Hello everyone! It feels like so long since I’ve actually posted anything on here, but in reality it has only been a month! It’s just that I’ve had such a jam packed few weeks! I’m now fully back into the swing of case based learning, and have had lots of new societies and meetings to keep me busy. As second years we are currently doing our Mother and Child module, which of course is proving very popular with all the girls (we’ve got to see lots of really cute babies!) And placements in the last month have meant that I’ve got to help administer the flu vaccines in a flu clinic, and take blood from patients in hospital (which has been very exciting!).
So last weekend I was working on the Cardiff University Open Day with the Medical School Admissions Team in the School of Biosciences, helping to answer any questions from parents and future students, and one question in particular kept on cropping up…. ‘I’ve already applied for this year but when will I hear if I have got an interview?’ The truth is tracking your UCAS application to medical school is just a waiting game. Which can be especially tough when all your friends doing other courses get offers so quickly after applying. I remember one boy in my year at school getting 2 offers the day he applied to his 5 university choices! And there I was… having applied at the end of September still anxiously waiting to hear whether or not I was successful in obtaining an just an interview at any of my 4 chosen medical schools let alone an offer!
So back when I applied for medical school it wasn’t until at least November/December until anyone started to get invited interviews. And with November just around the corner I thought I would try and share with you some of the interviewing tips that I’ve come across since I went through the UCAS cycle back in 2012.
Practice, Practice, Practice
If you were anything like me when I was in upper sixth, I’d never had a real formal interview before. I’d done the odd job here and there but none of them had ever required me to have an interview, so when it came to medical school interviews I was incredibly nervous! The best thing to do is try and find a teacher at your school (preferably one you don’t know very well) and ask them if they wouldn’t mind giving you a little mock interview. It doesn’t have to be medical related. It can just be a useful opportunity to sit in a formal setting answering questions about you and your personal statement to someone you aren’t familiar with. You can then get feedback on what you did well and things you could improve on. For example you might not realise you have a habit of playing with your hair when you talk or scratching your fingers on the table!
I remember once reading that the average human being makes a judgement on someone within 7 seconds of first meeting them. Scary isn’t it? This shows how important first impressions really are especially in medical school interviews. When you get invited to one by the university all they know about you is what you have written in your UCAS form, so they will obviously be keen to get to know the person behind the personal statement. So in these situations it is so critical that you dress smartly and take things seriously. The interviewers will be looking for future doctors so it is important to look the part. So boys it is best to wear a shirt and tie and girls any smart business wear. Some universities actually specify dress codes for when you attend interviews, so unless they say ‘wear what you are comfortable in’ or ‘wear suits’ it is best to assume professional attire is the way forward.
Know Your Personal Statement
Before you go to any of your interviews at medical school be sure to know your personal statement inside out, and make sure that you are comfortable and happy to talk about and expand on everything you have mentioned in it. Lots of medical schools base part of their interview on your personal statement and draw questions from it to ask you. In one of my interviews the interviewer actually directly quoted something I had written in my statement! It can therefore come across a bit embarrassing if the panel ask you ‘So tell me more about the time you spent on work experience at this hospital’ and all you can do is nervously mumble.
Lots of universities during the interview will end with the interviewers asking the applicant if they have any questions for the panel. There are lots of myths about whether it is best to ask a question or not in this situation. With some students saying if you don’t ask any questions it will come across that you are not conveying any interest. In my personal opinion I would say it is completely fine to ask a question at the end of the interview if the interviewer invites the opportunity. However don’t just ask a question for the sake of it. It is also vital that you don’t ask the panel a question that you should already know the answer too as this probably would not come across in the best way! If you don’t have a question there is no need to worry! Simply tell the interviewers that all your questions have already been answered through open days and the prospectus and thank them for their time and job done! You can relax!
With all of the interview preparation books and websites which are now out there, applicants have never really been in a better position when going into medical school interviews. The whole process nowadays is much more accessible with most universities offering clear cut guidance of what to except from their interview process. However with all this added information and preparation work you can be doing comes a new danger. Many applicants can fall into the trap of over-rehearsing for their interviews and end up sounding a bit robotic! There is of course no harm in thinking about what you would say to the pretty predictable questions such as ‘So why do you want to be a doctor?’ but try not to memorise an elaborate monologue to answer them with. Just be natural, just be yourself and the rest of the interview will all fall into place!
So I hope that helps calm some of your nerves about medical school interviews, but please try not to worry too much about them! It is completely normal to feel nervous prior to your interview, and the interviewers know what most applicants are feeling! So hang in there while you are waiting to hear the outcome of your application! All the stress and anxiety is definitely worth it! And remember there is no shame in crying when you finally get an offer (I certainly did!)
See you soon!