I was at the NAMME pre-health conference hosted by UCLA a few weekends ago. Is it just me or dot these conferences revitalize you? Since there weren’t many pre-healths there and there weren’t many schools, we all had a lot of time at the booths compared to the other conferences I’ve been too. No one else was at this table so I took the time to ask one of the admissions officers at an Illinois university about interviewing. I was just real with him, “I know I need to work on it and I’m going too but I’m not the greatest speaker when it comes to interviewing… It’s just that formal situation and…” He laughed like it was one of those questions he always gets and he said:
“Yeah, a lot of applicants think that we don’t want you there. No, we want you there! The interview is the last part of the process; you’ve made it through most of it… Because what’s the alternative? Is that you go to another medical school.”
“You know I can talk to you like this and I can talk to patients but when you get me in that formal situation….”
“Yeah, I know, which is great that you can do that, we understand that it’s nerve racking but if you can’t have a conversation with us, it’s concerning at the same time because we want you to come back and be leaders in the community, we want you to speak like the speakers you saw in there [first part of the conference, admission advisers and doctors spoke to students in a lecture hall], etc….”
I guess when we see all these requirements, and we’re studying hard for course work, and we feel like it’s an impossible endeavor, we forget that medical schools want medical students. They want you there, they want you to feel comfortable (within reason), and they want you to succeed.
I still need to work on it, I’m still going to do mock interviews but it appeased my mind to know that it wasn’t so much a game of us vs. them. It was more of, let’s get you in and give you the tools you need so you can shine as a doctor.
Coming from someone who’s not the greatest public speaker, the best thing you can do for yourself is start early and keep practicing. All the greatest speakers of our time and time before us had to practice before the nerves and jitters went away. They weren’t born without nervousness, sweaty palms, they practiced them away. Same concept applies to anything else, how do you get a good grade in biology? You practice the terms by memorizing, drawing them, etc until you know them well enough and comfortably enough to get the grade you want. How do you calm your nerves in an interview? You practice until you’re comfortable enough that your nerves will be calmed.
You worked night and day to get a great GPA, you worked for however many straight months to score in the highest percentile you could for your MCAT, you had to work hard to get some sort of clinical experience or patient experience. That’s the hard part! Don’t let it go to waste because of an interview, because you weren’t able have a conversation with someone. So, get up off your chair, go in front of a mirror and start practicing for five minutes like I’m about too. Soon enough it will be in front of the interviewer for the school you’re going to go to.