Hello my lovely readers,
I am so excited to be wrapping up a successful medical school interview cycle. I was blessed to have received 20 interview offers, completed 15 medical school interviews, and currently 7 of those interviews have turned into acceptance offers. As I finished my final interview of the cycle, I thought about all the things I have learned so far and wanted to share them with you all today.
Without further ado, here are the 10 takeaways I had from these medical school interview experiences.
1. Be Yourself
I'll start with one of the most common pieces of advice I heard and one that I found is so true. Be yourself! Whether it was cracking jokes with my interviewers or starting conversations with the other applicants in the zoom rooms, I truly tried to be myself and let my personality shine through on interview days.
I realized that being myself was the most advantageous thing for me to do. Part of the interview day was for me to determine if I'd be a good fit for the institution, and that is hard to determine if I'm trying to be someone that I am not.
2. Interview days are long and tiring
One of the first things that I did not know going into medical school interviews is how exhausted I would feel after each one. Between the nerves and adrenaline to being on zoom all day, I was drained by the end of each interview day. And its not just me! I talked to other applicants and they felt the same way. I think all the stress surrounding the interviews, staying animated and engaged throughout the day, and the zoom fatigue of being on a virtual platform made interviews take a lot of your energy. The interviews varied in length but most were about 5-7 hours long.
As I started realizing this through my interview cycle, I would try to schedule in time after my interviews to be able to take a nap. If I could, I wouldn't schedule any meetings at all on my interview days and take the rest of the day to recuperate.
3. Not every conversation has to be about medicine
When preparing for my first interviews, I was nervous about not knowing all there is to know about the US Health Care System or medicine for example. I learned that the point of the interview truly is for the schools to get to know you better and you to get to know the school, and I really took this sentiment to heart and let my interview conversations range in topics. Not every conversation has to be about medicine and why you want to be a doctor.
If an interviewer asked me what my favorite book or pastime was, I gave my honest answer instead of trying to talk about a medical related book or saying my favorite thing to do in my free time is to help patients for example. I was just honest and let the conversation be natural.
4. I didn't need to do extensive research before each interview
This might vary person to person, but I honestly prepared for interviews the night before. I realized that I didn't need to know every little thing about the school and that I would be given information about the school, mission, curriculum, and have the opportunity to have questions on interview day. By doing my prep the night before, it helped me to be more natural during the interview.
The night before, I would review my secondary essays for that school, open a google doc and jot down some of the key things I liked about that medical school and any specific questions I had for the admissions staff or interviewers. I also kept a journal just for my interviews and jotted down a couple notes and quickest ions there before the interview started. And that was it!
5. Things WILL go wrong
Despite my best efforts, I had to accept that no everything will go to plan during virtual interviews. By accepting this and going with the flow, I was able to have great interviews even when technical issues arose.
In one interview in particular, my zoom was breaking up from the start of the call. The physical and I quickly exchanged numbers in the zoom chat and decided that if I froze again, we would continue the interview on the phone. Next thing you know, my zoom crashed and I got a FaceTime call from the doctor. I was able to laugh it off and calmly connote the interview and it was one of my favorite conversations and I was accepted to the school!
I realized that internet or technical issues won't stop you from getting into medical school, but showing that you are unable to adapt and stay calm in stressful situations just might. I learned to embrace the fact that something will go wrong and that is ok!
6. We talked about my blog...a lot!
In almost every interview, whether I was meeting with a medical student or with a physician faculty member, they wanted to hear about my blog! In one of my interviews, there was an admissions staff member who said she read my blogs on applying to medical school and loved how I explained the process. Overall, they thought it was such a cool platform and loved how it showed my personality while also helping other students. It just warmed my heart that something I am so passionate about was seen in such a positive light. Especially considering that I wondered if it was even appropriate to list my blog on my primary application - as you can tell it absolutely is!
7. Re-read your application
I learned how important it was for me to re-read my application before each interview. By the time I was interviewing, it was several months since I had submitted my primary and secondary essays and it can be easy to forget what you wrote.
In one of my last interviews, the first thing my physician-interviewer asked me was "Do you remember the physician you mentioned in your personal statement." Thankfully I had re-read my statement that morning and instantly replied "oh yes Dr. XXX". As it turns out my interviewer knew the doctor I wrote about! - after the interview I thought about how embarrassing it would have been if I hesitated to remember which doctor I wrote about in my statement versus my primary or secondary essays.
