What’s So Special About the BS/MD Program Interview?
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If you are a high-achieving high school student intent on a career as a doctor, BS/MD programs are a great option. They allow you to complete a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree and then proceed directly into a medical program for your Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. In essence, you apply for and are accepted to your undergraduate program and med school at the same time, thereby streamlining the process and sometimes even completing the entire program at an accelerated pace.
But these advantages aren’t easy to come by. BS/MD programs are extremely competitive. In fact, while Harvard’s admission rate hangs around 5%, the average BS/MD program admits only 4% of applicants.
The application process for BS/MD programs is rigorous. First, you fill out an application, write essays, and gather recommendations. Sometimes, you are then asked for secondary materials if you make it past the first round of review. Ultimately, if you make it on the final short-list of applicants, you’ll be invited to interview. This interview will determine your fate as a BS/MD applicant.
The BS/MD interview is not like a regular college interview. Its format varies significantly from program to program, with some taking place over the course of an entire day in multiple stages and others entailing group interview phases or one single interview with a large group of interviewers. Fewer than half of students who interview will ultimately be offered acceptance to BS/MD programs. It is an integral part of the application process and your admittance hinges on it.
So, what specifically do these interviews entail? What sets them apart from the traditional college interview? And what questions should you anticipate? Read on to learn more about the BS/MD program interview.
Where Do BS/MD Program Interviews Take Place?
Like almost every aspect of the BS/MD program interview, the location varies from program to program. For some, you will interview at the undergraduate institution. For others, you’ll interview at the med school. And still for others, you’ll interview at the teaching hospital associated with the program.
Sometimes, programs will not provide a lot of information about the interview. This might be because application season is an exceptionally busy time and they aren’t able to elaborate in detail for every applicant, or it could be by design in order to level the playing field and keep interviewees on their toes.
Regardless, one piece of information that a program will always have to provide is the location of the interview. If you haven’t been given other information about the interview process, the location can sometimes provide important clues about who will be conducting the interview.
For example, if the interview takes place at the teaching hospital, you should anticipate being interviewed by a doctor or resident. If it takes place at the medical school or undergrad institute, you will probably be interviewed by at least one professor and perhaps a student as well.
While these rules of thumb aren’t set in stone, they can be good guidelines to help you anticipate the tone of your interview.
Who Usually Performs the BS/MD Program Interview?
As discussed above, sometimes you will be told in advance who your interviewer will be or at least what role your interviewer plays in the program. In general, interviewers are professors, doctors, or students themselves.
If you aren’t sure who will be interviewing you, prepare yourself for any eventuality by anticipating that all of the above roles could be represented. Sometimes, you will have more than one interviewer or you will complete multiple interviews in quick succession. Anticipating the interests of each of the roles filled by possible interviewers will help you to frame your preparations for each.
If you miss the interviewer’s title initially, be certain to ask what their role is at the institution to help you frame your answers. In general, student interviewers will be interested in how you’ll fit in with the student body. Professors will be interested in your academic prowess and commitment, while doctors will be interested in the driving force behind your interest in medicine and your dedication to the field of medicine.
What Is the Goal of the BS/MD Program Interview?
The BS/MD program interview is not a quiz of knowledge. You will very rarely be asked any questions directly related to knowledge of the medical world, and when you are asked such questions they will usually be framed around current events or your personal opinion.
Instead, the goal of the interview is to give the schools some insight into who you are beyond your grades and test scores. Obviously your application impressed them enough to invite you to an interview. Now, you need to convince them that you’re everything you claimed to be on paper more.
You should aim to communicate your sincere desire to become a doctor, your dedication to serving others, and your deep interest in medical research and advancements. Backing these claims up with concrete examples from your background will drive home your authenticity.
What Is the Interview Process?
