The Medical School Interview – How to Talk About You

Session 192

Session 192

Today's episode is another interesting discussion on the medical school interview particularly about knowing YOU. For most students, this is a huge challenge as they pretty much have a difficult time talking about themselves.

Ryan talks about how you can best know yourself as well as some types of questions and scenarios where you need to know yourself so you come prepared during interview day.

Here are the highlights of the episode:

  1. Know how to answer “Tell me about yourself.” question:

Know what the highlights are in your life. What are the interesting things about yourself? What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies? Which places have you traveled to?

  1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Try this exercise: Email your family and friends and ask them what they think is your biggest weaknesses.

  • You might not get the best answers back. Tell them to give you the brutally honest truth because you need it.
  • Do not just leave your weaknesses at that. Be able to leave it with something positive. So talk about what you've learned from it and how you're trying to overcoming it and how it won't be an issue in the future.
  1. Understand and know your stances on specific topics.

Be able to talk about abortion and euthanasia. You have to have a side and understand why you're taking that side. Be thoughtful about it and do some soul searching.

App recommendation:

Texture – Get access to every magazine out there to help you read about different topics and different ideas  and perspectives from different people.

  1. Be able to talk about your different experiences.

You have about 15 spots for experiences in your application. You need to be able to talk about all of those experiences as well as the most memorable clinical experience you've had. Ask yourself what might the interviewer ask you and how are you going to respond to that. Ryan's book, The Guide to the Medical School Interview gives you access to around 600 different potential interview questions to help get you thinking.

  1. Be able to talk about lessons learned.

There is always a lesson learned from each experience that you have and that means everything. So what have been the lessons you learned?

  1. Be able to talk about your future.

Have an understanding of what you hope life will be like years from now. What kind of population do you want to serve? What kind of setting do see yourself in?

  1. Know why you want to go to that school.

Know why you're sitting in that chair to interview for a spot in next year's class. Why are you hoping to take a seat from somebody else that might know better why they want to go to that school?

Links and Other Resources:

Elite Medical Scribes –



Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 192.

Hello and welcome to The Premed Years, where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your success. I am your host Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement, and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.

Welcome to The Premed Years Podcast. I'm your host as I said just two seconds ago, Ryan Gray. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a long time listener, thank you, you are- every one of you are the ones that keep me motivated to keep doing this. And this week is going to be a discussion with just me talking about another discussion on the medical school interview. If you've listened to this podcast over the last couple weeks you will know that I have a book coming out soon about the medical school interview, guide to the medical school interview. It will be coming out on Kindle very soon, hopefully right around- if not as this podcast is releasing, probably a couple days after. I tried to time it perfectly to get it out before this podcast came out but I don't think that will happen. We were- as I'm recording this, we were up until 2:30 in the morning last night or early this morning doing some last minute edits, and now I'm just doing some last minute formatting things before hopefully getting it ready to go out to the person that makes it all pretty for Kindle. If you haven't heard it's going to be Kindle only right now. I will have a paperback version coming out probably at the beginning of next year some point. My book- this book was picked up by a publisher so hopefully it'll be in bookstores. I'm learning all of the side of publishing at this point which is something I never really thought I would get into, but I was introduced to a publisher, and they liked the book, and they like what I'm doing, so they agreed to publish it. And there's no guarantees it being in a bookstore so hopefully when the time comes to ask you guys to help support me and go to your bookstore and request a book, that those bookstores will know that people want this book and they'll buy it for their bookstores. But anyway, off on a tangent.

If you're interested in the book go to You can sign up- if the book's not out yet as you're listening to this you can sign up to be notified when it is out, and once it is out will take you to the place where you can buy it.

