I mentioned here that I hate interviews.
Applying to medical school is a funny thing because a lot things are very personal, (GPA, MCAT) but everyone wants to know how you’re doing. Vague answers usually get you by- but now that I’m in- knowing that in a lot of ways (test scores) I’m very average and that, in the end, it was enough- I don’t care who knows what. So I might as well maybe help someone know what to expect, or explain more fully to my loved ones what it was like for me.
Now it all feels wimpy because I’ve lived to survive the tale. But when you’re in it, its very scary and it definitely feels like a strange, stressful torture in the weeks, days and minutes leading up to it.
My interview with the school I’m going to was my first interview and I had it pretty early in the interview season (Nov. 1). In the two week notice I had leading up to it, I somehow got through my classes in a blur because most of my energy was focused on panicking. I had several legitimate panic attacks, spent hours on the internet searching interview questions and their proper answers, and spent even longer awake in bed at night imagining different scenarios in my head instead of sleeping. I asked my family and friends to ask me practice questions, but I would get so worked up that I had to stop practicing a couple of days before I went to the interview. I took a lot of walks to calm down.
Why was it so scary?
Well, first of all, the entire application process is torture. So its all scary. You go into every new wave of premed, slowly going up the ranks, wondering what new form of cruel and unusual punishment awaits you.
Secondly, I heard somewhere that getting an interview means that a spot in the class is “yours to lose”.
Looking back, I was way too worked up. But being a Type A, I had to be doing something to prepare and sometimes thinking about it feels more productive than not thinking about it. It was also extremely scary to think about all my studying, years of work, volunteering, and worrying coming down to a 30 minute conversation. It almost felt insulting that it was all reduced to resting on this one interview.
The night before my interview, I went home, ate a good dinner, shut off my computer, set out my clothes, (complete with knee-high stockings, bleh) and took a Benadryl at 8:30PM. That was the best thing I could have done for myself, honestly. I slept like a baby. I woke up rested and ready to go. Nervous? Yeah. Excited? Yes. Ready for it to finally be over? Definitely.
Once in the building, they escorted me into a conference room where there were beverages and 6 other nervous applicants. They were all boys my age! (ahem, men). I was the only girl. Suddenly, looking at these other guys my age, it occurred to me- I‘M THE SAME AS THEM! They have the same amount of training, we are all equally qualified. Heck, if I went to school with them, I could have easily been friends with them. I guess maybe I was expecting to walk into a room full of intimidating doctors, because that’s how unqualified I felt to be there. So, once that all set in, I realized that I had a right to be there. I deserve to be here, I thought.
The dean of admissions introduced herself and the recruiters and talked for about 30 minutes. I don’t think any of the applicants could tell you what she said. They divided us into three interview sessions, I was in group B at 10:30. So I had to sit there fidgeting and making small talk with the other guys for 2 hours. They let us be, though, and I was grateful for that. I texted my doctor mentor who used to teach there and told him my interviewers names. He assured me that they were both very nice, gave me some encouragement and told me to try to enjoy the experience. Bless that man.
I worked the previous summer in a lab upstairs and my boss came and visited me too. Both of those moments soothed me a lot. I don’t remember much else. Except that my stomach started growling about 15 minutes before my interview and so I choked down a granola bar in my purse because if my stomach growled audibly during my interview, I was certain that I would absolutely just die.
These thoughts I’m having, the events that transpired that day, how many times I peed that morning, none of these things are things that I thought the holy medical student, much less a doctor, would have as they were interviewing to become said doctor. But more and more I’m realizing that I have immortalized the career as unattainable and even other medical students are not as human as I am. Their stomachs don’t growl. They don’t listen to Jesse McCartney or watch Spongebob. Then I pinch myself and realize that I’m one of them. But, I’m just a kid. I don’t have an ever-loving clue. Well America, we are your medical students now! God bless us all.
Anyway, I was introduced to my two interviewers. An older guy that works as a clinical psychologist. And a younger pediatric resident. I shook their hands, told them that yes,”Andi” was preferable to Andrea, “thank you for asking” and sat down.
The resident halted the interview at once and said, “Before we get started, I just wanted to commend you on your personal statement. It was extremely mature, well-written, and unique. I read it twice myself and once to my wife. She liked it too.”
Be still, my heart.
The psychologist then asked me to tell him what I do for fun. Wait, what? “I don’t have fun.” Was my first thought. I told him I run, cook, and I have 5 nieces that I love spending time with.”
The resident piped in a answered half that question for me. He said “It looks like you have a lot of church and volunteer activities too, is that something you do for fun.” I said that yes, I was very happy about all the opportunities I’ve had to help others and travel and it’s become an important point of maintaining perspective from school work I genuinely love it.
It was at this point I realized I did not have control over this interview. My interviewers were charming, kind, genuinely interested, and eloquent. They treated me as an equal and I became all of those things as well. God had this. I never had anything to do with it.
Some other questions they asked:
- Why do you think being a D.O. is something you want to do?
- Why do you think OSU is a good fit for you?
- How do you relieve stress?
- What would you do if you had a patient that had a problem that you could treat, but was not compliant and would not listen to you?
- What has been your most meaningful medical experience and why?
It was very conversational, and my interviewers would interject their own thoughts and agree with me or add something to my answer. I felt like I belonged there being colleagues with them. I went 15 minutes over my allotted interview time. A lady had to come in and drag me out. I shook their hands again, they smiled genuinely at me and I smiled genuinely back. I really could have talked to them all day. My boss was waiting for me outside the room again because I was on his floor. He asked me if I threw up on them. I laughed, grateful that he was there, and shared my first breath of relief with a familiar face. It was nice. I was happy.
I’ve been so used to looking like an idiot in front of my professors, that this new-found confidence and equally-yoked conversation about medicine struck my fancy quite well.
The rest of the day, I was much more relaxed. We did a tour. They demonstrated their simulation patients for us, and we had lunch with some medical students. By the end of the day I was tired. I was ready to go home, wipe off my polite poker face and squeal about how well it went to my mom and dad.
1) You’re going to be nervous. Just know that you are going to be nervous and try to learn how to best present “you” when nervous.
2) Prepare for the questions you think they’ll ask. But quit a couple days before because you’ll just freak out about everything you don’t have a perfect answer to.
3) One thing I regret is how private my classmates and I were about our experiences applying. Like I said, for some reason, scores and interview offers are very personal and every individual journey into medical is very different. Perhaps for jealousy or competition reasons but it doesn’t have to be that way. Find someone else going through it to talk about it with! It helps to talk about it. It keeps your worrying thoughts from going to “the dark place” when you can bounce them off of someone else out loud.
4) Sleep good the night before, even if you have to take something.
5) Enjoy the experience! Its not everyday, you get to be considered for something so prestigious.
6) When asked a question, its okay to take a breath. Pausing before answering sounds a lot better than blurting something out or taking several different paths throughout your answer to end up where you wanted.