STRESSING out over interviews

For many applicants to medical school, sending off their applications is just the beginning.

Applying to medical school is an 18-month process that begins, for most students, the summer before their senior year with primary applications and enters the next phase in the fall with interviews.

According to Lee Ann Michelson '77, the health career advisor at Harvard's Office of Career Services (OCS) says that while many students find the interview process intimidating, she encourages them to look at it with a more positive attitude.

"Students do get very anxious about interviews," she says. "They need to be reminded that this can be a positive experience. If they don't look at this in a competitive way, they can see that they have a chance to project an image of themselves that does not come across on paper."

Eileen L. Horwath '98, who says she has already received three requests for interviews--two of which are scheduled for next weekend--says that the process is daunting, but applying from Harvard makes a difference.

"I guess everyone is afraid of not getting in, but I can't think of a better institution from which to apply," she says. "That boosts my confidence the most."

A senior in Winthrop House, who did not want to be identified and is currently applying to medical school, says that the process is not so much intimidating as it is "time consuming."

The student, who has already had two interviews, says that the format varies.

"Sometimes you get some guy who talks a lot about himself or asks you motivational questions about why you want to go to medical school," he says.

Horwath says that her anxiety has been alleviated by the resources that OCS provides, including group workshops and binders providing information on current health care topics.

In an attempt to alleviate their fears, Michelson constantly tries to remind students that "interviewing is on a subject that they know best. It is their chance to tell their story. They forget that it can be fun."

Michelson runs workshops to prepare students for the types of questions they might encounter during interviews. She says she gives students advice on how to dress for the interview and how to follow it up.

The application process for most school begins with filling out the centralized application system, AMCAS--which gathers and processes all of the applications and then forwards them to the appropriate schools, Michelson says.

And while each school has its own criteria for judging these applications, Michelson says that most schools balance MCAT scores, grade point average, recommendations, experiences and the personal statements as the primary evaluative measures. From those criteria, the school then chooses a select portion of students to interview.

According to Michelson, the number of students who get an interview at a particular medical school varies greatly. Most state schools, for example, will interview all of the candidates who are permanent residents of that state.