Tell Me About Yourself

So with that said, what I want to dig in today for the medical school interview is knowing you. One of the things working with students one-on-one doing mock interview prep, one of the things that students always seem to have issues with is talking about themselves. Whether it's I'm asking a, ‘tell me about yourself' question, or strengths or weaknesses, or ‘what does your future look like,' most students have a hard time talking about themselves. I can ask anything else and they can answer, and they're comfortable answering it, and if I ask them about abortion, or euthanasia, things that don't really pertain to them they're good at answering. So what I want to talk about today is how you can best know yourself, and the types of questions and scenarios where you really need to know yourself so that come interview day you're prepared, you know who you are, you know what makes you different, and you know how that will help you stand out and be memorable to the admissions committee member that you're interacting with.

So to start off I want to talk about just knowing how to answer the ‘tell me about yourself' question. This is the hardest question for students to answer, and I know I struggled with it way back in the day when I was interviewing, way back in the day. Even nowadays just a random conversation, “Hey tell me about yourself, what are you doing?” I'm like, “Um, I podcast,” and that's what I come up with and I forget about everything else. And so what you need to understand here is that you need to know what the highlights are in your life. You need to know all the interesting things. And you might be sitting there, “Dr. Gray, I have no interesting things about myself,” and I would probably tell you that you're crazy. And what I do, scenarios and questions that I go down with students when I'm doing mock interviews with them, if they don't do well which 95% of them don't do well initially on the ‘tell me about their self' question, I start asking follow-up questions. I say, “What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies? Where have you traveled to? Do you watch sports?” Asking those types of questions helps me understand who this person is that I'm talking to so that later as I'm giving feedback on the ‘tell me about yourself question,' I can then point to these other answers and say, “Look when we talked about what do you do for fun, you said that you've run ten marathons on four different continents and you actually won one of them.” And I said, “That's pretty cool and that needs to belong in your ‘tell me about yourself.'” Or somebody I did an interview once with a student who went to some monk retreat somewhere in Myanmar and during the retreat you couldn't talk. That's pretty interesting. So in his ‘tell me about yourself' he talked about his meditation practice and going on this retreat, and that was interesting to me. It made me want to ask more questions, and that's exactly what you want to do with this ‘tell me about yourself' prompt. I keep calling it a question but it's really a prompt, ‘tell me about yourself.' So that's- you need to think through that list. What sort of activities do I do? What sort of hobbies do I have? What do I do for fun? Where are any interesting places I've travelled? I've lived? One student I'm working with right now talked about how he and his family like to take road trips, and in his ‘tell me about yourself' question he talked about- and he listed all of the cities that he's been to. I'm like, “Oh that's cool that you've been to all these cities, it's very interesting, but it took a long time to get through.” I said, “What would be more to the point and drive home, really how much you're driving is tell me how many miles have you driven across country with your family?” And he was like, “Oh that's easy it's about 200,000 miles.” It was like, “Wow that's a lot, that's memorable.” So think about those kinds of things. That's what you want to drive home.

Alright you need to understand- again we're talking about knowing who you are. You need to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Now here's a fun exercise. Email your friends and family, people closest to you, and ask them this question. ‘Dear Jane, I'm getting ready to interview for medical school and I would like you to tell me what you think my biggest weakness is.' Yeah, that's rough. Getting those answers back is rough, and it's hard too because a lot of times you might not get the best answers back, so you need to really tell these people- tell your friends, tell your family to give you the brutally honest truth because you need it. And what you want to do, is you want to understand what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, but you also want to give examples of those. So if I say my biggest weakness is being disorganized, what does that actually look like? Beyond that, you don't want to say, “Well I'm very disorganized. Next question?” What you want to do is talk about being disorganized, tell me a story, what does that actually look like in your life? Is it disorganized like your house is a mess? Is it disorganized you're late for every meeting? Is it disorganized- you get what I'm saying here. But you don't want to just leave it at what your weakness is. You want to leave it with something positive. So you talk about your weakness, you talk about what you've learned from it, you talk about how you are trying to overcome it, and you talk about how in the future you hope to have it not be an issue because you're working on getting rid of this weakness, or overcoming it. So think about those kinds of things. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

Interview Questions on Ethical Issues

You're going to be asked at one point in one of your medical school interviews some controversial topics; moral, ethical issues, questions. You need to understand and know what your stance is on these topics before you go into them. You need to be able to talk about abortion and euthanasia, you have to have a side, you have to understand why you have a side and be thoughtful about it. And so you need to do some soul searching. If you're a very religious person and you've grown up thinking that abortion is the worst thing ever, then that's fine but you need to think through that, you need to understand it, you need to be able to talk about it in a conversation with somebody who may think the complete opposite from you. So think about those types of things.

