Questions About Interviews

Complicated Interview Questions
Reading About Healthcare

Cancelling Interviews: "Traffic Rules"

Question: I have a quick question. - I received an interview at ---------- School of Medicine, and I accepted it and scheduled one. However, I recently decided to cancel my interview and withdraw my application from that particular school. My interview is scheduled for next week. Is there any advice on the HPA website on how to properly inform them (I couldn't find any)? Should I give them a specific reason? Thanks very much . . .

Answer: I'm so glad you contacted us prior to taking action. Information about cancelling interviews is not readily available on our website because it is not generally recommended, and we don't want to encourage it. An invitation to interview is a privilege that most applicants never have, and the general feeling among medical schools is that interviewees should respect all invitations and show up for all interviews. In addition, we find that students who keep an open mind when going to interviews at schools where they do not originally think they'd like to matriculate are often surprised by what they find on interview day, and often change their minds. That said, there are candidates every year who must cancel an interview on their schedule, but they NEVER do it with less than one week's notice.--------- School of Medicine will be upset with you, most definitely, if you cancel now, as it is highly unlikely that they would be able to fill the slot you would vacate. At this late hour, your only course of action is to go to the interview and keep an open mind.

Important: The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) does publish "traffic rules" for both applicants and medical schools. These recommendations are designed "to ensure that applicants are afforded timely notification of the outcome of their medical school applications and timely access to available first-year positions and that schools are protected from having unfilled positions in their entering classes." Translation? Traffic Rules = Guidelines for how to behave during the process of applying, interviewing, and accepting an offer of admissions. All pre-meds might find this list of recommendations interesting, but those in the middle of the application process right now will find them particularly helpful. Click here


Complicated Interview Questions

"Do you have any questions for me?"

Question: I know that it's a good idea to have questions for my interviewers because it shows interest in the school and learning more about it, but I thought the website was really comprehensive and answered all of my questions. I'm afraid I'll ask things that are on the website and it'll look like I didn't do my homework.

Answer: First, pay attention over the course of the interview -- it's quite possible that something you hear or see will spark a question. Or if you were talking to student hosts if you stayed overnight with current med students, maybe something they said raised a question for you. 

Medical students were surveyed a few years ago to determine what they wished they had asked when they were choosing schools - their list of 35 questions is available online.

If all else fails, keep in mind that you're interviewing with someone who has some role in the school and thus has their own opinions about it, and this perspective may help you better understand the school. Questions like "What do you like best about X School," "How has the medical school student population changed in the time you've been here," "What do you think about xyz recent initiative that X School is undertaking," or "In your opinion, what's the most important thing to know about X School as a prospective student," are all possible ways to learn more about your interviewer's perspective on the school. 

No matter what, be sure to consider your interviewer and their role when thinking about what questions to ask -- you should have some questions in mind for students, faculty, staff, clinicians, alums, and admissions personnel, as you may be interviewed by individuals from any of these constituencies. 

"Where Else are You applying?"

Question: In a couple of my medical school interviews so far, my interviewer has asked me what other schools I am applying to. Is this an illegal question or a common one? I have been saying that I am applying to schools on the East Coast in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, etc. without actually naming the schools. However, the interviewers seemed to want me to list all of the schools by name. I thought this was an odd questions, and that what schools I apply to should not affect my candidacy at any particular one. Any advice regarding this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: We don't blame you for feeling uncomfortable, but it's not an illegal question. It's not too common either, but occasionally it does come up. It isn't easy to assess the schools' motivation in asking this question, except that you can be sure it's self-serving! In some cases they are trying to determine if you are more enthusiastic about schools other than their own. Or, they may be trying to figure out if they will be your best option. If the former, they may not take you, figuring you will not come if accepted. If the latter, they can be pretty sure they will get you if they accept you. Frankly, we think your list of schools is good, so go ahead and share it if asked again. Your list is a nice blend of schools--based on the tentative list you gave us last spring and the revisions we suggested you make. 

"What's Your Favorite School?"

Question: At my last interview, my interviewer asked me what my top choice school was. What is the appropriate way to respond in this case, should I be asked the same question at a subsequent interview? 

