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The interview process

The final step in the application to medical school, dental school, pharmacy school or physician assistant (PA) school is the in-person interview. Admissions committees value grades, MCAT/DAT/PCAT/GRE scores and extracurricular activities, but they will not offer an applicant a spot before evaluating the applicant’s interpersonal skills. As you can imagine, having good interpersonal skills is extremely important in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and the physician assistant profession where you are required to interact with patients on a regular basis, show compassion, and demonstrate empathy towards those who are sick. Some medical schools and pharmacy school have recently adopted a new interview format to evaluate applicants known as the multiple mini interview (MMI). To learn more about the MMI and see some sample MMI questions, please visit our entry on MMI interviews.

How to prepare for your medical, dental, pharmacy or PA school interview:

Preparing for your medical school interview, dental school interview, pharmacy school interview or PA school interview does not have to be as daunting as you think. Many applicants spend time carefully memorizing answers to a laundry list of questions like “Why do you want to be a dentist?” or “What will you bring to our school as a medical student?” But this approach could hurt you because you will sound overtly scripted and rehearsed when you present answers to these questions. Medical school, dental school, pharmacy school and PA school admissions committees are not looking for scripted answers. Instead they want to assess your ability to carry a conversation and articulate answers. Therefore, instead of memorizing answers, practice articulating your ideas into words. This practice will also help you when you are presented with questions that come from left field – those you had not previously anticipated.

Having said that, it is still valuable to think about potential questions that may come up on the day of the interview beforehand.  Consider the common questions and come up with the key points that you would want to cover when answering such questions. For example, if you are applying to medical school, you will almost certainly be asked why you have chosen medicine. Think about the main reasons for your decision to enter the medical profession and keep them in mind as you prepare for the interview. But practice putting these points into words in a natural way as part of a conversation. Preparing for unanticipated questions can be a bit trickier but the most important thing is to not doubt yourself. If you are asked a question that seems challenging and difficult to answer, do not get discouraged. Just give them your best possible answer.

Also remember, the interview to medical school, dental school, pharmacy school or PA school is not an examination. There is no right or wrong answer. Do your best to provide a reasonable answer that demonstrates your thought process.

Before the interview, we recommend you take the following steps to prepare:

1) Review some of the anticipated questions; come up with key points you want to cover in your answer, and practice articulating answers. Again, do not memorize answers!
2) Practice answering some questions without any previous preparation. Reflect back on your answer, ask what you are doing right and wrong, and modify your approach accordingly.
3) Read the news and be up to date with some of the major current events, including those related to healthcare.
4) Review some of the hot topic controversial issues related to healthcare that frequently show up on medical, dental, pharmacy, and PA school interviews. For example, for medical school applicants, these may include euthanasia, abortion, and stem cell research.
5) Formulate a broad understanding of the United States healthcare system and healthcare reform, especially as it relates to the profession you are applying to. For example, if you are applying to physician assistant (PA) programs, you should have some general understanding of how the new healthcare reform law (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) will affect the physician assistant profession.

On the day of the interview:

If you are anxious on the day of the interview or beforehand, remember that you are not alone. Most students will have some anxiety. After all, the interview is a big deal! Try to replace the stress with confidence by reminding yourself that you must have had an impressive application if you were invited to interview.

Keep in mind that you are not necessarily being evaluated just when you are in the room speaking to your interviewer. At some schools, your behavior may be scrutinized during the campus tour or lunch! Maintain a professional attitude throughout the entire day.

When you meet with the interviewer, be polite and pleasant. Shake hands firmly and do not be afraid to smile. Remember, in addition to your verbal communication, your non-verbal cues will impact the impression you leave on the interviewer.

If the interviewer asks you for your opinion or position on an issue, do not take an extreme position. If the interviewer challenges your position, maintain your point of view. It is not disrespectful to have a difference in opinion with your interviewer.

When you are asked a question, pay close attention to what the interviewer is asking and answer the question as directly and specifically as possible.

Questions to ask your interviewer:

At the interview, interviewers often ask applicants if they have any questions. This has been a source of great stress for many applicants to medical, dental, pharmacy, or PA school who often wonder, “What should I ask my interviewer?” We suggest you do your homework about the school and educate yourself on the curriculum and other aspects of the program. When you go to the interview, ask insightful questions that demonstrate your knowledge of their medical school, dental school, pharmacy school or PA school. Consider asking about changes that may take place in the coming years? Ask about opportunities the school provides for you to pursue interests you have listed on your application. For example, if you have demonstrated an interest in tutoring and teaching as a premed, you may as the medical school interviewer about opportunities for medical students to get involved in teaching. Do not ask generic questions that you could easily find answers to online. Avoid generic questions such as, “What is your passing rate on the boards?” or “How do your students do in residency placement?”

For a free 20-minute consultation or to learn more about our services call us at 1-888-839-9997 or email us!

Sample interview questions:

In this section we have listed some potential questions that you may encounter during the interview. As you go through these questions, consider why admissions committees would ask the question and what they are trying to gage with each question.

Tell me about yourself.

Why do you want to become a physician, dentist, pharmacist, or physician assistant?

How did you become interested in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or the physician assistant profession?

Why are you interested in pursuing a career in healthcare?

Tell us about a memorable experience you had interacting with a patient.

How did your clinical activities influence your interest in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or PA?

What did you see as a clinical volunteer that made you realize medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or PA is the right profession for you?

How do you know that you possess the emotional maturity to become a physician, dentist, pharmacist or PA?

What would you do if you were not accepted to medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, or PA school this year?

If you could not be a physician, dentist, pharmacist, or PA what profession would you choose instead?

Why do you want to attend our medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, or PA school?

Why should we accept you to our medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, or PA school among a large pool of highly qualified candidates?

What makes you unique among a large pool of highly qualified applicants?

What do you think will be the most difficult aspect of being a medical student, dental student, pharmacy student or PA student?

What do you like least about the work of a physician, dentist, pharmacist, or PA?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Describe your ideal career.

How do you handle stress?

How do you manage your time?

What is your greatest strength?

What is your greatest weakness?

What three words would your close friends and family members use to describe you and why?

What are you most curious about?

What motivates you in life?

What is your biggest regret in life?

Who is your greatest role model in life?

Teach me something.

Describe a time when you failed at something.

How do you handle criticism?

Tell me about an experience where you had to lead a group of people to achieve a specific goal.

Tell me about a time where you had to work with a difficult person.

Describe a situation where you were not in the majority.

Describe a situation where a suggestion you made was implemented.

Do you prefer to study on your own or in a group?

What is the last book you read?

What is the last movie you watched?

What do you do in your spare time?

What does professionalism mean to you?

What does integrity mean to you?

What is the difference between being in a profession and being in a vocation?

If you a saw a classmate/peer cheating on an exam, what would you do?

What is the biggest problem facing our healthcare system today?

What is a current event related to healthcare that you recently read about in the news?

What is your view of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)?

How do you think the PPACA will affect medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or the PA profession in the coming years?

The following questions are common at PA school interviews:

How does a PA fit into the healthcare system?

What is the difference between a PA and a nurse practitioner?

Why do you want to be a PA and not a nurse practitioner?

Why do you want to be a PA and not a physician?

You are a PA and your supervising physician is about to administer the wrong medicine to a patient. What would you do?

Check out this page if you are interested in PA school admissions consulting!

For a free 20-minute consultation or to learn more about our services call us at 1-888-839-9997 or email us!