Thursday, October 20, 2016

3 Additional Details To Pay Attention To On Interview Day

The medical school application cycle follows a process that is made up of several different phases. Now that applicants are submitting secondary applications from individual schools, we've transitioned into the interview phase.

The medical school interview season for most medical schools across the nation generally runs from September to March, give or take. Now full steam ahead into interviews, each school has begun the process of hosting hundreds of applicants.

While this portion of the process is where colleges really get to gauge who they believe are the best fit for their school before making final decisions, applicants are also served an opportunity to get a better feel for where they will possibly train for the next four-plus years.

During interview season at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (CHM), applicants do multiple mini interviews (MMI)​ with various people connected to the medical. Beyond the MMI, prospective students are also paired with current students for personal interviews as well as lunch, where applicants have time to be candid.

All in all, the interview day is a good time for the applicant to get some truly in-depth information that may not be readily available on a website or pamphlet.

CURRICULUM & EVALUATION
It is generally expected of the host school to devote a portion of their interview day(s) to curriculum and how students are evaluated. Medical schools—and to a larger degree, medicine, overall—are currently undergoing some big changes.

The MCAT was updated just last year to reflect the changing philosophical landscape and many schools are updating their curricula to modernize their medical training.

Here at the College of Human Medicine, we've just implemented our Shared Discovery Curriculum, which is a radically different model of medical education in comparison with what's come to be traditional.

For instance, Shared Discovery does away with long lectures and evaluates students with our progress assessment suite. Small groups, feedback, and this more collaborative relationship with faculty/staff is a bit different than the traditional combination of class time and quizzes/exams.

While we think this new model of education is truly an innovative approach to medical school, we understand that this type of curriculum may not be for everyone. For others, the excitement is mutual.

Some questions to ask yourself include:
  • Does this curriculum fit my learning style?
  • Does this curriculum lend itself to my ultimate goals?
  • How does this curriculum prepare students for residency? 

Don't hesitate to ask school representatives about certain aspects of the curriculum that interest or concern you. Curriculum and evaluation are good topics to discuss.

IMPRESSIONS ON STAFF, STUDENTS, AND SUPPORT
This one may be obvious but it's worth diving into a bit. Each school has their own identity and ambitions so the environment for students can certainly vary from school to school.

 Pay attention to how faculty/staff and student ambassadors represent the college. Interview day(s) will give applicants the opportunity to speak face-to-face with representatives about what they enjoy most about the school and what the future holds for their program.

It would also be a good idea to watch how the faculty and staff interact with the students. Moreover, recognize how the students interact with each other. Some schools may be a bit more relaxed in nature. A discussion with students may give applicants a better idea of how collaborative—and/or competitive—the student body is at that school.

The College of Human Medicine encourages a cooperative and collaborative environment, but we also provide individual attention. It's important for applicants to understand how students are supported, especially when confronted with the more grueling portions of medical training. 

How schools emphasize health and wellness should be something to consider, so ask how students support each other and recognize how schools ensure a comfortable, helpful environment.

The CHM Office of Student Affairs and Services, for instance, has an Assistant Dean for Student Wellness and Engagement who is also the Director of Student Counseling. Learn what programs, mentorships, and tools are utilized to ensure this is a place where students can thrive.

Some schools also have a variety of student groups and organizations. Reach out to identify how students interact and study. Continuing the discussion with students, feel free to ask about community setting and student life.

COMMUNITY SETTING & STUDENT LIFE
The first thing an applicant will notice about a school is naturally its physical surroundings. Is this somewhere you can see yourself living for the next 2-4 years?

Using the College of Human Medicine as an example again, each entering class is split up between two locations for the first two years—Grand Rapids and East Lansing. While Grand Rapids serves as the second largest metropolitan-area in the state, East Lansing is very much a Big Ten college town.

All accepted applicants will receive the same resources and training regardless of location, but the external resources at each site differ a bit. From there, students can have the option of heading out into one of seven different community campuses. This is one of the benefits of training at a community-based medical school. 

Some medical schools, however, may only have one, main location. And that may be perfect for you. Think about what options are afforded to matriculating students and what types of areas you would like to live in for the foreseeable future. Does the school you are interviewing at fit those criteria?


Take yourself into account and think about your hobbies. Ask students what they do in their spare time and what is available to them. Consider affordability and commute. Consider how active life is around the school.

There are number of factors that applicants should take into account on interview day. As much as schools want to learn more about you as an applicant, students need to learn more about the school as well.

Indeed, it's all about fit on both ends.

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