10 Things I Learned as an Interviewer for the Interviewee

Originally posted September 2017

As a fourth year medical students (yikes) I was able to become an interviewer for my medical school. So yes, that means maybe someone I’ve interviewed may one day see this. Though probably not. Anyways, it was very surreal to be on the other side of the process all these years later and while I’m getting ready for interviews myself (anyone want me for residency, btw?)

A lot of expectations and previous notions about interviews that I had really did change and I can see how intricate the process actually is, and I get why we get asked the questions we do. At least somewhat better.

All experiences and interviewers are different but here are some things I think can really help out the interviewee. Maybe things you thought were hard and fast rules but aren’t or things you didn’t expect us to be looking for. Anything to help! And while this is directed at pre-meds, the advice should still general enough that anyone can use it, if they want.

Some things to know beforehand; I was part of a two-on-one interview setting which lasted 30 minutes with a few preset questions we needed to ask. The interview was blind, so we couldn’t see stats.

Take a second to observe your interviewers.

This isn’t an open invitation to judge your interviewers, but most of us are pretty telling in the way we present ourselves. If you can take a break for the nerves for a second pay attention to our introductions, our demeanor and how we’re dressed. It can give you a sense of how relaxed or stringent we may be and what our personalities may be like even if we were told to stay stone cold poker-faced. And always keep in mind who your interviewers are and what departments they’re from. It can help guide the tone we set for the entire interview.

Play off the interviewers.

Now that you’ve taken a moment to take in your surroundings use those to your advantage. If we’re playing tough, answer with strength and intention. If we’re relaxed, don’t sit so stiff and maybe get us to laugh. If you are asked thought provoking questions, take time to think about it and provide thought provoking answers. The more you work with us, the easy and more open a dialog becomes and the more personable the interview will become. It’s a great way to show flexibility and adaptation, and for the interviewers who did this well we found ourselves impressed.

If I’m offering you information, take it.

If I am telling you that I am a 4th year and I can answer your questions about rotations, classes, or student life I am literally giving you questions to ask me in the event you have forgotten all of yours. If faculty tells you which program they are a part of and what they specialize in they are opening that line of information for you. They are telling you were their interests and focuses are and you can run with that, if you like.

Please, please do your research.

We had an application who couldn’t tell us what they liked our school. Had no idea what the mission statement was or what the goals of the school were. Didn’t have a clue. I had to use my doctor face so I could stay neutral. It was bad. I get that you just want to be in medical school but come on. Point blank, there is no excuse for anyone to know nothing about the program they’re interviewing for. You should also have worked out answers for frequently asked questions. Getting stumped on classic medical school questions…it’s a big red flag. So please plan ahead and do your research.

Pick the length of your answers carefully.

Different types of questions prompt different types of answers. There are a lot of questions that can prompt follow up questions. Hobbies for example; going into every detail about your hobbies is probably counterproductive. But that’s assuming you have a fair amount of things you like to do that aren’t medicine. You can add a snip here and there, like “I’ve done that for 15 years” or “it’s really a huge passion of mine” but if there is interest in hearing more, we’ll most likely ask. If you only have one thing, don’t think “I like running” is a good enough answer. Give us something to work with. There are questions, especially theoretical ones or tell me a story situations that are meant to be longer. And always keep in mind your time limit.

Be confident, not cocky.

There is a huge difference between smug and confident. We had one prospect who gave this shit-eating “gotcha” grin after every question they thought they had aced. It was almost like they were trying to directly challenging me. It got to the point that I stopped caring what they were saying and was just getting pissed. The answers could have been great (they weren’t) but all that stuck with me was the cockiness. Not sure if you do that unintentionally? That’s what practice interviews are for. There are very clear differences when someone was proud of an answer and were pleased, and what this individual was doing. And if you do act that way, personally, I don’t want you representing my school, regardless of what your application looks like.

I don’t care about the “right” answer. I care why.

I know there are certain questions answers that are kind of set in stone. And I know straying too far from say, an ethics question, is hard to do in a new and unique way. The way to make yourself stand out from the crowd is to explain the reasons why you believe this to be the “right” answers since those tend to differ among applicants and shows your critical thinking skills past “well obviously this is the right answer”. Aside from that most interviewers don’t have specific expectations for most questions. We’d rather just hear about you and your personal experiences, honestly.

We’re not always looking for your spoken answer.

