Medical and Health Field Resources
Gaining Admissions to Professional School
Admissions into various schools is competitive. Admissions is usually based on the following:
- Academic record, such as overall and science GPA’s.
- Scores on professional school admissions tests (if required)
- Evaluations made by professors and/or health professions advisor or advisory committee
- Communication skills as demonstrated in the written application
- A personal interview with an admissions officer or committee at the invitation of the professional school
GPA and admission test scores usually have the greatest influence on the initial stages of the screening process. You are demonstrating your ability to be a good student. Once you have been classified as competitive, based primarily on the numbers, admissions committees will then look at traits or characteristics. In this step, admissions committees are looking for students who will make good health professionals. Assessment of your traits is through letters of evaluation/recommendation, your personal statement, and the professional school interview. Your interview is the principle means by which your characteristics/traits to be a successful health professional are evaluated.
Purpose of the Interview
- Final selections in the admissions process.
- Assessment of traits and characteristics to make a good health professional.
- Opportunity to leave a positive impression on your application.
- Your opportunity to interview the prospective school.
Information the interviewer has available prior to the interview:
- Open File - The faculty interviewer has access to the entire application file during and/or before the interview. Schools may only allow admissions committee members to interview, some also use academic faculty and participating physicians.
- Closed File - here the interview knows nothing about the applicant beforehand other than his/her name, if that. The purpose is to remove& bias based on information in the file. The interviewer will ask more questions like, “Tell me about yourself?”
- Partially Open File - The interview may have partial information from your file. For example, the interviewer may have your test scores, prerequisites completed and GPA only or they may have read only your personal statement.
Who conducts the interview?
- Clinical faculty/staff members
- Basic science faculty members
- Admissions committee member
- Professional staff
- Other interviewers (as in a group interview)
Types of Interviews
- One on one - the interview is conducted by an Admissions Committee member or faculty member.
- Faculty member or staff and student interviewer- both may be interviewing you at the same time. Prepare to ask questions of both interviewers and direct your nonverbal communication to both.
- Panel - more than two interviewers.
- Group - may consist of other interviewees. Groups may be given tasks to complete. The emphasis is on the process, not the product- to see how well a student works in a team.
- Student - the interviewer is often a first-year student who has volunteered to interview applicants. This interview may carry less weight with some committee members, but it is also a way to expose the applicant to the school. Keep in mind the student interviewer is a good source of information about student life at the school. Candidates should treat student interviewers as they would faculty interviewers. You may also interact socially with a group of students. Watch your manners! This is part of the interview as well!
- Writing assignment - many schools incorporate a writing assignment as part of the interview process. The goal is to demonstrate effective written communication skills and logical thought processes rather than an opportunity to detail all one knows. Most schools use a combination of the above formats for each applicant.
Format of the Interview
- Introduction/Small Talk-first impressions count!
- All about you-the interviewer will ask a variety of questions about your education, experience, activities, goals, etc.
- Questions for the interviewers-the interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions. Be sure you have some prepared to ask!
- Closing -& Remember, anytime you come in contact with a member of the university you are applying to, you are being interviewed!
Types of Interview Questions
- The interviewer asks direct questions about your preparation, education, volunteer/work experience, activities and goals.
- Some examples of questions to consider are included at the end of this handout. Behavioral Based
- The interviewer is seeking specific examples/details of your past behavior: initiative, analysis, teamwork, leadership, communication, flexibility, decision-making, creativity, assertiveness, commitment, etc.
- To prepare for these questions, think hard about any difficulties encountered, accomplishments, and interpersonal situations in volunteer/work experiences, class projects, extracurricular activities and to think about the steps that led to your outcome.
- Behavioral questions can be recognized by statements such as: “describe a situation when, tell me about a time when. ..”
Behavioral Based Questions
- Name a time when you dealt with a very difficult person and how you handled it.
- Tell me about a time when you were criticized. How did you handle it?