Answer: You want to be diplomatic and truthful. It's okay to say that you're early in interview season and that you don't want to make a firm commitment until you've had a chance to learn more about the schools as you visit them and speak with faculty, staff and students and then reflect on the best fit for you. You can then highlight the aspects of the school you're visiting that appeal to you, or share some of the characteristics that you're looking for in your medical school (e.g., sense of community, global health opportunities, early clinical exposure) and ask a follow up question that might help you learn more about an aspect of the school that you're interested in. 


Giving Thanks

Question: I know we're supposed to send thank-you notes to med schools after interviews. I just got back from my first interview at ------- and was wondering exactly how to go about sending a thank-you note. Who does it go to, and should it be typed or is handwritten OK?

Answer: Appropriate question, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday. Interview thank-you notes should be sent to any individuals you met who interviewed you - usually just one or two people at most med schools. You do not need to thank a dean who welcomed you at the start of your interview day, or a financial aid officer who provided information, or a med student who simply gave you a tour. Only those who evaluated you should be thanked for their time. Handwritten notes are fine; in fact, they're most common (compared to typed ones). Send the note(s) immediately upon return from your interview. If you have any doubt about the spelling of an individual's name, check the school's website. If that fails, it is acceptable to call the Admissions Office and explain what you're trying to do, and ask for a complete spelling (and the recipient's address if need be). In the note, you might express your pleasure at being able to see the med school and meet the faculty and students. You can also reiterate any points that you discussed in the interview and expand on anything you'd like, as long as it's brief. Generally, thank-you notes are short and sweet.  


Thank You Notes

Question: I was wondering if there is a template for "Thank you cards" post-interview. If there are no templates on our site, do you know of any sites that might give samples/examples of this type of thank you note? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: There are no such sites that we know of, but it is a simple matter to prepare such a note, and one should be sent immediately after each medical school interview. Such notes are usually hand written on note cards and may be quite brief. They thank the interviewer for his/her time spent with you, express your pleasure at being able to see the medical school, and reiterate points that you discussed in the interview, especially any that distinguish you from other candidates. It's a chance for you both to thank the interviewer for his/her time and also for you to remind him/her once again of your strengths as a candidate. Good luck!  


Interviewing While Abroad

Question: Dear HPA, All of the fellowships abroad are really attractive to me, but I’m applying to medical school this summer and I’m worried about the logistics of interviewing from abroad. Does this realistically work for applicants? Can you give me some examples of success stories?
 

Answer: Last year, we had applicants in Nicaragua, Warsaw, Cambridge, and Prague, all of whom are now in medical school. There is definitely some stress coordinating interviews, but they all made it work by applying early, communicating with their schools, and planning carefully. Choosing your abroad experience with your application cycle in mind can help: opportunities with flexibility in time off or built-in vacation in December, those that start in mid-October (so that you may be able to interview before you leave), or those that allow you to set your own schedule (like Princeton’s Labouisse and ReachOut fellowships) may be particularly attractive to allow more time for interviews. Some students have chosen to take two years off so that they could be abroad for a year and then return to the US for their interview/application year. Another option is to stay state-side during the interview season (roughly September to January/February) and seek shorter term opportunities abroad.

Our glide year opportunities list of sample activities provides specific examples of opportunities abroad that our applicants pursued. Princeton in Africa also created a tip sheet for students applying from abroad that may be of help.  


Missing Class for Interviews

Question: I have a few interviews scheduled for the fall semester and I'm going to have to miss class for them. What's the proper way to let my faculty know?

Answer: You can handle this the same way you would for other commitments that you have had that conflicted with classes. We'd recommend waiting until you've at least met the professor by attending a class or two, but don't wait until the last minute to let them know. Asking in person is probably best, especially if it's a faculty member you don't already know well, so that you can be sure that your tone is coming across professionally and accurately (which can be hard via email). Try to get to know a couple of classmates so that you have someone to ask for notes or other things that you missed, and then follow up with the professor if anything isn't clear after going over the material. Try to schedule your interviews so you aren't always missing the same classes, and so that you don't schedule on important deadlines. 


