Brett is currently a fourth year medical student in Canada at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. He obtained his honors specialization in medical sciences degree from Western University. He personally interviewed at a number of Ontario Medical Schools and has served on the admissions interview panel at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
You have worked very hard in undergrad meeting all the criteria for admission into medical school. You have spent your entire undergraduate life competing for your desired seat in a Canadian medical school and are almost there! You have surpassed the GPA requirements and have met all of the cutoffs for the MCAT. There is only one thing standing in your way and that is the dreaded interview…
First of all, the interview process is simply a means to get to know you. Of course you will be nervous, but it is not the intention of the interviewers to intimidate you and in most cases the interview is very relaxed. Keep in mind that all of the students interviewing at that particular school have surpassed the basic requirements, which simply put are GPA and MCAT cutoffs. This means that the interview is actually extremely important to set applicants apart from one another since on paper everyone can look quite similar.
So how do you set yourself apart from the other applicants? Hopefully during undergrad you have been a very well rounded individual – yes academics are important but it is also important that you have a life outside of school and this is what the interview will flesh out. If you are an undergraduate student between years 1-3 then start doing activities outside of school NOW - I cannot emphasize this enough.
TIP #1: BE WELL ROUNDED
Every person has different strengths and weaknesses and various activities that they will have affinity to. It is not so much important what you do, just that you have a life outside of school. This can take the form of volunteering (food bank, hospital, nursing home, city, coaching etc), sports (intramurals, varsity, competitive, professional), employment (anything), and research to name a few areas. A very common question is “do you need research to get into medical school?” The answer is NO absolutely not. It is well known that you will have plenty of opportunity to do research in medical school and beyond. The important thing is to be well rounded. If you have spent your summers doing research that is great, but if you have spent your summer working or playing sports or volunteering or any combination that is great too. It is just important that you are engaging somehow in the community and show there is more to you than writing exams. The reason it is important to have a wide range of experiences is because these are the times in your life you need to reflect on to really shine in an interview.
TIP #2: REFLECT
Reflection is extremely important and something not commonly done day to day. Weeks before your interview it is imperative that you reflect on your past experiences. You need to be thinking about who you are and what has brought you to where you are today. Why do you want to be a physician? Why do you want to go to whatever medical schools you are applying to? What are your strengths, but more importantly what are your weaknesses?
TIP #3: FRAMEWORK
It is important in any interview question to have a framework. You should start with setting the context and importance of the question. Then go on to deliver an answer. Next you should always when possible relate the question back to a personal experience (since the point of the interview is to get to know you,) and then conclude with what you learned and how this will allow you to excel in medicine.
TIP #4 CanMEDS ROLES
For those of you applying to Canadian schools, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a strong grasp of the CanMEDS roles. If you do not know what these are then look it up now! The seven CanMEDS roles are: scholar, communicator, collaborator, manager, health advocate, professional, and medical expert. The medical expert is what you will begin to develop in medical school so that is not as important as the other six for the interview. It is imperative that you thoroughly know these concepts and how you embody each of these character traits especially linking them to personal experiences.
That is my advice for students interviewing for medical school. I wish you all the best of luck and probably most important tip of all is be yourself!
Thank you Brett for your valuable insight regarding medical school interviews! We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.