- Describe a time when you failed something.
- Tell me about a time you were misunderstood or mistreated.
- Describe a time in your life when you felt that you would not succeed and how you overcame it.
- Describe any hardships you experienced growing up.
- Give me an example of a time you had to work under pressure.
- Describe the system you use for keeping track of multiple projects. How do you track your progress so that you can meet deadlines? How do you stay focused?
- How would you handle the following situation if you were a physician, pharmacist, dentist, etc.?
- What if you had a patient that didn’t pay?
What are they looking for?
- Motivation - Why do you want to become a “ ...“? What and who influenced this decision? What activities or accomplishments indicate your interest in a health career? How have you demonstrated self-motivation in other aspects of your life?
- Logical Thought - Do you tackle problems in a logical, step-by-step fashion? Do you recognize the consequences of each step and understand more than one side of the problem?
- Extracurricular Activities - What have you done besides study a lot? Depth of involvement is the key. The interviewer will prefer details on one or two activities in which you were very involved, rather than a huge list of superficial interests. What did you learn? How did the activity change you? What did you add to the organization?
- Leadership - This usually relates to the extracurricular topic, what experiences have you had leading large or small groups of people? Did you enjoy the responsibility or, at least handle it well? What did you learn about people, situations, and yourself? What did you contribute as an organization leader?
- Maturity - What major decisions have you made on your own? How did you solve a difficult problem in your life? Do you display a positive self-image? Do you have realistic attitudes? How do you manage stress?
- Preparedness - Do you know what you’re getting into? Are you familiar with the lifestyle of students and professionals in this field? Are you ready to commit yourself to a health career at this time?
- Open-Mindedness - Do you see both sides of the problem regardless of your personal opinion? Are you willing to change your mind if you learn more about a situation?
- Sensitivity and Compassion - How have you shown your sensitivity to others’ problems?
- Goals - What are your ultimate goals or dreams? What will you do or have you done to reach them?
- Weaknesses and Strengths - What are your faults and weaknesses and how do you overcome them? What do you think you’re best at? How will you use your unique set of talents and skills to contribute to healthcare?
- Knowledge of the Field - How did you become interested in this field? What do you expect from this career? Are you familiar with current controversies in healthcare and the field you’re interested in specifically? What are your opinions on these subjects? Realize that the interviewers do not simply want you to agree with them. They want to see how you support your position.
- Drive or Initiative - How much time did you take to determine if this career was right for you? How early did you get your application in? Can you demonstrate a “self-starting” ability?
- Tenacity/Resilience - At what point do you give up on a goal or objective? How do you handle disappointments? What obstacles have you overcome?
How to Prepare
- Know your motivation, opinions, strengths and weaknesses
- How are you unique? How is your path to healthcare unique?
- Review your academic performance, application and personal statement. What stands out? What might you be asked about? Be prepared to talk about all information in your application in detail.
- Reflect on your work/volunteer experiences. What have you learned about the profession? What challenges have you managed? What skills have you learned?
- What are your career interests and objectives?
- Look into the past and try to understand all the factors that influenced your decisions to pursue this career.
- Beliefs about controversial health issues? Knowledge of current events?
Research the school and the specific program to which you are applying:
- Review admissions requirements.
- Review faculty members and areas of specialization/research interests
What are the strengths of the program, intern/residency opportunities and procedures?
- Most schools have a lot of program information on their website-research this!
- Investigate curriculum, grading system, special features and available resources.
- Talk to students currently attending the school prior to your interview.
- Stay with a student in the program the night before your interview, ask questions! (This can usually be arranged with the Admissions Committee).
- Prepare relevant questions for each school.
- Determine how the school is a good “fit” for you.
- Connect with the Pre-Health Advisor for assistance.
Practice interview skills.
- Know the format of the interview in advance.
- Participate in mock interviews conducted by your campus Career Services office.