Sometimes we’re looking at your body language. I will purposefully ask questions I know there are only a few answers too. Not because I want to know if you know it, but rather how you viscerally respond. Do you look uncomfortable when answering an ethics or grades question? Did you answer robotically? Are you still looking at me? Can you pick yourself back up after a rough question? What you do speaks just as loud as the things your saying and I’m looking for it.

Use your personality and responses to show you want to be here. Not your grades.

This was not an isolated event. I had a few prospective students speak about a class and sneak in “which I got an A in” and continue. Not really a fan of that. I naturally assume that everyone we interviewed had good enough grades and scores because, well, you’re at the interview. At this point in the process all I want if for you to shine beyond those things and prove to me that you can be a doctor on paper and in person.

Make me feel connected to you.

In the end, I want to feel like I know who you are. I want to know what you stand for and I want to experience the person who wants to become a physician. I want to appreciate your story and how far you’ve come. We don’t need to become best friends, we don’t need to have similar thoughts or values or personalities. But I want to feel like we could understand each other now and in the future. Let me be excited about you and for you. Let me want you to be here so I can check accept.

I hope someone was able to get something useful from this because for all of you here dying to enter this crazy profession I want you to reach your goals. I really do, and I’m just doing all I can on the internet. Good luck to everyone on your interviews!


10 Things I Learned in Med School That I Didn’t Know Until I Got There

Happy New Years 2016!

As a second year medical student I will say that I am very qualified to share my wisdom, considering I still barely know anything at all. It’s time to share some things I learned before 2016 takes my soul!

Every time I talk to a pre-med; “I would love to be where you are.” And while I love where I am, it’s not all rainbow and people showering your with “yay you made it” flowers. There’s a lot I feel like even among the medblr community we don’t touch on too often because it can take a while to see them in all the action. I think they’re important though.

Remember, these are from personal experience! I learned a lot in the the last year and half but you might have different experiences and that’s just fine! Just take it so you know!

1. It’s a small world 

When was the last time you got the spend all your time among 150 people, give or take a few? And you cannot escape them. You’re stuck. That’s what you have to survive in med school. You know that. But the world of medicine is so much smaller than that. Hospitals are even smaller than that. Rotations are usually in a small region. People know people. People love to talk. We live in an itty bitty medical world. Things will always follow you, good or bad. So make your big mark on this bitty world a good one.

2. All class environments are different

Many schools do have an expected class style, and there’s a good chance your will follow suit. I personally think it’s an important thing to look into. But your class style depends on your classmates. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the land of southern hospitality, hardcore city life or rustic heart and soul. Your class could be anything. They could be your new family or they could be blood and guts cut throat. You won’t know until you show up. But there’s still a good chance no matter what you get, you’ll still find kin.

3. Have expectations for yourself but not others 

Expecting good things from yourself, whether it be academically, morally, ethically, whatever I don’t run your life. But don’t project those same things onto other people. Most of them you haven’t known very long. It takes a while to really build strong, trust worthy relationships. One day you might get to the point where you expect things from your classmates, your friends. Just keep yourself at high standards and hopefully, others will too.

4. Let people be there for you 

There’s a lot of pride that goes along with wanting to fix your problems yourself. You’re going to be facing very new, very real challenges. It can be hard because as a future medical-whatever, you think you should be able to solve all the problems. And you should, but it never has to be alone. So why should your issues be any different? So if you have friends, family, whoever wants to help you when you need it, don’t feel like you can’t accept. It’s not weakness to accept kindness. It’s strength to know when you need it. Life is already hard enough, let’s let others be kind so we can be kind in return.

5. Grades are not a coping mechanism 

We say it all the time, grades do not define you. This tends to be in reference to not as good grades. But what about people with good grades? I’ve noticed that people who do well tend to use their grades to deal with the constant feeling of inadequacy that many medical students suffer from, but I think everyone needs to realize grades are not your numerical worth. Grades don’t last forever. Those numbers can’t save you when things go wrong. You have to trust in what you know, beyond multiple choice and scores.

6. The realist and the pessimist

“I’m just saying what’s true.” You hear it all the time. And yes, you can’t expect everything to always go your way. But you also can’t constantly think everything is working against you and be resentful. Even if it sometimes seems that way. There is just as much positive thinking in realism as their is negative. The worst thing that happens in that you drown in the negative and trust me, you can’t afford that. Learn to distinguish between the two. It can cause you a lot anxiety to have someone say negative things aloud. It’s okay to be naturally pessimistic, but you can’t let it get in the way of yours or others mental well-being. Even if it’s hard, try to see the sun on a dark day.

