The Prospective Physician’s Guide to Medical School Interviews

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner

You have a great MCAT score, a strong GPA, and have represented yourself and your ambitions to the best of your ability in your medical school admissions essays. Now it seems like the only task standing between you and admission to medical school is interview season—and you have some questions.
When will you be offered a chance to interview? If you are lucky enough to be chosen for an interview, what should you wear? What about transportation to and from the interview, as well as hotel costs? And perhaps most important of all, how can you prepare to impress in different interview formats? Here is your short guide to medical school interviews:
“When are interview invitations typically extended?”
Medical school interviews are generally held between September and February. It is possible to receive an interview invitation earlier or later than this window, however, so it is important to check your email regularly after you have submitted your primary and secondary applications. Each medical school has its own process for selecting interview candidates, so there is no true formula that you can use to predict whether you will receive an invitation. The one thing you can do is ensure you have completed all of the application requirements for a given program.
“I was invited to interview. What should I wear, and what should I bring?”
Remember that you are interviewing for a professional program, and your best business attire is thus in order. For men, this means a suit and tie. For women, this means a conservative dress or a suit with a skirt or trousers. Take care to present a clean-cut appearance. Finally, to answer the question of flats or high heels for women, assume that you will be completing a walking tour of campus, and select footwear that will allow you to walk comfortably.
As for items to bring, consider carrying a portfolio folder with a notebook, pen, and copy of your resume. The notebook and pen can be used during information sessions to jot down what you like or dislike about the school. You may not be asked for your resume (interviewers typically have access to applicant files), but it is always wise to have a copy on hand just in case.
“What about interview logistics like transportation and lodging?”
Interview expenses can mount quickly, especially if you are lucky enough to have several meetings scheduled. Before you begin interviewing, take stock of how much money you will be able to spend traveling to schools. Then, make your plans accordingly. If you have a car and your interview is within driving distance, that may be your cheapest mode of transportation. Likewise, buses are generally cheaper than airplanes or trains. In addition, some schools offer interviewees the option of rooming with students the evening before their interview, which can save you the cost of a hotel room. Remaining budget-conscious during interview season can be difficult, but a useful rule of thumb is to plan each trip so that you have enough money left to go on at least one or two more interviews after you finish the one at hand.
“I have heard about the traditional interview format and the multiple mini interview (or MMI) format. How should I prepare for either one?”
One strategy for preparing to interview at a medical school is to locate individuals who have interviewed at that program and can speak to its format. Though candidates are often discouraged from discussing specific types of questions or scenarios that are raised during interviews, they may be able to inform you about the structure of the day and the level of pressure that you can reasonably expect. If you are facing a traditional interview, it is advantageous to reflect on why you have chosen to pursue medicine, as well as any adversities that you have faced and any special qualities or experiences that set you apart from other applicants. How will these details help you contribute positively to an incoming class?
For MMI interviews, there are several websites that offer practice scenarios that you can use to become more adept at articulating your thoughts within a limited timeframe. You can also examine your personal stance on several ethical scenarios that may come up during your medical education, like contributing to a patient record or addressing a struggling classmate who might be cheating. The better you are at forming opinions and relating them quickly, the better you will likely fare in an MMI.