medical school, medical school interview, medical school interview tips, why do you want to become a medical doctor, personal statement
This is one of THE MOST frustrating questions to answer for most premed students, yet it is also THE MOST important question to answer convincingly. In fact, if you don't answer this question well, you are going to get rejected. Period.
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Being a medical doctor is really great. It's stimulating and interesting. Medical doctors have a significant degree of autonomy over their schedules and time. Medical doctors know that they get to help people solve problems every single day. Medical doctors get to witness humanity at its very best and very worst.
But being a medical doctor is not easy. This is not a career for people who do not see themselves working more than 50 hours per week and on holidays. This is not a career for people who prefer to move around a lot. This is not a career for people who aren't good with responsibility and focus.
Also, when you're in front of an interview panel or when an admissions committee is reading your personal statement, unconvincingly spewing a list of reasons why being a doctor is awesome, comes across as such and admissions committee members know that. You want to focus your answer on the YOU part of why YOU want to be a doctor and why YOU would be an excellent doctor.
On that note, here is a list of terrible reasons to become a doctor:
- To make money: You will, but there are way easier and more profitable ways.
- Because your parents are doctors: If you're doing this to earn someone else's respect or love, this will never work. Medicine is not a birthright. However, the skills and aptitudes for medicine can be socially and environmentally influenced. Either way, you have to want it independently of your parents or grandparents.
- To hold power over people: This should relatively self-evident.
- To launch a career in politics: See #1. Wanting to use your cultural authority as a doctor to be a sociopolitical advocate and an agent of progressive change is, however, different from wanting to be a career politician.
- To make a name for yourself: You can, but see #1. And also you shouldn't be building a personal brand off of another's pathology.
- To prove your self worth: Medicine can be esteem-crushing. You will fail harder in medicine, and with terrible consequences, than in any other profession before you start to figure it out. So save your ego the bruises.
- Because your current career is terrible: You have to be driven from a positive place, not from a deficit.
Why the personal statement or interview stage will eliminate you if you don't know why you want to be a medical doctor:
The interview and personal statements will either explicitly ask you why you want to be a doctor or inadvertently through questions like, "tell me about yourself?" The interviewers and reviewers are looking for something that seems true and good for you, given your background and past experiences. For example, the fact that your parents are doctors may be part of a true and good reason for you, but not just because they are doctors. There is another story underneath that one that has influenced your path. Perhaps you're inspired by their dedication to a clinical problem over decades. Perhaps you were there when the child of a patient they treated came up to your parent in the street and thanked them for their commitment to caring for their ailing parent. There must be something more there.
Answering this question in a true and good way could be what separates you from the top 20% of candidates and this will matter when push comes to shove.
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Why I want to be a doctor:
I want to be a doctor because it is the best and highest pursuit of a life’s work for someone who loves solving problems, relating to and being encompassed by stories of humanity, and is a curious interrogator of data. That's who I am.
The most awesome thing, though, is that you could have an entirely different set of strengths and being a doctor could still be your best and highest use in society. You could be the most brilliant, precise tactile hand worker with extraordinary geo-spatial awareness and a desire to save lives. Your best and highest use could be as a surgeon.
How to figure out the answer for yourself:
Knowing why you want to be a doctor is really about knowing your strengths and knowing your best and highest use as a human being. If you don't know your strengths, there is a career counselor, mentor, a brave best friend or self-help book that can start you on your journey.
If you get to know your strengths, then your best and highest use becomes more clear. For me, my strengths are in synthesizing a lot of information into higher order ideas, turning theory into action, identifying narratives and helping others figure out their own unique stories and solving problems effectively. At the emotional-social level, I am really dedicated to justice and fairness. My Grade 4 teacher gave everyone little dolls out dressed as the career they might have when they grew up, and my little doll was dressed as a judge. Did anything like that happen to you? Can you remember a defining experience that could shed more light on your strengths?
Know the answer to this question for yourself, do good work and the rest becomes a matter of logistics.
How to organize your answer to this difficult question:
Now let's assume you know the answer to this question. And you have discovered your genuine desire to become a medical doctor instead of choosing from an infinite number of other careers paths. Now it's time to have an answer that's concise, coherent and convincingly. Here's how to do just that:
- First you have to communicate the event or events that triggered your curiosity about the field.
- Next, you'll have to explain what you did after your curiosity was triggered to learn more about the field.
- Then, you'll have to explain what solidified your decision to wanting to choose medicine as a career path and explicitly identify YOUR specific reasons.
You'll have to include a lot of personal details to back up your story and you must remember to avoid cliches such as "because I want to help people" in or to stand out.