8. There was really nothing to be nervous about
As I interviewed, my overall conclusion was that there really was no reason to be nervous before an interview day. Even on interviews for my dream schools, I knew that nerves wouldn't do. None of my interviews tried to trick me or stress me out, they were excited to get to know me better! Many of them explained how their role is to go to the admissions committee and advocate on my behalf. Sometimes, there were standard questions that needed to be asked such as "tell me about a challenge you faced, why medicine, tell me about a time you were wrong..ect" but other than that they asked questions such as:
-What was it like growing up in St. Martin?
-The Pregnancy Aid Center sounds like a great opportunity, can you tell me more about it?
-Why are you interested in XYZ school?
-"What do you do to de-stress"
As interviews went on, I was more and more excited for them each time. Each conversation was an opportunity to get to know someone new and share more about myself with the admissions team. I really loved this opportunity to connect with so many medical school faculty members and was able to make connections that I hope to keep beyond the application cycle!
9. It is ok to say that you don't know
I do want to say that while my interview questions did not seem to be intentionally mean to make me nervous or trick me, that there were some questions that were hard! I learned that it truly is ok to say that you need more time to think about a question. I would say something such as "wow...that is a really great question and I want to give my best answer. Do you mind if I take a little more time to think about it?" Sometimes my interviewer would go to another question and then we would return to it.
It is also ok to say that you don't know! This is 1000% better than making something up. Sometimes my interviewers had questions about an activity of mine that was outside the realm of my experience or they were curious about something related to my application that I didn't know. One time, it was something as simple as we were discussing my new year resolutions and I was saying how I had a "word of the year." 2020 was "wellness", 2021 was "balance", and 2022....suddenly I drew a blank and laughed. "I forgot what word I chose". We laughed about it and he was like it's ok!
We're human for forget things sometimes!
Another time, I was having a great conversation with a physician about mistrust in medicine in the Caribbean community and he asked me something like "what are the best ways to fix this"
My reply was something like "you know I am really eager to learn throughout my career what the best tactics will be, based with my own family I've found that...." - basically we were going back and forth having a great conversation and sharing ideas, but I wasn't like "oh here is the answer to this huge societal issue with mistrust in medicine."
10. Schools want you!!
I will always remember my medical school interview season as being one of the most rewarding, humbling, and exciting experiences I have had to start of my medical school career.
In my very first interview, I remember entering the zoom room and feeling all the nerves and sense of disbelief that I was really interviewing for medical school. I'll always remember this interview as being a sign from God that I was on the right path. Losing my little cousin to leukemia was the pivotal experience that led me to pursue medicine. For my very first interview, I was matched with a pedeatric oncologist who specialized in childhood leukemias. From the start of the interview, the physician I was so excited to meet me and praised all that I had accomplish. At the end, she told me "I have an amazing job and I've been able to impact many patients lives, but you Kyeisha, I am EXCITED to see what you will do in medicine. And I will have the honor to say I met you and was able to interview you."
I was in TEARS at the end of my first interview. The tears kept streaming down my face as I told her in my shaky voice how much those words meant to me. How much this entire experience meant to me, that I was here interviewing for medical school, it is such a privilege that I feel so fortunate for. And I knew that this was also God sending me the signs that He has plans for me in medicine!
As I continued interviewing, I was constantly awed and brought to tears by the compliments that these physicians/medical school faculty gave me. From telling me at the start of the interview that their school would be lucky to have me and that they didn't have any questions for me and wanted me to use the interview time to ask all my questions. To physicians telling me at the interview "I really feel like I learned something from our conversation today and I'm excited to see the impact you'll have in medicine".
Whew. I'm shaking again and tearing up as I re-call these moments.
This entire medical school application cycle has been beyond my dreams, I still ask myself "me?" are they really talking about me? All these people believe in me?
I've found ways to shift from imposter syndrome to embracing the future that is in store for me. Being a future physician is an honor and it is going to be a privilege to dedicate my life to improving the health of others!
The medical school interview is the last step between you and going to medical school and I pray that you all have the same amazing experiences that I did! As I've mentioned many times, simply be yourself and trust that you will end up exactly where you belong.
Stay tuned for more blogs about my medical school application cycle!