The interview process also varies widely. In most cases, you will be told about the general format in advance. If you are not given any details, it’s alright to ask how much time you should plan to allow for the interview, especially since some students will have travel plans that hinge on time allowance. It’s not generally acceptable, however, to ask for more details about the interview format itself, since the goal of the interview committee is to evaluate all candidates on a level playing field. Usually, you will be given all the information that they are willing to share upfront.
Some programs will conduct interviews in small groups with other BS/MD candidates and a team of interviewers. Others will conduct interviews one-on-one. Sometimes you will have just a single interview, and other times you will have a series of interviews.
Some interviewees at University of Miami reported being asked to watch a short film while they waited for the interviewer, and then later finding out that they had been observed while doing so and were asked questions about the film during the interview. Other interviewees at SUNY Albany reported being asked to participate in an observed group activity before the interview.
The bottom line is that you should arrive for the interview prepared for any eventuality. Don’t let these surprises throw you off your game, and assume that everything you do from the moment you walk in the door is being included as part of your overall evaluation.
What Questions Will They Ask During the BS/MD Program Interview?
Of course, there’s no complete and reliable set of questions available for the BS/MD interview, but there are some questions that are widely asked. The following questions are certainly not an exhaustive list of the ones you can expect during your BS/MD interview, but we can almost guarantee that you will be asked at least some of these questions. In addition, reviewing them all will help to put you in the right mindset for anticipating other, related questions.
Some common questions in the BS/MD interview include:
- Introduce yourself and talk about your experiences and background. (Keep in mind that the committee has already seen your grades and test scores. Take this opportunity to highlight extracurricular strengths or experiences that have led you to a career in medicine.)
- Why do you want to become a doctor?
- Why do you want to attend this school in particular? (Prepare for this question by researching the program well in advance. Be prepared to speak about its unique features and notable strengths.)
- Why you are considering an accelerated BS/MD program?
- What your plans are if you are not accepted into the BS/MD program?
- What do you think some complex issues in medicine are today, and what can be done about them? (Topics to discuss in your answer could include infectious disease epidemics, public health concerns, immunizations, current events, or drug costs for consumers)
- Who has inspired you most?
- Do you have any idea of which specialty you want to pursue? (It’s perfectly acceptable to say if you don’t know and are waiting until you experience the med school rotations to decide on that.)
- What experience do you have in understanding the life of a doctor? (This is an opportunity to highlight your volunteer work, shadowing, or other extracurriculars in the medical field.)
What Are Some Top Tips for the BS/MD Interview?
Our number one tip for the BS/MD interview is to be confident in yourself. The purpose of this interview is to gain a better understanding of who you are as a person, so it’s important that you present your true self. In order to do so, you need to be confident in who you are and why you’re pursuing this dream.
Think critically about your motives in advance and be prepared to discuss them in detail. Also consider what has led you to this path. You don’t need to have experienced a monumental, life-changing event to justify your choice to become a doctor. It could be something as simple as watching an episode of Sesame Street as a child, or meeting a friend’s parent who is also a doctor. Try to recall the earliest experiences that have shaped your interest in becoming a doctor, and start there. Make sure that you fully understand your own path so that you can clearly articulate it to the interview committee.
Another common tip is to avoid politics during your interview. While politics is often an unavoidable issue in medical practice, ultimately your decisions as a practitioner should be based on treating your patient to the best of your ability. Your own politics should not weigh in the choices you make.
Also try to avoid conversations about money and earning potential. Everyone knows that in general, doctors make a healthy living and that some specialties make significantly more than others. Do not even hint that money could play a role in your decision to practice medicine. Instead, emphasize that your choice to become a doctor is rooted in your interest in medical science and your desire to help others.
Because there’s so much on the line, the BS/MD interview can be intimidating. It’s natural to feel anxious about an experience that will bear so much weight on your future. But keep in mind that being invited to interview for a BS/MD program is a major accomplishment in and of itself. You’ve already placed yourself in the top 10% of candidates. Take confidence from that, and use it to propel yourself through the interview with grace.
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