The medical school interview can make or break your chance at an acceptance. Don’t walk in unprepared. Check out these questions that students struggle with.
If you haven’t yet, check out my books The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Personal Statement, and The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.
Meanwhile, listen to our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network so you can hopefully get all the resources you need to help you along this path to becoming a physician. Also, we’ve got a new podcast, check out The MCAT CARS Podcast with Jack Westin.
Today’s episode is basically an addition to the previous discussion we had on Session 233 about the 5 common medical school interview questions, where we covered things like why you want to be a doctor, tell me about yourself, your greatest strength, why should the med school accept you, and why come to this school.
So I wanted to add more questions and asked the community on the Facebook Hangout Group, which if you’re not a member yet, please register for free. So I’ve picked five questions that students commonly struggle with as I’m doing mock interviews with them.
[03:05] Just Be Yourself
The fun thing about interviews is you think every student is going to answer this the same way. But having interviewed hundreds, or even thousands of students, they don’t answer questions the same way.
Hence, just be yourself. Every student is bringing their own experiences to the table. So when they’re answering the question, they’re answering it based on their own life experiences.
[03:40] Question #1: Why Do You Want to Be an Osteopathic Physician?
Where students go wrong with this question is they just spit out the marketing that osteopathic schools put out – believing in the holistic philosophy, treating the patient holistically, having OMT in addition to their belt. And this is marketing stuff from osteopathic schools.
But what does holistic care mean to you? Use your own definition. What does holistic look like to you? Break that down into those parts. Then try to highlight parts of your experience that show the interviewer why that’s important, instead of just saying you like the holistic treatment.
You have to look at it from the medical admissions committee’s perspective. They want to make sure you have a bit of an understanding of what the DO world is. And that you have some respect for the DO world.
Again, when asked why DO? Break it down what holistic means. Don’t just use the buzzwords. Then add in your life experiences, highlight them and tie its importance to a person’s health.
[08:00] Question #2: What Your Biggest Weakness?
Maybe you don’t want other people to think you have some weaknesses. But we all have flaws. We all have weaknesses.
The bigger flaw is not owning up to your weakness. If you can’t own up to that, then that’s an issue. Because once you’re a physician, being able to own up to your weaknesses is very important to your patient’s care. Knowing your limitations as a physician is very important. And part of that is understanding and acknowledging that you’re not perfect.
So when asked about your biggest weakness, they don’t want to hear what’s something you can turn into a strength either. They really want to hear what you think is your weakness. If you need help with this, go ask your friends and/or family members. Reach out to them and try to get their feedback. Then you can talk about this in the interview.
Again, don’t spin your weakness into a strength. Moreover, you just don’t stop with telling your weakness. You need to talk about what you’re doing to fix your weakness. Tell a story about how this affected you in the past and what you’re doing to work on it.
One of the things you have to stay away from would be communication skills. This is part of being a physician. This includes communicating with patients, and their families. And telling them your biggest struggle is communicating, that could be a problem. So don’t tell something that could be a red flag. So what then is the best answer? Whatever that is, the best answer is always what is your truth. Hence, I recommend you ask your parents, friends, and family about your biggest weaknesses.
[13:35] Question #3: Health Care Questions
Never go into an interview unprepared that much, that your first response to a question is you don’t really know as much as you should. If you are admitting to the fact that you should know more but you don’t, then it tells the admissions committee that there’s something wrong with your planning, motivation, or initiative to do well in this interview. The fact you know you should know more about this topic, specifically healthcare, but you don’t know more about it, that’s not good. And they might pass on your for an acceptance.
You have to understand the Affordable Care Act. The current administration (as of this recording) is trying to dismantle it. It hasn’t passed and they’re trying to push their own, The American Health Care Act. It doesn’t matter. What matters is you have to know what’s going on in our healthcare so that you can talk about it during an interview.
Understand what the Single Payer System is. That’s the same with Universal Healthcare. Understand what that looks like, what countries have it, and the difference between the systems in the UK and in Canada.
Anytime you’re given a “thoughts on ____” type questions, talk about the pros, cons, your side. Give some specifics. If you’re asked about the Affordable Care Act, talk about it more – what preexisting conditions it got rid of, extended care for kids, preventive care treatments for free, mandatory coverage, etc. Name the good things and bad things. Talk about it. Understand them.
As to where to go for information, read The Healthcare Handbook. Also, listen to the podcast Congressional Dish, by Jen Briney. In Session 48, she did an episode all about the Affordable Care Act. In her podcast, she reads the bills. So she read all 2000+ pages. And then she did a podcast episode on it. She also had followup episodes about the American Healthcare Act.
[19:55] Question #4: What Diversity Can You Bring to the Class?
A lot of students think this is an unfair question especially if they’re white thinking they can’t really bring any diversity. But that’s not the question they’re really asking. Answer this the same way you answer the question, why should they accept you?
Don’t focus on yourself, focus on your classmates. Focus on your future colleagues at that medical school. What experiences, skills, traits do you have that will add to the educational environment of your peers? That is diversity. Not just skin color, race, ethnicity, etc. They want to know real-world experiences and real-world skills and traits that you’ve gained. Don’t talk about stuff like just because you took philosophy or psychology, you’d be an asset because you can think differently. Don’t talk about that. There are also several other students who have the same major as you do.
For instance, you’re a former college athlete and former team captain, talk about how you can also be a leader in the med class. It’s a skill that he has and what he wants to do with the class. So think about your experiences, traits, and skills and how can you add to the class.
[23:25] Question #5: Tell Me Your Thoughts on Abortion
Again, when you’re asked about your thoughts regarding certain issues, there should be a pretty standard framework around the question. First, tell them about your thoughts. Then explain your thought process behind that. Tell them why there are pro-life people out there. If you’re pro-life, give some thoughts on pro-choice people out there. Having that understanding of the other side is called empathy. And that is important to be a physician. And even if the other side may have reasons you may not agree with – still this shows you have empathy and you can understand the other side.
One of the biggest mistakes students make with this question (and other moral ethical questions) is that they play the middle road. They’re worried about what the interviewer will think. They’re worried they’re going to be dinged. But you’re actually dinged more for not taking a stance, than if you chose a different side than the interviewer. Their job is not to judge you based on your answer if it differs from them. Rather, their job is to understand your thought process behind your answers to determine if you and your thought process are sound. Again, show empathy for the other side.
As of this recording in October 2018, Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed for the next Supreme Court Justice. And there’s a lot of talk about the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade, the big court case that allowed abortion in this country.
So really be aware of what’s going on in the news because the questions that may come out can be completely flipped and twisted based on what’s going on. So you need to be prepared.
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