4 Common Medical School Essay Questions and How to Answer Them
In our previous blog post, Why Do you Want to be a Doctor? 3 Tips to Ace Medical School Interviews, we provided you tips on how to answer common medical school interview questions. In this blog post, we reveal 4 common medical school interview questions that you will get on the interview trails and tricks on how to answer these questions.
Practice makes perfect. Contact our Cracking Med School Admissions team at firstname.lastname@example.org and schedule a mock interview.
common medical school interview questions #1:
Why do you want to come to _____ medical school?
Do your research about the school! Don’t just look at the homepage of the medical school website.
Look at the school’s curriculum. And more important, look at programs you want to be involved with, professors you want to meet, and elective classes you want to take.
- To give you some guidance, research what’s unique about the school’s curriculum, culture, location, and opportunities. Is there anything unique about the medical school’s curriculum? For example, do they start clinical rotations during the second year of medical school? Or are you drawn to the location of the school? Are you interested in doing clinical rotations in urban or rural areas? Do you want more exposure to certain patient populations?
- Paint a picture about how you will take advantage of the opportunities and resources at the school. These may include extra-curricular activities, research projects, and other graduate degrees available. By actively describing your plans and interests, you will show the interviewer that you have thought hard about why you applied to that school, rather than checking off another school to apply to.
common medical school interview questions #2:
“What’s your most significant extra-curricular activity?” OR
“Tell me more about _____ activity.”
- Have a short answer and long answer prepared for this medical school interview question. The length of your answer will depend on how much you want to emphasize this particular activity, the position of this question in your interview, and what you’ve already talked about
- Be able to give a brief 30 second – 1 minute description about your major extra-curricular activities.
- Say what you did and the impact you made. A common mistake we see students make is that they talk too much about the organization and not enough about what they did in the organization.
- You may want to give a reflection about how your experiences have shaped your perspective or how it will impact the way you practice medicine in the future. Perhaps, through your activity, you were inspired to do certain clinical research. Or, you realized a new way to communicate with your patients.
common medical school interview questions #3:
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 20 years?”
- Look back at your primary AMCAS and secondary applications. What were the themes of your application?
- Are there certain types of career paths that you are interested in?
- Based on your application’s themes, have some careers that you may be interested in. For example, if you’ve done extensive work with cancer patients, you may want to be an oncologist. Or, if you’ve done a lot of global health work, you can say you want to incorporate global health in your career.
- Another way to tackle this question is to discuss what type of practice-setting or specialty you are interested in. For example, you may be interested in primary care in urban settings who wants to do community work related to drug addiction.
- On that note, your response can also touch upon personal growth. Where will your strengths have taken you? What will you have worked on to shore up your weaknesses? For example, you can say “I also value connecting with and communicating with my patients. As such, in 5 years I want to be proficient in Spanish/Chinese/Arabic to better meet an underserved population, and in 10 years I want to be completely fluent.” A quick 30 second add-on to this question reveals more about your character. This is especially useful if they haven’t directly asked you “What are your strengths and weaknesses.”
- Remember, it’s okay to not have an exact career plan laid out!
common medical school interview questions #4:
“Is there anything else you want me and the admissions committee to know?”
- Know the components or main parts of your application that you really want to highlight.
- Throughout the interview, you should know what you’ve had the chance talk about and not. For example, say that two things you want to highlight are 1) your interests in community health and 2) how that relates to primary care. And, a few of your activities that support those interests include: shadowing a family medicine doctor, working with a mobile clinic in Mexico where you taught patients about diabetes, and your public health research. Throughout the medical school interview, you should insert these activities as talking points.
- On a related note, know how to connect your various activities with each other. Using the previous example, find good transitions between your Mexico mobile clinic, research, and your interests (both clinical and non-clinical) in medical school.
Our Cracking Med School Admissions team hopes that this helps jumpstart your interview prep. We have helped several students over the years greatly improve their interview skills.
3 Interview Skills to Constantly Practice
Interview Skill #1:
Connect with your interview peers the morning of the interview
Why: It can be intimidating to start the morning off with complete strangers in a room, especially if these strangers are also vying for a spot in the med school that you are applying. Writing from our personal experiences, this can be especially difficult for introversive applicants. However, social skills can be. Think of it as a social warmup, an exercise to engage and connect with others, right before your actual interview. A little bit of enthusiasm goes a long way, and, while you may not be officially evaluated outside of your interview, the admissions directors and staff Do take note of how you interact in a dynamic environment. A couple bits of advice:
- DON’T compare yourself to your peers. It’s easy to get caught up in the interview numbers game (e.g. “How many interviews have you gone to so far?”) Don’t fret! It’s not about the number of interviews you’ve gone to; it’s about the interview you’re in Now.
- DO take the time to get to know your peers. The simplest way to human connection is Asking Questions. Use the FORD mnemonic: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams.
So flash a smile, shake a hand, and open up to your peers! Besides, you’ll never know; they may end up becoming your future classmates.
How to prepare: Extend your daily interactions with your co-workers to connect with them a little bit more. The next time you order at your Starbucks, ask the barista how they’re doing. Connect with them on the why.
Interview Skill #2:
Give a pause and breath before each answer
Why: We get it. Silence is never comfortable, especially during an interview. It might be tempting to just throw yourself into a response to avoid any semblance of an awkward silence. However, letting the question marinate is advantageous for three reasons:
- Even if you have the perfect answer for the question asked, taking a couple of seconds to think will allow you to slow down and navigate your response.
- If you DO have the perfect response the question, giving a pause will ensure that you’re not giving a canned response.
- If you do this for each question, you will have established a pattern. That way, if you get stumped over a question that you really don’t know, then you’ve built for yourself a safety net to regroup your thoughts. You may be nervous internally, but no one can tell externally!
How to prepare: Take time in your daily conversations to observe how long you take before responding. Lengthen those responses for a couple of seconds until it becomes natural. Then, try and lengthen the silence for 5 seconds, then 10. Do this until you’re comfortable.
Interview Skill #3:
Practice your body language
Eye contact: How much is too much? Shift your gaze between four elements: the person’s eyes (one after the other), nose, forehead, and chin, occasionally shoulder if you want to break contact.
Try to make enough eye contact that you can remember their eye color.
How to prepare: Be cognizant of whether you are making good eye contact with everyone you talk to throughout the day – whether you’re chatting with somebody at a party or working with a groupmate for a class project.
Make sure you get others to critique you on these interview skills. Interviewing is a skill, and practice makes perfect.
If you have an upcoming medical school or residency interview, check out our mock interview packages and schedule a mock interview with us today!
Other important Interview Blog Posts
Medical school applicants find these blog posts on medical school interviews extremely helpful:
- Why do you Want to be a Doctor? How to Answer and Ace Medical School Questions.
- 5 MMI Interview Tips
- What to Bring to a Medical School Interview