7. Don’t expect things to happen

For most of us, no one is offered anything in med school. Why? Because everything needs to be earned and everyone wants everything. While a resident may say “come do research with me” or a doctor says “of course you can shadow me” no way in hell are they going to come after you. If you want it, you have to go get it. Medical school is just one big race so even if you walk you’ll make it to the end. But if you run and get make opportunities happen chances are you’ll be a lot happier with your finishing place.

8. Disappointment is just another word for opportunity 

I joke all the time with my friend that if you keep your expectations low, you’re never disappointed. I don’t actually do that, but that’s how often it happens. Most of us come from a place of success, but failure is what builds you. And to be honest, failure, no matter what it means to you, is disappointing no matter how you dress it. But that doesn’t mean its an end all. It just means you have to find a new way to achieve what you want, forcing you to take a new spin on the unexpected, and giving you a chance you would have never thought of.

9. Don’t box yourself in, but don’t leave the building 

I think there is an equal amount of pressure to know what you want to do as a doctor and not to choose before you do rotations. Which makes no sense, but that’s how it goes. It is very important to keep an open mind, but you know yourself better than anyone. Why submit yourself to the torture of a specialty you know you’ll hate (if you don’t have to) because you have to be open minded? But you also don’t have to shut yourself out from things you aren’t sure about. Trust yourself on this stuff.

10. You are special, but no one knows it yet 

Just like you can’t expect to be handed anything, you can’t expect people will know how fantastic you are right off the bat. You have to show them how much you shine. It’s so easy to forget how great you are when it you’re too busy to remember all those great things about yourself. It will take time, but people will start to see your good qualities and skills as long as you continue to believe in those skills and yourself. You got this.

I hope you guys liked it and that you reach all your goals this next year!

10 Things I learned to Do Right at a Conference

Originally posted October 2016

Well technically things to both rock out and to not look like an ass.

I went to a conference this week! I really like going to them, I think everyone should go to at least one! It’s not my first one, which makes me think maybe I have some inkling of how to be successful at one? But I’ve also seen something that are…questionable… So for all those who want some useful tips, have a read!

Remember these are based on my own experiences and opinions, so things may be different for you. I just want to share what I’ve learned.

1. Pack heavy

Basically the inverse of pack light. Even if you’re flying. As long as you don’t exceed weight limits and such, pack extra everything. You never know what will happen when you aren’t near home and the last thing you want is to be freaking out because the shampoo exploded and now you only have one usable outfit. And pack in different styles, some conferences are business cas, while others are FORMAL. You can check ahead, but you never really know until you get there.

2. Come prepared 

That means business cards, little notebook, pens, a place to carry handouts, a place for all your free swag from vendors, stuff like that. Some conferences are into bringing CVs but really only bring that if it’s suggested. You probably won’t be passing out a ton of cards, but if someone asks, it’s kind of embarrassing to not have one so get some!

3. You are still the bottom rung 

Medical students right? We’ll never catch a break. You should be able to spot a med student at a conference because we should be the best dressed, the most invested, the most bright eyes and in awe. That’s because we’re technically invading an event for residents and attendings. This means our needs, wants, and opinions are not the priority. You aren’t there to challenge the system, or change the world. You are there to learn from those with MUCH MORE experience than you. Stay humble.


4. Don’t be afraid to climb!

Even if you are the just the med student, don’t be afraid to approach residents and the attendings! Let them get to know you, show your face, be engaged! Answers questions if you can! Just because you should be humble, doesn’t mean you should be meek! Most conference attendees are happy to talk to you and give you advice. And the worst anyone can do is say they don’t want to talk.

5. Have many well thought out questions

Having good, solid questions will do two things for you. 1) you’ll have your very important questions answered and 2) you’ll really look like you’ve been taking the time to be invested, which impresses basically everyone. We did a speed dating thing with residents from different programs with a group a students asking one or two residents questions, and most people had great questions…but some of the things that got asked were…weird. Not bad, but they were confusing, poorly worded, or flat out irrelevant. We only had 20 minutes per resident, so it seems like a waste of time. This also happened, though to a much less extent in the program director panel. It would just behoove you to know what is important to you, and what you want to ask before hand. Write them down if you need. It just lets you learn A LOT more in these rare chances.

