By Jeffrey Perluke
Fall is in the air, and you wait patiently as the medical school application cycle continues. Several weeks have passed since you have completed your AMCAS and AACOMAS experience prompts, proof-read your personal statement, entered your transcript grades one “A” after another, and finally mustered up the courage to click that oh-so-final submit button. You eagerly press refresh on your internet browser hoping that just one of the numerous medical schools you applied to will reward you for all your arduous work. “Congratulations, you’re invited!” reads the subject line; you finally receive the email you have been waiting so anxiously to read. You schedule your interview for the next date available and your boundless excitement immediately turns to panic. Will my interview be formal or MMI? Which of my experiences will be brought up? What will I wear to this oh-so-important event? While the former questions may generate some anxiety, choosing your outfit should be an easy, stress-free task.
You will certainly want to dress-to-impress on your “big day,” but it’s important to resist going overboard. While you do look fantastic in that pink button-down shirt and flashy sport-coat, your interview day is more of a “back-to-the-basics” event. Medical school interview days are essentially a day-long evaluation and for your first impression, it’s best to keep it strictly professional. To that end, one should stick with solid, neutral colors. A navy, gray, beige, or black suit will do the trick nicely. And as an aside, make sure you get measured before just picking any suit off the rack! A store representative can help you decide on which size jacket and slacks will have you looking your Sunday’s best. A button-down should be next on your list and again, choosing a basic color is key. From personal experience, white seems to be among the most popular and for good reason—it looks professional and goes with just about anything. Don’t think you are limited to only white, but do stick to a pattern-free shirt design and a solid color complimentary to your suit. An example of a color scheme that I’m personally fond of is a light blue dress shirt with a dark gray suit—a stylish, professional, non-white option! Lastly, choose a tie: here is where there is more room for personalization. Preference may be for a design or solid color and honestly, you will look sharp either way. For a solid color, again, think complimentary to the rest of your outfit. If considering a design, stripes or another similarly simple pattern is fine. My only caution—avoid a tie with a theme! I love football, but a Green Bay Packers tie is not appropriate for interview day.
At this point your outfit is nearly complete! All that remains are your shoes and a few smaller accessories. Accessories are easy, so we can tackle those first. For a belt, black is always a safe option. Black compliments essentially all suit colors you should be considering and a black belt with black shoes keeps things professional. This is not to say brown cannot bring about a stylish, professional look as well. A navy blue suit with a brown belt and brown shoes is a fairly common combination. This looks great and again, keeps things simple yet elegant. Another accessory I consider essential is a tie clip. A cheap safety measure, clips prevent your tie from blowing around and looking sloppy when not wearing your jacket.
And finally, the last but certainly not least important attire choices will focus on your feet. Socks are easy. Choose a pair of socks that reach some distance above the ankle, and since we aren’t attending gym class, avoid white. As for shoes, while all other articles required choosing primarily just a color, we now have one more important consideration—comfort! Most if not all interview days will include a campus tour, which may require significant walking. Tours are your opportunity to learn about the school and have your questions answered. Avoid being distracted with sore feet and choose a pair of dress shoes that fit comfortably—try them on in the store and walk around for a bit. Once you find those cloud-like, classy kicks, you’ll be ready to impress on your quickly-approaching interview day.
Now before you begin worrying about how you will afford a suit and accessories after just spending a generous portion of your savings account on application fees, I leave you with proof that a suit need not break the bank. After browsing Macy’s website only briefly, I put together a Kenneth Cole Reaction suit, Alfani dress shirt, Club Room tie, Kenneth Cole tie clip, Calvin Klein shoes, and Perry Ellis dress socks and belt for only $236.94. Considering the cost of your application fees and interview expenditures, it’s difficult not to consider that a steal! To that end, I stress – try sticking with department stores and when possible, buying online (remember, you can try something on in the store first and order online later). Department stores such as Macy’s and JC Penny’s and online retailers such as Amazon offer quality brands often at discounted prices. Therefore, keeping interview attire costs under the three to four-hundred-dollar range should present no challenge while gaining you a quality suit that can be worn for interviews and events to come.
[Wondering how much you should budget for the whole application process? Estimate your total expenses with the SDN Medical School Application Cost Calculator.]
At this point, I only wish to leave you with one more tip. Many interviewees will of course be traveling for their interviews. Don’t get stuck with a wrinkled mess of a suit by stuffing it into a duffle bag! Most retailers carrying suitcases also carry garment bags, a travel bag designed specifically to hold a suit and all related accessories in a neat and organized fashion. Even considering the lowest budget, a garment bag is certainly affordable. Wal-Mart offers an American Tourister bag online for the low cost of eight-dollars and fifty-three cents, another fantastic deal! Do yourself the favor, avoid the hassle associated with ironing a suit on the go and buy a garment bag.
In conclusion, I only wish to reiterate; choosing your interview attire should be stress free! Focus your energy on preparing yourself, preparing questions, and assuring you are a good fit for each medical school who interviews you. Leave your outfit concerns at the door by preparing a reasonable budget, researching the retailers available to you, and most importantly, choosing an outfit that will only reinforce you as an excellent candidate deserving of that once-only-dreamt-about medical school acceptance!
About the Author
Jeffrey Perluke is an M1 at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine with interests in pursuing surgery in the future.