Obviously you know your application, you wrote it. You will still need to know it better. Do three things. One, go over the dates of your activities. The interviewer is your advocate in the committee and will help to explain the timeline of your progression to medical school (esp. if you took time off). Which summers you did which internship, what year you worked on what project, these things must be clear in your head and may have been lost in your head since filling out the primary application 9 months ago. You don’t want it to seem as though you can’t remember your own activities or that there was any time lapse in your activities. Sketching out a mini timeline for yourself is an easy way to lesson the chance that your interviewer, when thinking back on you as one of hundreds of applicants, will be confused.
Two, know what you learned from each activity. Have a solid understanding and articulate strategy for discussing what your specific role was during the project, and what it is that you learned. In terms of your takeaway lesson, it is a great idea to tie it back to medicine. I’m not insinuating you discuss how playing the flute at an assisted living center furthered your interest in molecular research and the possibilities of affecting the population on a grand scale. Remember, healthcare related lessons are medical related skills. Interacting with children who are disadvantaged solidified your intent to help others, working with a diverse group of people showed you the importance of connecting and empathizing with others from all walks of life, and your lab research can always further your molecular curiosity. Tip, teaching is considered to be an important part of academic medicine; relating experiences back to leadership and educating others is also great.
Three, know if the interview is ‘closed’ or ‘open’ file. Open file means that the person you will be speaking with has already read your application, closed means they have not. For the open interview, expect specific questions including those about sub-par grades or lacking academic performance. If the application is closed however, you are not off the hook with these uncomfortable questions. Often times the interviewer will ask you if there are any ‘red flags’ in your application that they should know about. Realize, one that they will be reading your file shortly and will find out anyways, and two this is actually an opportunity to explain to your ‘committee advocate’ a positive spin on your mishap, who, can then stand up for you during the committee discussion of you. Also, for a closed interview, you need to know this and make more of an effort to get across the points you want to get across. They know nothing about you besides what you tell them. If they have read your file, you might need to be more aggressive in steering the conversation towards what it is that you would like to discuss as they don’t know what has affected you the most (see Lesson Learned Blog coming up on Thursday).