Being invited by a medical school to interview is a huge accomplishment—it means the school is interested in getting to know you and learn more about your qualifications. So after you’ve scheduled a date, made your travel arrangements, and picked out the perfect outfit, how do you stay calm and make a positive impression? We asked five current medical students to share their best advice for having a successful interview.
“I was overflowing with nervous energy by the time I reached my first interview for medical school. After all that work and preparation, everything seemed to come down to this big moment. My secret to success was converting that nervous energy into excitement and enthusiasm. I treated each interview day as an opportunity to have fun. This meant not only engaging with the interviewers, but with the other applicants, the medical student tour guides, and every faculty member I met.
“I tried my best to be bubbly, warm, and interested. This allowed me to feel confident and stand out, but also distracted me from my nerves. The conversations I had before going into my interviews also served as a kind of ‘warm-up’ to the real thing. I even made some friends at the interview who are now my classmates!”
- Luke P. Burns, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, 2018
“Make an active effort to be calm on your interview day. Having been in your shoes, it’s entirely normal to be very nervous. However, take a few deep breaths, and remember that you are going to participate in a conversation. Whether you have one-on-one interviews, panel interviews, or MMIs, the interviewers are most interested in learning about who you are and how you think.
“Your ability to process and authentically respond to questions will improve dramatically if you don’t allow anxiety or fear to overpower you. Listen to the question, think about it, take a breath, and respond as best you can.”
-Dipika Gaur, Rush Medical College of Rush University Medical Center, 2021
“One of the best ways to prepare for your interview is to go over your primary and secondary application in the days prior. A number of months may have passed since you submitted everything, so it's important to get a refresher on what you put in your personal statement and how you responded to questions on a school's secondary application.
“Interviewers will often pull out information from the applications and ask you to talk more about a research experience or a challenge you faced. It's their way of not only ensuring that you were the one who completed the application but also that you wrote about the experiences that matter to you. They want to see the sparkle in your eye when you talk about a particular project that you worked on or a patient experience that left a long-standing impact on you. Therefore, it’s worth spending time reviewing and reflecting on what you’ve written so that you can come to the interview that much more prepared.”
-Slavena Salve Nissan, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2020
“My advice would be to try to have a casual and genuine conversation. Most interviewers are truly interested in getting to know the applicants, so be yourself. Show interest in the other person and be sure to listen. Remember a conversation is bidirectional. And although you should be relaxed during the interview, it is important to always be professional. Also, when facing a tough question, take the time to prepare your answer. Think before you speak. But most importantly, enjoy a good conversation.”
-Munir Buhaya, McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 2021
“If you have been invited to an interview, it’s because the admissions committee thinks you are academically qualified for their rigorous program. While you will discuss your resume in the interview, don’t feel like you have to prove your qualifications for the program. Instead, take the time to show your personality and discuss your unique interests. Be prepared to talk about how and why you decided to pursue medicine.
“At the end of the interview, most interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them. Keep a couple interesting questions in your back pocket and take the opportunity to ask them. Find something about the program that is important to you and that you genuinely want to learn more about. It’s a good chance to show interviewers what you care about and that you’ve thought specifically about their program.”
-Arianna Farah Yanes, Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine, 2019
To learn more about medical school interviews, visit the AAMC’s website.