Interviews: Pre-Med Drama

Admissions Decisions May Hang in Balance

"Of 110 medical schools, each one has a different philosophy on admissions," said Dr. Shah Khoshbin, a pre-med tutor in Adams House.

Harvard Medical School, for example, conducts more relaxed interviews during which applicants spend the majority of their time simply describing themselves.

But how well an interview proceeds may ultimately depend on who the interviewer happens to be, and whether the student can establish the right connection with him or her.

"I just happened to get an unusually tough interviewer at Stanford," Lin says. "If you're lucky, you just click. I spent half an hour talking about classical music at the Harvard Medical School interview."

Just as in any profession, medical students must face the pressure of trying to convince their interviewers to like them in half an hour.


In choosing among a field of applicants with similar grade point averages and Medical College Admissions Test scores, the ability to connect in an interview can be crucial to gaining admission-to a medical school.

"On a scale of one to 10 in importance, [where 10 is the highest], interviews get an eight," says Meril R. Kramer, admissions officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.

"At Harvard Medical School, interviews put a seal of approval on the applicant," Khoshbin says. "Most students look like they walk on water on paper so the interviewer must see if this is real."

Medical school admissions officers say they are looking for traits like enthusiasm, poise and an ability to communicate effectively.

"Applicants who do well show a certain degree of spark," says Kramer. "Who do you want taking care of your grandmother? You want someone very smart, ready to grasp complex scientific situations and explain them simply to a patient."

Khoshbin said med schools are generally "sensitive" to Harvard students, so applicants must show an interest in the school and exhibit a certain degree of humility.

"In medical school, they don't want to take people who are so engrossed in themselves they are not interested in service," he says.

And as in job interviews, garnering an interview for medical school requires an outstanding academic record, says Orr.

Only 1,000 out of 4,000 applicants to Harvard Medical School are invited for an interview, she says. And of those interviewed, only 190 are eventually given offers of acceptance.

In general, medical school applicants must go through fewer rounds of interviews than their counterparts in recruiting, making their performance in each interview relatively more important.