- Set up an appointment with the Career Services Specialist to answer questions ertaining to interviewing.
Before the Interview:Be prepared with questions to ask the interviewer(s). You can carry them in a portfolio with paper and pen to take notes. Locate the interview site the night before if possible. Know the names of the interviewers and the process.
Dress professionally: A standard business suit is the usual interviewing attire for men and women. Women should avoid distracting or flashy jewelry. Use minimal make-up.
Punctuality:Arrive 10-15 minutes early to give you time to relax. Allow time for the unexpected such as inclement weather, heavy traffic, road construction or difficulty parking. In the event of an unavoidable delay, you should contact the admissions officer at the first opportunity.
Take a deep breath and relax: Remind yourself that you are well prepared to do your best!
During the Interview
Shake hands firmly and introduce yourself. Smile. Exhibit enthusiasm and interest. Realize that the interview is a conversation. Listen as thoughtfully as you speak. Maintain eye contact. Be aware of your body language. Don’t fidget, cross your arms, or touch items on the interviewer’s desk. Look people in the eye when you are listening. Avoid inappropriate smiling or laughter.
Honesty: do not try to “second-guess” or patronize interviewer(s) by responding with answers you think are wanted. Some interviewers play the “devil’s advocate.”
Be responsive: Conversation is difficult if responses are limited to “yes” or “no”. Many questions are chosen intentionally to initiate dialogue.
Be yourself. Schools want to know who you are!
Support your position when discussing a controversial topic. Stick to your own convictions; remember; interviewers don’t care what your opinions are as long as you can support them.
Listen carefully and clarify if necessary. If a question is asked that is not entirely clear, it is better to ask for a restatement or clarification than to give an answer that is inappropriate. Don’t start your answer until the interviewer has completely stated his/her question.
Control the pace. In many cases, people speak too quickly. A controlled, slower pace shows a thoughtful candidate and generally reflects better on you than a fast pace that may communicate nervousness or tension.
Tough questions. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Take some time to stop and think about your answer before responding.
At the End of the Interview
Ask about the next steps in the process.
Close the interview with a statement.
- This should be well practiced and should not take more than 30 seconds.
- Thank the interviewer for his/her time.
- Tell the interviewer how much you have enjoyed your visit and your willingness to submit any additional information if necessary.
- End your statement with your hope and desire to be part of the program in the future.
- Request business cards from your interviewers (this is to be sure you have the exact spelling of names and titles as well as contact information).
After the Interview:
- Send a thank you letter to your interviewers.
- Reiterate your interest in the program.
- Mention specific characteristics about the school.
- Indicate something new or different about the school that you learned.
Related Website to Explore
The Student Doctor Network - This website allows students to list their interview experiences at medical schools across the US. Click on “Resources” in the top menu bar and then find the medical profession of interest by selecting “School and Interview Feedback”.
Sample Professional School Interview Questions
It is unlikely you will leave an interview without having been asked, directly or indirectly, some of the following questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- In 2-3 sentences, tell me why you’d like to be a physician, optometrist, etc.
- Why did you apply to our school?
- Where else have you applied?
- What will you do if you are not accepted to professional school?
- Tell me about ANY item in your application. Be sure you can elaborate on everything in detail and with specific examples.
- As a re-applicant, what have you done since your last application?
- Why should we select you? Discuss your strengths.
- If I had 2-3 other (males/females) with the same grades and courses why would I accept you? Give some real life examples of what you have done. What makes you different-provide examples.
- What do you want the Admissions Committee to know about you?
- What is medicine’s biggest problem today? What do you think about recent trends in healthcare?
- Are you more comfortable following or leading? Why is that?
- Do you work better in large or small groups? Why?
- If you could be any character in history, who would it be and why?
- What are 3 things you want to change/improve about yourself?
- Name something you are most proud of. . .
- What are your hobbies?
- How would your friends describe your personality? Give 3 adjectives.
