If you are invited to interview, the admissions office believes you're qualified to attend their school.

But an interview invitation is no guarantee of admission. Medical schools use the interview to weed out the good from the great. They've read your application and seen your numbers. Now they want to size you up in person.

What to Expect

Interview policies vary, but most schools use a committee made up of faculty members and representatives from admissions and student affairs. Some progressive schools ask upper–level med students to participate.

Formats differ as well. Some medical schools have separate, one–on–one interviews; others interview by panel. Some panels interview you alone; some interview a group of candidates.

Interviewers want to build an honest picture of you, beyond the transcript and MCAT score. Don't second–guess yourself. Authenticity is crucial. Say what you think, and you will do well.

Giving You the Once–Over

Some schools use the interview to see how well you function under stress. They deliberately put you in an uncomfortable position to observe how you act and speak under pressure. Advocates of this approach argue that it gets you to drop your carefully studied "med school interview facade" and reveal what you're really like.

Typical tactics include asking questions about sensitive or controversial topics, delving into extremely personal matters, rattling off a series of game show–like trivia questions or showing disapproval–through challenging remarks or negative body language–at almost everything you say.

If you find yourself in this position, try to relax. Your answers are important, but they will be more interested in how you say them. Keep your composure and take your time. When things get too uncomfortable, try to guide the interviewer back onto a subject with which you feel secure.

And if that doesn't make you feel better, be aware of two factors. First, students who reported being flabbergasted by an aggressive interviewer were often accepted at that school anyway. They expect you to be stressed. Second, many interviews aren't like this. You hear less about the good experiences than you do the bad ones.

After the Interview

Don't forget to send a thank–you letter after each interview. You can write several individual letters or one that addresses the entire committee. It's a good idea to take a few brief notes right after you leave, such as the interviewer's names and some of the topics they covered.

If the school is still not sure whether they want to admit you, they'll place you on a "hold" list. This means that they want to see what the rest of the applicant pool looks like before accepting you.

If you're on the hold list, you can send in supplementary material to bolster your application. If you have recent academic or extracurricular achievements that didn't appear on your application, write a short (less than one page) description and send it to the school. Use restraint and discretion—don't flood them with additional recommendations or extraneous information.