Medical School Interviews – How to Prepare

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

Congratulations on your medical school interview invite! You’ve made it in the door! Getting an interview invite is a confirmation that you’ve done everything right. You’re “good enough” to get into medical school. You should consider yourself on the same level as every other applicant on interview day no matter their background. The interview is what matters most after all the applications are in!

Being prepared is the best way to avoid a flop on interview day.

Starting the interview process:

If you are still in school, you will want to email all of your professors before the semester starts. Tell them about your plan to attend multiple medical school interviews during the school year and that you may need to leave with only a week’s notice. Ask if it is still possible to perform well in their class. You may need to change your class schedule depending on their response. All of my professors were understanding and grateful that I told them ahead of time. I missed between 20 and 30 days of class during the semester due to interviews and I was very grateful that I had informed my professors beforehand. I had no idea that I would receive those interviews and be gone for that much time, so be prepared!

When do medical schools send out interview invitations?

The earlier you send in your secondary application, the earlier the medical school will send you an interview invite. I tried to send a completed secondary out in less than two weeks from receiving the application by email. I received 11 of 15 interview invites within a month of sending in my secondary. There were a couple of schools that sent me an interview invite around November and one that sent me an invite at the beginning of December. The earlier you complete this process, the earlier you may gain acceptance and stop worrying! I had no more interviews after December and was very glad to be in the process of choosing a school rather than proving myself at another interview.

Picking an interview date

The earliest interview dates will fill up fast, so send in your secondary early and pick an interview date as soon as you get the email or call inviting you for an interview. Schools may send out these invites in batches to multiple applicants to get on and select the dates as fast as possible before they fill up. Every interview day has the potential to result in more accepted students for the limited class size. As time goes on, you’ll theoretically be competing for fewer spots as those coveted seats fill up with accepted interviewees.

Choosing to attend an interview

I decided not to attend the last 5 interviews I received between the end of October and the beginning of December because I simply could not afford it. I had already received multiple acceptances to schools I was very excited about. However, I recommend attending every single interview. It’s difficult to really know how you feel about a school until you go there and talk to the people involved. Don’t go through all the work and money to send in applications and then not attend an interview because you don’t think you want to go there.

Preparing to answer interview questions

Come up with a really good, personable response to “tell me about yourself” and practice it with people who will be honest with you. In addition, look up “common medical school interview questions” online and prepare an ideal, full, written response to a couple of them just to practice the format you want to present on interview day. 

Really get to know the school. They will ask you why you want to attend their institution and you should have a convincing argument for that! Even if they don’t ask that question specifically, you should weave that into your other answers anyway. Understand the goals, aims, and culture of the school and tailor your interview to those interests.

Prepare 3-4 “glory stories” that you can draw from in response to a variety of questions. These should be specific and personal. You should be able to use this story to demonstrate a wide variety of lessons learned and qualities possessed. Having a couple of cool experiences that make you more human, awesome, and well-rounded will make you a more interesting and outstanding applicant. Nothing is more boring than sitting through an interview with someone who just tells me who they are. Anyone moderately intelligent can make up some ideal response to a question. That alone will not make you distinct. A personal story that proves what kind of person you are will convince interviewers better than anything else and make you stand out from the crowd.

Lastly, open up a webpage of common interview questions without reading them. Then, pull out a camera and record yourself responding to the questions as you read them for the first time. Watching these videos made me cringe hard but helped me realize the ticks, mistakes, and verbal pitfalls I wanted to avoid. Practice using your glory stories in these questions to know how you can adapt and think on your feet to portray your best self.

Paying for interviews – Flights and lodging

My university had a database of alumni who had been accepted to medical schools around the nation who were willing to host other university students when they attended interviews. This saved me a lot of money and helped me make connections, prepare well for the interview, and get to know the school better. Check to see if you have access to similar information before buying a hotel. Be sure to leave a little gift or sincere thank-you card for those people who assist you along the way.

I paid cash for all of my travel expenses rather than opting for a credit card. Some people recommend using a credit card to get free miles and other perks. I weighed out the costs and benefits of a credit card and opted to avoid the unnecessary risk and debt and I have never regretted it. It’s still a marvel to me that I could afford 10 round trip flights around the country without going into debt but it’s doable! I flew Frontier airlines because it was cheapest. I had quite a few layovers and I was constantly uncomfortable but I saved hundreds of dollars.

Interview season is one of the most fun, nerve-wracking, and exciting times! If you take time to prepare early, you’ll have time to enjoy every experience. This will help you remain confident and come off in the most positive light.

Key Points:

  • Tell your professors your plan to interview around the country during the semester

  • Submit secondaries and accept interviews early

  • Practice answering questions using personal stories

  • Get to know the school very well before you go to the interview

  • Save money by lodging with kind and generous alumni where possible

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