6. If you go alone, you represent your school

Yep. Just you, holding the entire weight of your school’s name. And don’t get me wrong, people understand a single person is not completely representative of a class population but its kind of an initial though everyone has. It can also be intimidating to go alone, especially when some schools bring pretty substantial groups. At the conference I was at, everyone was friendly so no single riders got left out.

7. If you go in a group, all of you represent your school

I hate to have to say it, but you might end up babysitting. The thing with conferences is that you get to know your classmates on a weird new level, some being great, and some being completely awful. Most people will remember features of a group rather than each individual, so you want to make sure everyone makes everyone else look good. And individual can still ruin everything, and it can be a huge pain to literally have to watch over a freaking adult. Other times it will be completely fantastic, and you end up being the cool kids group. Just try your best to have a good group dynamic.

8. Don’t obsess over studying

Yes, I understand that even when you aren’t at school, med school never takes a break. And there will be time to get some studying in. Maybe not as much as you normally would, but some here and there. Just don’t make it constant thing you’re “reminding” everyone of. They know. And if you were so worried about studying, then going to a conference maybe wasn’t the best option. Know your limits.

9. Take notes!

Really? Yes really! I mean, you don’t have to take notes on any special lectures you attend (it’s probably still over your head anyways), but if you have a student section they are most likely giving you new tools to make yourself a better candidate for residency programs. And chances are, you won’t remember all of it, especially when the time comes that you actually need it!

10. Share!

A lot of the things you learn at a conference is the most up to date information currently available, which most likely means your school hasn’t gone into great detail for it, because a lot the info seems “far off”. That’s not really the case, so if you can, share what you learned with your classmates. I actually hope that after the info session is done at my school, I can share ours with you guys!

As long as I get permission, look forward to the written version of the conference information session from my school! I hope you guys enjoy!

10 Things I Learned While Shadowing an Orthopedic Surgeon

Originally posted August 16th, 2015

I’ve spent a good chunk of my summer following a fantastic orthopedic surgeon in the clinic (the hospital wouldn’t approve me for the OR booo). It was so much fun, and I learned a ton, not just about orthopedics but the qualities that a good doctor should have. I’ve seen a lot of great things that I thought you guys would find it interesting!

I’m slowly being pulled into a torrent of a competitive specialty and I’m terrified, but sometimes you just can’t fight the feeling. I’m still keeping an open mind of course! But maybe I’m into it. 

My experience is just one of many, and will be different from yours and others. This is just my take, so I hope you enjoy!

1. Everyone gets osteoarthritis. EVERYONE.

You’re going to get it. I’m going to get it. Everyone will get it. It just depends on when. It’s such a major cause of pain, and there isn’t too much that can be done for it once it gets bad enough, except to get brand new joints. But! If you use your body the way it’s suppose to by doing plenty of walking and getting those shoulders, hips and knees in the groove it supposedly keeps you from getting the pains that ache and never leave.

2. Charisma is king in this specialty. 

I haven’t done rotations yet, and I’ve only shadowed so many doctors, but I have never seen patients who were once ornery and pissed for waiting for 2 hours to have some staples removed melt into mush babies as soon as the doctor starts talking to them. He relates to the patients so amazingly. He had the way. I learned a ton of tricks and for the few times I got to in on my own, I got to practice my own form of doctor charisma. And let me tell you guys. Learn to do it.

3. Joint replacements are not for the youth. 

THEY ARE FOR OLDER FOLKS. People in their 70s and 80s. People who will most likely not need a revision in 20 years. Sometimes it for people who need nothing but comfort. But more and more people in their 60s, 50s and even 40s need them on the regular. Luckily, technology evolves and joint replacements are made of better material, stronger alloys, and last longer than replacements from even 10 years ago. But technology can’t change the original purpose at least not yet.

4. Try somewhere else for pain meds. 

Many hospital systems do not allow orthopods to prescribe long term narcotics for pain. They can only give the good stuff (if you count terrible constipation as good) after surgery and for a few weeks afterwards. You actually have to get them from a primary care or pain management doc.

5. There no middle ground for cortisol. You either REALLY want the shot or you REALLY don’t. 

There is a face that patients make who have never had a large shot before. They clench up, shoulders rise, their eyes widen and search for anyone else in the room for confirmation that this won’t be completely terrible. It’s no little baby needle either. Those who accept grin and bear it, hopefully to become a little more seasoned like those who are basically ready to stick themselves. No fear, not a flinch. They’re ready and they want that relief. Rarely ever is anyone indifferent, or so I’ve seen.