Multiple Mini-Interviews (MMI's)

Question:  Hello,  I know there are books with sample questions, scenarios, and case studies for consulting and tech interviews.  Do you know of any resources like that for MMI questions?  What should I expect at an MMI interview as opposed to a regular one?  Thanks!

Answer:  I assume you’ve already seen our long list of typical interview questions for the regular interviews, correct?  Most U.S. medical schools—by far—still conduct traditional interviews.  Check out our material about interviewing under “Application Process” on our website if you haven’t already.  In recent years, several U.S. med schools (seven for this application season) have started to do MMI’s, or Multiple Mini-Interviews, instead of the regular, more casual interviews.  Candidates at these schools are asked to address a specific ethical dilemma or issue in the profession, provided to them just before they meet their interviewers.  Typically they have 7-10 of these brief meetings as well as a longer presentation about the school by an admissions officer.  In the 2013 applicant cycle, 20 US allopathic medical schools,13 Canadian med schools, 4 US osteopathic med schools, and three U.S. dental schools are using MMIs. We take it you have been invited for an interview at one of these?  There are a few articles regarding the MMI and its efficacy in our Coursesites resource for applicants (if you're an alum and would like access, please be in touch). We have found an article about Stanford’s MMI policy helpful. 


 

Reading About Healthcare

Question:  I'm getting ready for a medical school interview and want to read more about health care but I don't want to spend a lot of money on subscriptions to medical journals or anything like that.  Do you know where I can find good articles to read about health care?  Thank you.

Answer:  Come by Health Professions Advising.  At any stage of your "pre-med" development you will benefit from some focused reading about health care, medicine, medical school, and the like, and we keep our modest library up-to-date with the latest books. You're welcome to check books out for a short period.  Titles include Larry Savett's "The Human Side of Medicine," "This Side of Doctoring: Reflections from Women in Medicine" edited by Eliza Lo Chin, MD, "What I Learned in Medical School: Personal Stories of Young Doctors," "A Life in Medicine: A Literary Anthology," and "The Pre-Dental Guide:  A Guide for Successfully Getting into Dental School."

A number of articles are available in the Articles of Interest section of our virtual library, as well. Current students can gain access with their netID, alumni can contact HPA for a password.

Read the health content of your favorite news sources, like CNN Health, New York Times Health News, and NPR Health.

There are a number of recent pieces that are taught through a Coursera course via U Penn that might be of interest – I haven’t read any of them, though, so I’m not sure how applicable they will be: https://www.coursera.org/course/healthpolicy

A current applicant also recommends The Health Care Handbook, written by two current medical students, which has earned strong reviews, including this one in the NY Times.

Lastly, check out an online journal called "New Physician", produced by the American Medical Student Association, which is geared toward new and prospective health care practitioners. 


What are Medical School Interviews Like?

Question:   Hi HPA: I’ve watched older students stressing out about missing classes for interviews. I’m trying to decide whether or not to apply direct entry or with a glide year. Can you tell me what I could expect during interviews? How much school am I likely to miss? How do students handle it?

Answer: The interview process varies widely for applicants based on a number of factors, including strength of candidacy, timeliness of application, and school choice. Of the students who applied to start medical school in fall 2015, a handful received no interview invitations, a few had one interview invitation and one acceptance (one is all it takes!). On the other extreme, a handful of our applicants attended over a dozen interviews, including some who were applying MD/PhD and thus had two-day interviews at each school.

Generally speaking, an interview day will include a couple of different presentations, a tour of the school, a meal, and the interviews themselves. Interviews may be one-on-one, one applicant with a panel of interviewers, a few applicants interviewed in a group with one or more interviewers, or in multiple mini interview format, where applicants move from room to room spending a short amount of time at each. Some schools employ a combination of these styles in their interview experience. You can read more about your peers’ experiences at interviews on our HPA interview reports. In most cases, you should anticipate being gone for the whole day on an interview day (plus travel time). We have a past Question of the Week about missing classes – basically, make sure your faculty are aware,  try to recruit friends who can share notes with you, and try to schedule your interviews around classes as much as you can. Some students choose to take three classes in the fall and schedule so that they have at least one day free, which may facilitate travel to interviews.