Now I found a great app for iOS and Android called Texture. You can get it at and using that link, I actually get a little bit of a bonus when you sign up. You get a free trial, doesn't cost you any more, and they give me a little bit of beer money. So if you go to and sign up for an account, what Texture does- it's like Netflix for magazines. And I've been using it- I don't have my iPad in front of me but I like listening- or listening, I'm thinking about Audible. I like listening and reading- I like reading magazines. And like tomorrow I'm going on an airplane as I'm recording this, I'm going on an airplane tomorrow, Texture is the perfect app on your iPad because I can at my fingertips have access to basically every magazine out there. And why it's perfect for you as you're preparing for your interviews, I plugged in ‘affordable care act' in the search bar and it pulled up 589 different articles across tons of different magazines all about the Affordable Care Act. And what that does, it allows you- again at the tip of your finger, you have access to all of these to read, to browse, to skim, just to get an idea of what different people are saying about the Affordable Care Act. I always have a problem with using the same source. So say it's New York Times, or Wall Street Journal, or the Washington Post. Whatever it is where you get your information, you like watching that news channel, you like reading that newspaper, you like browsing that specific website because the views of those people writing the articles and talking about the news on those channels match yours, and that's not always the best. And so what Texture does is allows you to bring in a lot of different points of views, and it's really helpful as you're preparing for your interview. So do yourself a favor and do me a favor, go to, download the app, check it out. You get a free trial so you don't need to sign up for it, pay for it if you use it and you don't like it. But definitely worth it as you're preparing, at least for a month or two as you're preparing for your interviews.

Talking About Your Experiences

Alright you also need to be able to talk about your different experiences. So we all know in your application, or maybe you don't know, but in your application you have typically about fifteen spots for experiences that you've had. And you really need to be able to talk about all of those experiences, but beyond that you need to be able to talk if you're asked, “Tell me about the most memorable clinical experience that you've had.” Kind of a vague question, you might not have written about it anywhere in your personal statement, in your secondaries, any of your experience descriptions. And so you really need to start thinking about those kinds of questions. What might the interviewer ask me, and how might I respond to that? And so in the book, the Guide to the Medical School Interview that's coming out, again, you have access to- it's almost 600- I don't think I got a final count, it's around 600 different questions that are potential interview questions. And maybe some of them are really far out to the left field but it gets you thinking and that's the whole point, it really gets you thinking so that you can talk about your experiences, you can talk about strengths and weaknesses, and other things. So know how to talk about your experiences.

Talking About Lessons Learned

Another one here that I have listed is you need to be able to talk about lessons learned, and I talked about this a little bit when we talked about discussing your strengths and weaknesses. You don't want to just leave off and say what your biggest weakness is and then leave it at that. You need to talk about lessons learned. And so everything that you've gone through in life, you have a lessons learned. Whether it's going to class today and showing up five minutes late, what's your lesson learned? Why did you show up five minutes late? Did you leave late? Did you wake up late? Was there traffic- unexpected traffic? Did you run into somebody before class and talk? Whatever it may be, that's a lesson learned. And so as you've gone through your premed path, the life that you've lived up until now, you have lessons learned about everything and you need to think about the highlights. If you've struggled in certain classes, if you've had to take the MCAT multiple times and really struggled with that, what have been your lessons learned so that when asked in an interview about your struggles, you can talk about these lessons learned. And that just shows the interviewer that you've been thinking about it, that you hopefully own the problem, you've been thinking about it and thinking about how to improve your situation. So think about those types of things.