6. If you think you break your finger/toe go get checked out right away!

This is more of a PSA but fingers and toes heal really quickly, so after ¾ weeks they can’t do much to fix those tootsies. I saw at least 4 people who’s poor fingers were forever shortened, or bent to a new odd direction that are now fated to be that way forever. So don’t end up like with with a mutant pinky, and take care of your digits.

7. Always and forever behind on patients. 

At least in this clinic. Let me tell you, the PAs at this office were on point. But when you only schedule 5 to 10 minutes per patient what do you think would happen! Sometimes it was a quick in and out, but with charisma comes conversation and with conversation comes a need for time. Plus people usually have a lot a questions when it comes to pain or surgery, and sometimes certain causes of pain can be confusing (like the difference between hip and back pain). But that’s just the way, for everyone.
8. Sometimes it takes someone outside a specialty to figure out what the problem is. 

There was more than once instance where the orthopedic surgeon figured out a long undiagnosed genetic disease, or found that back pain was really due to a neurological reason, and not a bulging disc. And there were other times where he would receive information from a patient’s cardiologist or primary care doc saying they found s source of pain that was orthopedic in nature. From that I learned even if you are the master of your specialty, you may not always have all the answers which is why it’s so important for medicine to be a team.

9. There may not be many female physicians but there are plenty of female medical professionals and staff in an ortho setting.

It’s very true that women are a small minority of orthopedic surgeons (14% of residents currently) but that’s something that’s starting to take a shift. But that doesn’t mean an orthopedic service just the boy’s club it’s made out to be. Many of the PAs, nurses, PTs, and Athletic trainers were amazing, intelligent and talented women who were insanely important to the entire entity that is orthopedic medicine. And they were awesome and I can only hope to be as great as they are one day.

10. Orthopedics is good mix of consistent patient care and awesome surgery!

I didn’t know very much about orthopedics until the summer before I started medical school. I had a good idea of what happened in a surgical setting and being as much of a people-person as I am, I wondered if that part of surgery would deter me. Turns out, orthopedics does a pretty good job of blending nonsurgical, (somewhat) long-term care with in-depth and (sometimes) complex procedures. I would say its a good blend of both worlds, and I guess I’m into that even if it scares me.

Not all of this applies totally and wholly to the specialty orthopedic surgery, but I think it gives a pretty good representation of different types of medicines. Even if ortho doesn’t interested you, you’ve got to admit. It’s pretty cool.

50 Helpful Little Things To Know for Med School

Originally posted June 15th, 2015

  1. Never hang your stethoscope from your rear view mirror
  2. Also don’t hang your white coat in front of a car window
  3. ID badge is life, ID badge is love
  4. Keep a sweater with you somewhere, all the time
  5. Save the sleeves, watch out for “pens all over the place” syndrome
  6. Once the first person caves for the fancy pens, everyone else falls like dominoes
  7. Ascetically pleasing powerpoints are hard to come by
  8. There will be one rare disease your school harps on like everyone has it
  9. Most instructors care about you and your success
  10. And those who don’t are miserable already, don’t waste your time being upset about it
  11. Be nice to all faculty and staff even if they have no effect on your grades
  12. A 3-hole punch is a coveted prize for the binder dependent
  13. Movement is necessary, do it every once in a while
  14. Glove size matters
  15. Shoe covers have zero traction
  16. Real life things will just start smelling like anatomy lab
  17. Anatomy lab will always make you hungry no matter how much you eat
  18. Don’t be ashamed, if you think the anatomy lab smells to high hell, wear the mask
  19. No, you cannot use an animal otoscope on a person
  20. Yes, you can use a regular stethoscope on a little animal (be gentle!)
  21. It’s always better to touch too softly at first than to kill your partner
  22. Practice your poker face
  23. Being graded on empathy makes you less empathetic
  24. Most med students don’t have a ton of physical ailments, so practice on many classmates to get a feel for what is “normal”
  25. If something feels odd on your partner, ask your teacher for help before you scare the crap out of them
  26. There will be one disease/bug/drug that you will never be able to remember no matter how many times you look at it
  27. Many gunners will not realize they are gunners, don’t bother pointing it out
  28. If you get any legit equipment, it should be your stethoscope
  29. A reflex hammer is still a hammer
  30. Food is alternative currency
  31. Coffee runs are bonding time, even if you don’t drink coffee
  32. Be courteous and remember to remove a used K-cup
  33. You will not know when burnout will happen, but when it does, it’s too late
  34. It’s always better to be too covered up in professional wear
  35. There is no shame in walking around in your socks
  36. While it feels like high school, remember everyone is an adult
  37. Nice can be a relative term when it comes to medical students
  38. But some people will be completely fantastic
  39. If someone is doing something nice and they aren’t your fav, don’t be a dick
  40. For every horrible group you will work with there will be an amazing one
  41. It will take time, but you will find those who you mesh with
  42. It’s okay to decide someone is not a person you want to be close with
  43. Every term is impossibly hard to get yourself back into a solid study routine
  44. You will change study techniques 100 times even after you find one that works
  45. The difference is that you can adjust faster each time
  46. Break downs are the rule rather than the exception
  47. Success happens more often than you would think
  48. Even if it seems impossible, the grades, the specialty, the residency put in 110%, your best is never something to be ashamed of
  49. Do not do this if you aren’t 110% sure
  50. Continue to find love in it, you’ll only do it once

