Applying to medical school can be a stressful experience, and, for many, the interview can be the peak of this. For many of you this may even be the first time you have had to go through an interview process. The key to success is keeping your stress under control. I’m here to give you a short guide on how to achieve this in the run up to and during your medical school interview.
Firstly, it’s important to realise that a certain level of anxiety is to be expected around this time. This is a normal response. Stress can be good and help focus your mind on the task at hand. Your goal is to manage your levels at this point so that you are effective and do not allow too much stress to weaken your performance.
Now, onto my top tips!
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation!
The more prepared you are and the more you know your stuff, the more you will be able to recall when under pressure. There are a few things you can do so that you are not caught by surprise:
a. Know your personal statement like the back of your hand. You should be able to talk about anything in there and back up any claim you have made.
b. Know the university you are interviewing for and be ready for the question: Why this university? The MSAG provides comprehensive information on each medical school in the UK and the world.
c. Be ready for common questions, such as: Why do you want to be a doctor? Tell us about what you learned during your work experience, a school project or while shadowing.
d. Take advice from others who have gone through the process.
e. Set up mock interviews with family/friends/teachers/anybody! Going through questions in your head is different to actually verbalising your thoughts out loud and in unfamiliar setting.
2. Positive thoughts
This may sound silly, but it’s proven to make a difference. When one is experiencing ‘performance anxiety’ you tend to have negative thought patterns. Try and recognise this and change it into a positive thought process. For example, “what if they don’t like me?”… Remember, they are interviewing you for a reason and therefore must have liked you enough from your application to want to meet you in person!
3. Look after your self
The interview season can span over a few months. It is important you look after yourself, both physically and mentally, to keep your stress under control. Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep at night (easier said than done, I know!) and exercise regularly. Try and keep up with hobbies during this busy time to give you some time to clear your mind - many of you will even have prepared an interview style answer to this!
4. During the day itself
a) Expect nerves. As mentioned earlier, it is normal to feel stressed as it is your body’s way of getting ready for what is coming. You may feel shaky at the beginning of your interview, if this does happen then, make a pause, slow your speech down, breathe a bit deeper and expect the shakiness to go away as you move through the interview.
b) Do not overthink. It’s easy to be tempted to sound the interviewers out and what they are thinking or what they want to hear. But, be aware, they may not give anything up and may actually be acting to a particular persona. Try not to be too disappointed if they do not laugh at your funny joke..! Remind yourself that you have prepared and you KNOW you are saying what they want to hear.
c) Try to relax.
d) Mind blanks. These happen (and I’m speaking from experience here!). What matters is how you handle yourself in this situation. There’s a couple of things you can try to try and regain your momentum. For example: fix your gaze slightly above your interviewers’ for a few seconds which may help you refocus or re-adjust your body position to allow for a natural pause. If you get really stuck ask for a moment to think or to come back to the question. Your interviewers are generally supportive and empathetic to your situation and will look favorably on people trying to compose themselves.
5. After the interview
Reward yourself when the day is done! Regardless of how well you think you did, you got the job done and that deserves an evening off with a special treat.
Once you feel ready to continue prepare for your next medical school interviews, it would be good to identify where you think you did well and where you think you can improve.
The MSAG offers both interview preparation courses and also one-to-one interview sessions. Our Admission Experts can teach you techniques and advise you how to best prepare for your medical school interviews whilst supporting you through this time.
Good luck all!