Questions About Interviews

When should I expect to receive interview invitations?

Historically, over half of the interview invitations our applicants have received have come in September and October (this is part of the argument for applying early). At the same time, we've seen accepted applicants who received their first invitation in January or later in the spring. One of the hardest and most stressful parts of the process is waiting to hear about interviews. 

How many interview invitations should I expect to get?

The interview process varies widely for applicants based on a number of factors, including strength of candidacy, timeliness of application, and school choice. Every year, a handful of our applicants receive 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 attend over a dozen interviews, including some who were applying MD/PhD and thus had two-day interviews at each school.

What are medical school interviews like?

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).

How do I manage interviews if I'm abroad in my application year?

In recent years, we've had applicants in Nicaragua, Warsaw, Cambridge, Prague, Korea, Malaysia ... 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.  

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?

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. Some direct entry 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. 

Are thank you notes expected after the interview? What should I include in them?

It's considered a professional courtesy to extend your thanks to the folks who interviewed you. Some schools, however, will explicitly ask you not to send thank you notes, or to send them in a certain way, so be sure to check the rules (ask at the interview day if they aren't clear).

For schools where thank you messages are allowed, try to send within a couple of days of the interview. Such notes can be hand written on note cards or sent by email (gauge based on your interviewer and your own preferences what's best in each case). Thank the interviewer for the time  they spent with you, express your pleasure at being able to learn more about the medical school (maybe with an anecdote or two), 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 their time and also for you to remind them once again of your strengths as a candidate and fit/enthusiasm for the school. Good luck!  

Is it okay to cancel an interview that I've scheduled now that I've been accepted at my top choice school?

An invitation to interview is a privilege that many applicants never have, and the general feeling among medical schools is that interviewees should respect 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 might change their minds about their preferences.

If you must cancel an interview, do so with plenty of notice so that the school can fill your interview spot with another candidate. If it's within two weeks of the date of your interview, we would strongly recommend attending and going into the day professionally and with an open mind. 

I've heard it's helpful to read about current events before interviews. Any good sources you recommend?

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 HealthNew 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

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.