10 Things I Learned From a Residency Director

A resident director recently met with students of a club that I belong to. It was fantastic! I love being able to learn things from people who really know what’s what, especially in a field like medicine, which is often saturated by a lot of information from too many (not always reliable)sources. Getting straight answers from someone truly in the know is simply invaluable.

So I’ll share something I heard straight from one horse’s mouth. Maybe you’ve heard or experienced different things – that’s great; please share! We can all benefit from each other! I wrote this to share, but also in for myself. It’s a great way to record the thing that could help as i move further in my medical career. I’m just a wee M1, so my experience and knowledge on residencies is somewhat limited, but I do hope it helps!

Also, I won’t waste time talking about board scores and academics. You know what you have to do there.

1. Your Picture

I’ll start with the one people tend to not think about. In your application, you must provide a picture of yourself so admissions committee can get a good look at your mug. The resident director said that out of maybe 500 applications he will immediately throw out 20-30 applicants based on their pictures alone. Now don’t cry discrimination just yet. He went on to explain that these pictures were so ridiculous, so far-fetched or just plain crazy that he could not rationalize looking through these candidates’ apps. He said he has seen everything from a guy with wild, untamed lion-mane locks to a girl spilling so far out of her shirt it was almost taboo to look at to a Facebook party picture. It’s easy to get your picture taken in which you are wearing nice attire that appeases the older generation. Be smart. Do it.

2. An Attention Grabbing Statement

Personal statement that is. From what I understand, most personal statements are not read until the interviewee has been offered an interview.  Unless the first sentence grabs your face and makes you read it, makes you want to know what happens next or why this person wrote that sentence. Not everyone is an accomplished writer and, honestly, that’s fine. Even statements written with perfect Victorian prose will be skimmed and shrugged off. So what do you do? Just go for it. Use your experiences, the things that open the window to who you are. Also, the director said writing about how much you love medicine and all of your volunteer work for, say, habitat for humanity does not cut it anymore. In his words, “It’s expected that everyone does it! I don’t care!” A little harsh in my opinion, but the sentiment is there.

3. Activities that Show your Potential

You cannot rate a person’s hand-eye coordination, patience, or ability to improvise by reading about it on a piece of paper (Although I did try to do this in the research I did!). All specialties have certain skill sets which are essential to being successful in that field. Those skills can come from anywhere! Played piano, a master at paint-by-numbers, an accomplished athlete? All useful and relevant to certain specialties. These can be both learned and acquired, but you need to be able to prove that you have the steadiest hands in a 100-mile radius or that your attention to detail would make closet organizers swoon. It’s all about your activities. Your experiences in medical school build your skills. Residency programs need to know about these skills and  great abilities you have because you never know –  maybe that “useless skill” is really a golden ticket to the spot you want most.

4. Exaggeration Trip 

Sometimes it can’t be helped that we want to put a few more sparkles on our projects. However, a few sparkles can quickly turn into a glitter wave, and then we’re just totally out of control and there’s little left of the substance beneath all that glitter. Residency interviewers have been around the block before. If something on your application looks too good to be true or far more impressive than expected, then they are going to go after you about it. They know a bull shitter when they see one. So, claiming you speak French when really your extent of speaking the language consists of the one time you had half of a conversation during a  trip to France won’t fly. You will be find out. It’s medicine people. Half-truths and glossy words don’t help anyone.

