of its own. Pay attention to the current students during your interview- will you be happy for 4 years as a student at the particular institution you are considering?
- Tuition: private vs. public education makes a big difference financially, especially if you have to take out loans. If the private institution is a lot more reputable than the public one you are considering, I would choose the former- you should not compromise on your education.
- Location: I don't believe this should factor into your decision at all but it maybe important to some people. I actually think you should go see different parts of the country if possible!