You really should be able to talk about your future. I think it's in the book where I talked about it, I don't know if I talked about it on the podcast before; I joke about women always talking- typically they always seem to since they were a little girl always know what their wedding is going to look like, they've pictured it since a little girl. I know Allison has talked about that all the time. And what you want to be able to do is be able to talk about your future. When you're asked, “What does your practice look like in fifteen years?” Or, “In fifteen years' time, what are you doing? What is the future Dr. Smith doing?” You need to have some sort of understanding of what you hope life will be like. Maybe you don't know what sort of specialty you're going to practice, but do you want to be in an urban setting? A rural setting? Do you want to serve the lower socioeconomic patient population? Do you want to serve an immigrant patient population? Do you want to serve an Indian population? Tribal population? Those types of questions. Do you think you might want to be in an academic setting or more in a community setting? You really need to have an understanding of what you want in life. And you don't have to be 100% correct, you're allowed to change your mind, but you need to be able to talk about it on your interview day. So think about that as well.

Knowing Reasoning for School Choice

And the last thing here I want to talk about is knowing why you want to go to that school. It's too often when I'm interviewing a student I say, “Well why do you want to come to the University of Florida Medical School?” And they'll say, “Well it's really well-known, it receives a lot of transfers from outside hospitals so it has a good reputation,” and that's all they can say about it. And I always like to rebut. I've gotten that answer a lot recently. I said, “Well most big academic centers are typically the most well-known ones, and the ones where all of the higher acuity patients are going to go to because usually the big academic medical centers have more of the subspecialists and specialties to be able to handle different patients. And so it's really not a great answer because you could use that for any medical- academic medical center typically. So you really need to know why it is that you're sitting in that chair to interview for a spot in next year's class. Why are you hoping to take a seat from somebody else that might know better why they want to go to that school? Know why, you have to, so think through that nice little exercise for you.

Final Thoughts

Alright I highly encourage you, go check out It's almost 54,000 words I think, right around there. It's a big book, a lot of the book is an awesome- there's an awesome section with transcribed interviews that I've done with students. So you see their answers to questions like, ‘Why medicine? Why not NPPA? Why not-‘ no, no more why not's. ‘Why DO?' ‘What about any red flags in your application?' ‘Why medicine?' ‘Why this school?' And so you see the students' answers, and you see my feedback to them. The middle section is a section, like I said it's almost 600 questions- possible questions you may be asked. Maybe they're not specific to every school, or really realistic questions that might be asked during an interview, but they get you thinking and that's really the goal. I do have a section on the MMI as well in there, so it has some sample scenarios and how to think through the MMI. Each of the sections, it talks about how to answer those types of questions. So I picked out the hardest questions that students typically have the issues with. It's, ‘tell me about yourself,' it's moral ethical questions, it's the red flags question, it's ‘why medicine' question. And I talk about in each of those sections how to answer those questions to better help you get an understanding of what you should be saying.

And the first part is a ton of great content on how to stand out, how to be successful, what not to do, and so much more. I've been working on this book for a long time, I hope you benefit greatly from it. I am super excited to be publishing it with a publisher at some point in 2017, but for now go to as you're listening to this, and it will be available on Kindle soon as I get it out there before I start working with the publisher to work on the next phase. So

I want to give a shoutout to our sponsor this week, Elite Medical Scribes. Now in this podcast I talk about knowing your experiences, being able to talk about them. As a scribe you'll have plenty of experiences to talk about. As we talked about a long time ago, many sessions ago, being a scribe is one of the best things that you can do for clinical experience, that exposure to medicine so that when the questions come, ‘why do you want to be a physician,' you have that experience of being in there with the doctor, with the patient, seeing firsthand what's going on in the doctor's office, in the emergency room, whatever setting you're in. And there are many different settings, and Elite Medical Scribes tries to match you with what specialty you may be interested in so you can get exposure to that specialty. So go check them out,, look into being a scribe so that on your interview day you can totally rock that question about the most memorable clinical experience. Thanks Elite Medical Scribes for sponsoring The Premed Years.

I hope you join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and The Premed Years.

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