5. Know your Audience

Many of us are aware of the stereotypes that follow residencies and specialties. While you should never make assumptions about anyone you work with, you can use the traits associated with each specialty to make the right impression in the right places. Different cities and hospitals have their own cultures. This is why auditions and interview dinners are important; they give you a chance to get to know the culture of a hospital. If you can’t swing a rotation at one of the hospitals on your list, then doing some in-depth research can be a great way to rub the faculty the right way right off the bat. This does not mean you need to act like someone you aren’t at all. Rather, it means know how to highlight your characteristics to suit your desired environment.

6. Lead with answers 

The art of conversation is lost on many. Like many art forms, there is a way to manipulate it to accomplish what you want. This is why interviews should be practiced. When you become adept at answering questions, you are able to direct questions in your favor based on your answers. This gives you control over the interview. Think about it like a pick-your-own-adventure book. If you read the book once, you can generally pick the answers that don’t lead to your death. That means practice (in case my analogy wasn’t as great as I thought). The director said that once you get them interested and invested in a conversation you’re usually on the right track.

7. Confident – not cocky

Confidence is how you prove your competence without actually preforming. Confidence makes potential seem worth investing in. Confidence is key. But there is a fine line between being strong and being a know-it-all. You would think that after a certain point professional students would learn how to act so as to not come off as a cocky narcissist.  And yet, we all know this is not true. You need to be aware of how you come off in any situation, specifically while interacting with residency directors. The residency director said that there is always time to pull back if you feel yourself getting too comfortable during a rotation or interview. This is important as getting too comfortable tends to cause interviewing students to become complacent and possibly arrogant, even if they have never been a showboater for one day in their lives. For those of you who do believe that you are God’s gift to medicine…hey, that’s up to you.

8. Modest – not reserved

For every boisterous personality, there’s an introvert counterpart. Both parties need to find the line, in their own ways, that brings them to that perfect point in-between assertive, understanding and compassionate. Especially in an interview, you have to prove your ability to assert authority without being overbearing or boorish. You also need to show modesty and appreciation for yourself. These are all qualities that a future physician must have. The director said, “Know your strengths, don’t hide them. But don’t throw them in our faces. Be proud, but not vain.” Pretty solid I think.

9. Memorable in all the right ways

I was told that out of the 25 people seen by this residency director on every interview day, he remembers around 10 of them off the top of his head. 3 or 4 of them are really great candidates, a couple that have interesting potential, and 4 or 5 of them are horrible. Those are some good or terrible odds, depending on how you look at it. Using the techniques you learned over time, become one of the really great candidates. At the end of the day, you want your interviewers to say to their colleagues, “Hey check out this one I interviewed today, he was fantastic”. While I wasn’t told how exactly to do this (except be super interesting??) so I’m hoping as school goes on, I’ll be able to learn more about being a prime candidate. Is it possible to do this at every interview you acquire? Maybe. Is it possible for you to be memorable no matter who you are? Definitely.

10. Follow the Feeling

No matter where you are or what you chose to do, it should feel right. I was told that while rotating and interviewing the one thing that is more important than anything else is the feeling you get inside. “You’re all smart. That’s why you’re here. But are you smart enough to trust your gut? That’s great for us, but even better for you.” Even though a place might seem great on paper, if its doesn’t feel right its not for you. The match doesn’t allow for a ton of a freedom, but for the bit it does has, do everything you can so that you can be happy.

I hope this was helpful! Good luck to everyone going through the match! Add helpful things because i’m still a wee baby!

10 Things to Ask at Your Medical School Interviews

Originally posted February 2015

Also applies to many professional school!

Since being a student ambassador I’ve learned at lot things that are really important to medical school applicants and what it important for them to know when choosing a school. I have also learned what potential students find important to their personal experience. Luckily, I’m more informed than the average first year (thanks to the medblrs!) so I’ve been able to answer many of these questions effectively!

So (hopefully) I’ve complied some useful questions that can help you figure out if a school is the right place for you. Everyone has different wants and needs, and that’s just fine, but maybe you’ll see something you didn’t think of. If you have any to add, please do!