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Your friends at BeMo
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Even if you are naturally charming and charismatic, resist the temptation to wing your medical school interview. You will be miles ahead if you have already given any serious thought to common interview questions beforehand.
Our list of classic medical interview questions represent all the questions an interviewer might pose from your decision to pursue medicine to your views on universal healthcare. The key is to think through your answers to the more difficult questions here before you walk through the door.
Questions about your Education
- Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
- How have you tried to achieve breadth in your undergraduate curriculum?
- How has your undergraduate research experience, if any, better prepared you for a medical career?
- How have the jobs, volunteer opportunities, or extracurricular experiences that you have had better prepared you for the responsibilities of being a physician?
- How do you envision using your medical education?
Questions about Your Character and Personality
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What travels have you taken and what exposure to other cultures have you had?
- Thinking of examples from your recent past, how would you assess your empathy and compassion?
- As a pre-med, what skills have you learned to help manage your time and relieve stress?
- If you could be granted three wishes for making the world/society/ your community a better place, what would they be and why (or, If you were given a million dollars to achieve three goals, what would you work on and why)?
- What do you do for fun?
- What is “success” in your opinion? After 20 years as a physician, what kind of “success” would you hope to have achieved? Please explain
- What qualities do you look for in a physician? Can you provide an example of a physician who embodies any of these ideals? How do they do this?
- What kind of experiences have you had working with sick people? Have these experiences taught you anything that you didn’t know beforehand?
- Do you have any family members or role models who are physicians?
- What family members, friends, or other individuals have been influential in your decision to pursue a medical career?
- If you could invite four people from the past to dinner, who would they be, and why would you invite them? What would you talk about?
- Does your academic record reflect any major challenges? If so, what are they and why did they occur?
- What excites you about medicine in general?
- What do you know about the current trends in our nation’s healthcare system?
- What do you believe to be some of the most pressing health issues today? Why?
- What do you feel are the negative or restrictive aspects of medicine from a professional standpoint?
- If you had to choose between clinical and academic medicine as a profession, which would you pick? What do you feel you might lose by being forced to choose?
Society Related Questions
- What do you feel are the social responsibilities of a physician?
- What do you consider an important/the most important social problem facing the United States today and why?
- How do you think national health insurance affects physicians, patients, and society?
- In what manner and to what degree do you stay in touch with current events?
- What books, films, or other media come to mind as having been particularly important to your sciences/non-sciences education?
- Can you think of any examples in our society when healthcare is a right? When is it a privilege? When is it not clear?
Questions about Ethics
- Are you aware of any current controversies in the area of medical ethics? List and discuss some of these.
- Have you personally encountered any moral dilemmas to date? Of what nature?
- How do you feel about euthanasia or medically assisted suicide?
- What different feelings and issues might you experience with a terminally ill patient, as opposed to other patients?
- How would you feel about treating a patient who has tested positive for HIV?
- What are some of the ethical issues that our society considers in regard to teenage pregnancy?
- Assume there are limited resources available and you must make decisions in a major emergency with a wide assortment of patients from all ages, backgrounds, and degree of injury. Assume also that there is no “right answer” to this question, only considered and unconsidered responses. Who would you direct to receive the treatment first and why.
Questions about Diversity
- If you are a minority candidate, how do you feel your background uniquely prepares you to be, and will influence your role as, a physician?
- If you are a woman, how has your gender impacted your decision to pursue a medical career?
- If you are not a minority, how might you best meet the needs of a multiethnic, multicultural patient population?
- If you are economically disadvantaged or have limited financial means, how has this adversity shaped you?
- To what extent do you feel that you owe a debt to your fellow man? To what extent do you owe a debt to those less fortunate than yourself? Please explain.
Questions about Medical School
- What special qualities do you feel you possess that set you apart from other medical school candidates? What makes you unique or different as a medical school candidate?
- What kind of medical schools are you applying to, and why?
- Pick any specific medical school to which you are applying, and tell the interviewer about it. What makes this school particularly desirable to you?
- What general and specific skills would you hope an ideal medical school experience would give you? How might your ideal school achieve that result?
Questions about Your Motivation
- Discuss your decision to pursue medicine. When did you decide to become an MD, and why?
- Why did you decide to choose medicine and not some other field where you can help others, such as nursing, physical therapy, pharmacology, psychology, education, or social work?
- How have you tested your motivation to become an MD? Please explain.
- What will you do if you are not accepted to medical school this year? Have you an alternative career plan?
- Is there anything else we have not covered that you feel the interviewer should know about you or your interest in becoming a doctor?
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