Interview with a Medical School Interview and Admissions Expert

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Interview with a Medical School Interview and Admissions Expert

Session 19

In today’s episode, I talk with Dr. Norma Wagoner. With almost 30 years of experience in the admissions process, she has served as the Dean of Admissions for multiple medical schools, such as Rush University, University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Today, she shares a ton of valuable information about the interview process, what medical schools are looking for in an application to get an interview, and what the admissions committee is looking for during the interview process.

Dr. Wagoner’s path to medicine:

  • Graduating with a PhD from WashU in Anatomy
  • Taking her first job at Rush Medical College in Chicago, teaching anatomy
  • Becoming Dean of Admissions after one year out of graduate school
  • Being recruited to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and serving for 10 years
  • Becoming the National Chair of Student Affairs
  • Being on the National Board of Medical Examiners
  • Writing the electronic residency application process
  • Becoming Dean of Students at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine for 14 years (also doing admissions)
  • Becoming Dean of Admissions at University of Colorado School of Medicine

What admissions committees are looking for in your med school application:

  • Meeting the criteria and competencies the school is looking for
  • Understanding the mission of the institution
  • Good critical thinking skills
  • Excellence in quantitative reasoning
  • Strong scientific inquiry (especially if the school has a big research component)
  • Communication skills
  • Residency competencies
  • Knowledge of yourself and others
  • Cultural competence
  • Teamwork and reliability
  • Ethical responsibilities
  • Ability to cope well and adapt

“Demystifying the process” at the University of Colorado School of Medicine:

  • Posting all the criteria they use online for applicants to see
  • Handing out the interview form to applicants as she seeks to “demystify” the process.
  • Making students as comfortable as they can be to allow them to do their best
  • The more information given out, the more comfortable students feel

Predictors of Medical School Success:

  • Undergrad GPA and MCAT: Gives an indication of how well a student might do in the first two years of medical school and on the Step 1 exam.
  • Knowledge and professionalism will help in the third year

The medical school applicant pool:

  • In 2012, there were 45, 266 applicants
  • A student submits an average of 14 applications
  • This means medicals schools wade through well over half a million applications
  • Under 20,000 people are matriculating to medical school
  • Roughly only half will be interviewed
  • Ratio of 2.3 applications to each position
  • About 54 medical schools get between 5,000 and 15,000 applications
In 2012, there were 45,266 applicants to medical school. Under 20,000 matriculate.Click To Tweet

Narrowing the group of applications:

  • Grades and MCAT as the only standard measure across the board for all applicants
  • Inviting the top students first and working down from there
  • Tremendous grade inflation as an issue (for GPA)

How to prepare for your medical school interviews:

You may have a standard interview or a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI); 15 schools in the US are now participating in MMIs.

  • Ask yourself why you applied to the school.
  • What are your strongest attributes that would allow you to do well as a student there?
  • Go the school’s website and read all the materials.
  • Think of questions you want to ask the interviewer.
  • Look at the time of the interview, where to go, where to park, etc.
  • Build a little portfolio about each of the schools you’re applying to.
  • Identify whether it’s an open or closed interview (blind or partially blind).
  • Review your application, goals, and experiences.

Be careful if you wrote in your application that you speak fluent Spanish but you really don’t. They might conduct the entire interview in Spanish!

The University of Colorado uses partially blind interviews to focus on their criteria, looking at the student’s passions and goals, avoiding bias from grades and MCAT scores that pre-direct them to certain questions confirming why they should or shouldn’t take the students.

Build a little portfolio about each of the medical schools you're applying to, to help in your interview prep.Click To Tweet

[Related episode: 5 Common Med School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them]

More on the MMI:

  • Not about connecting with the interviewer but how the applicant responds to a series of standardized situations
  • Looking for communication, social interaction, compassion, problem-solving, and teamwork
  • Strengths, weaknesses, and some issues around it
  • Students need to practice flexibility in facing new situations with confidence

[Related episode: The MMI: Everything You Need to Know About the Multiple Mini Interview]

Discussing poor grades in a personal statement:

  • Don’t mention poor grades in a personal statement (unless there are circumstances that enabled growth or change)

What the interviewer looks for:

  • Consistency of response
  • Depth of knowledge
  • How reality has tested them
  • Passion for medicine
  • Criteria of the school
  • Eye contact
  • Genuineness and honesty

More topics covered in this episode:

  • Questions you can ask during the interview
  • What you should wear (no hot pink!)
  • Should you wear a beard?
  • The most common mistakes interviewees do wrong
  • The value of mock interviews

Links and Other Resources