- Who is your role model?
- What do you do to relax? How do you manage your stress? Provide examples.
- Tell me about your family.
- Tell me about a specific point in time when your entire view of the world was changed.
- What kind of books do you enjoy? Tell me about the last book/magazine you read and what you enjoyed about it.
- Who influenced your choice of career?
- What qualities are you looking for in a medical/pharmacy/dental school?
- When deciding on a career, what other occupations did you seriously consider?
- Why did you major in “ ...?”
- What was the deciding factor that led you to this career choice?
- Is our program your first choice?
- If we offered you acceptance today, would you accept?
- What steps have you taken to be sure this is the right career field for you?
- If accepted, do you plan on working while attending our program? If yes, how much?
- What are the most important rewards you expect from your career?
- How do you plan to finance your education?
- Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years from now?
- How do you measure success?
- What distinguishes you from other applicants?
- What is your biggest challenge as an applicant?
- What kind of experiences do you have in this field?
- Describe the college course in which you received your lowest grade. Why was it lower than the others?
- How long does it take for you to master the material when you study?
- What is the average amount of time you spend studying per day?
- What classes did you enjoy most and why?
- What types of leadership positions have you held?
- What do you think healthcare will be like in 10 years?
- What do you think is the hardest thing about being a (physician, optometrist, nurse)?
- Have you had any one-on-one experiences with a (physician, physical therapist, etc.)? Describe what you’ve learned.
- What would you do if you saw a fellow student cheating on an exam?
- What is the most important role of the (physician, physical therapist, nurse, dentist)?
- What is your definition of a professional?
- Have you shadowed any (PA’s, physicians, dentists, optometrists, etc.)?
Medical School Questions (in addition to the above)
- Describe your direct patient contact experience.
- What challenges do you foresee in your future practice of medicine?
- How do you plan to balance medicine with your outside interests?
- What was the deciding factor leading you to medicine?
- Tell me about yourself and why I would want you for my doctor.
- What specialties are you interested in?
- What is your opinion about terminally ill patients?
- What do you think will be the most difficult aspect of medical school?
- If an AIDS patient were bleeding profusely from a laceration, what& would you do? What if you do not have gloves?
- How would you improve access to care in this country?
- Is medical care a right or a privilege? Give the reasons for your thinking on this.
- Name some strategies to address the problem of smoking among teens; talk about some that haven’t been tried before.
The following topics are commonly raised in the arena of medical ethics. Keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers to these types of questions. The interviewer is looking for how you arrive at your conclusions. What factors do you consider? What is your thought process?
- Disclosure of patients’ information and confidentiality
- Stem cell research
- Universal health care
- Children’s rights
- Rights of handicapped
- Rights of terminally ill
- Rights of defective newborns
- Organ donation and transplantation
- Determination of death
- Physician’s responsibility for societal health
Helpful Web Links for Medical Ethics Exploration
www.ama-assn.org: The “Ethics Research Center” which provides students and physicians with the essential tools and skills to address ethical challenges in a changing health care environment.
Virtual Mentor: This website provides a forum for discussing and analyzing ethical and professional issues in the field of medicine. It also provides links to ethical discussions, clinical cases, journal discussions, ethics polls and further readings and resources.
http://bioethics.net: A great resource for current bioethics news, articles, etc.
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
Do not ask questions that you can easily answer by reading the school’s catalog/website. Be a good listener, nod and give positive feedback without interrupting.
- What qualities do you look for in an applicant?
- I understand that you have early clinical exposure for first year students. What do you think of the early clinical rotations?
- How are the tutorial services?
- What is the average time it takes a graduate of the program to find a job? What types of jobs do they find?
- What do you enjoy most about this profession? This university?
- How do students from this school perform on National Board Examinations or Licensure/Certification Exams?
- How diverse is the student body? Are there support services available?;
- May I see a list of residency programs to which this school’s recent graduates were accepted?