1. Ask the current students how they like their curriculum

The internet is a wonderful place, where many schools are kind enough to post either their curriculum or at least the type they employ. Its a great first past to knowing if a school is right for you. But simply knowing what type of curriculum a school has won’t let you know if it’s really giving the students what they need.  This is definitely a case by case basis and each student will tell you something different. But if you ask enough people you will get a feel for how the curriculum effects the students as a whole and how well the information is taught. This way you can get a feel whether its a situation you can see yourself succeeding in, and hey, you might even change your mind.

2. How heavily focused is the school on board prep 

Ask about how the testing is done (block or individual class exams, computer or written, classroom or school testing center), and are questions written boards style? Do they have focus on things besides boards? Half of the battle of boards is being able to correctly approach these specific types questions. Some schools build up to it and some throw you right in. Some school might be too focused on boards (the students might not be as great clinically). Do they offer any boards prep besides a kaplan discount if even? It seems far off, but trust me, it’s worth knowing sooner rather than later.

3. Does the school focus on a specific type of specialty

Some schools tend to focus more on certain specialties or areas to provide health care. Sometimes you won’t know how much until you get to the interview. Certain schools will heavily focus on primary care, some on competitive specialties, while others are into undeserved city populations or rural care. This shouldn’t drive your choice because all schools will have people who do match all over the grid, but if the focus isn’t what you’re looking for the won’t may not be quite right.

4. How does the class interact with each other

This is much bigger than you probably expect it to be, but how the students have previously interacted in past classes is a good determinant of how future class dynamics will be (but is not always the case). This generally varies from class to class, but more often than not a school will generally have a culture most classes follows. Places range from internally competitive to warm and fuzzy family. You do need to know yourself a little bit to know which environment is going to bring out the best in you. It won’t take long to figure it out from both faculty and students about it. And remember, second years have an effect on first year life. Just FYI.

5. What do rotations look like and how often do they change  

Your interviewers and 1st and 2nd year students probably won’t know the all the answers to your rotation questions unless you happen to get a 3rd or 4th year, a rotation preceptor or the administration who works on it specifically. It’s just hard to keep up with it all. Rotations are a big part of your medical education and even though they seem like a long way off, this is one thing you want to know about the future. What type of options are available, if they have anchor sites or traveling rotations, if international if possible through that school and how stable the sites are. Your rotations can really shape what you may want to go into, making it pretty important.

6. How receptive is the community to that school and how integrated are they 

This a question that you probably won’t get a real answer from an open house, except the regular spout most schools give. For some, it’s very true that their students are actively involved in the community and they are well liked at the places they volunteer with. Others…not so much. This again, is very specific for you. If volunteering isn’t really your thing to start with does it really matter? But if you do want the experience know ahead of time how manageable it will be for you to get out there and if you have to set it up through the school or yourself.

7. Do different programs interact

Well first are there different programs at the school. This does include an undergraduate population.There are really only a few medical professional schools that are just one lone profession. But if you do, ask how the classes are towards each other? Are they friendly or is there a lot of back handed things that go on? Does administration seem to favor a specific program? Are you removed from the undergrad populous or integrated into it? You might feel like it won’t really matter, and in the long run it doesn’t. It could make your life easier though and in med school you need all the help you can get.

8. How helpful is administration

Ask the medical students for sure about this because they will definitely have opinions about it. There will be problems everywhere you go, there is no one perfect system. Just some will…have less issues than others. A good way to approach this is to ask how active the admin is in keeping the students up to date on relevant events and changes and keep themselves updated on things like rotations or accreditation changes. Do they try to find help for struggling students? Or are you really left to your own devices?

9. What kind help does the school supply

Some schools will have tutoring and review sessions and all kinda of extra study materials. And some schools have “advisory” committees which are really “scare the crap out of you” committees. Make sure you find out about it. It’s never easy to approach the idea of being a struggling medical student and you certainly don’t want to give off the impression that you will struggle (but that is totally real, it happens to pretty much everyone). You can also wait until after interviews to ask this if it’s worrying to you. Besides the not fun stuff, you should also ask how the school helps you advance your medical career, as in getting the tools you need for whatever type of doctor you one day chose to be.

10. Why should you go to that school 

Even though they haven’t picked you just yet, you should know why you should pick them! Make them convince you why you should pick that school! Remember, if you do make it through the interview and it ends in acceptance now the school is at your mercy. They want you! The ball is in your court. When it comes down to it, you should feel right at a school, it should feel like a home.