January 25, 2020
Medical School Interview
When applying to medical school you’re surrounded by people who are smart and passionate about medicine, engaged in research projects and volunteer work, plus have impressive lists of hobbies on the side.
It’s incredible and it can be enough to doubt yourself and question your ability to stand out. That’s natural and in fact the people you’re admiring are probably thinking the same about you. That’s not to say it isn’t a challenge to stand out as unique when applying to medical school.
Given this challenge, don’t be put on the spot. Come prepared knowing that most applying to medical school have passion and impressive CVs, including you. This is all necessary to demonstrate, but not sufficient. In my opinion, what’s going to make you unique is how you answer two basic questions: “why did you do it” and “what did you learn”.
“Why Did You Do It?”
Communicating Your Decisions
The first question is “why did you do it”. Why did you apply to medicine? Why did you volunteer to do X? Why did you get involved in Y? You should reflect on and ask yourself these questions. Communicating why you made the decisions you did can demonstrate more about your character and personality than what you actually did. Consider two people volunteering for a charity, a common activity seen in medical school applications. One does it to look good on their CV, while the other is motivated by a personal experience. The why question is a crucial one and is an opportunity to tell a story unique to you. In fact, in my experience, one good “why did you do it” is more powerful than a list of what you did.
“What Did You Learn?”
The second question that demonstrates your uniqueness is “what did you learn”. Like the why question, many people can and will have similar lists of accomplishments, but they may have very different motivations and takeaway lessons from them. Make sure you reflect on not only the why, but what you learned from your experiences and try to be as specific as possible. To offer another example, think of two people involved in a group research project. One says they learned the value of working in teams, while the other describes a particular conflict and the technique they learned to manage it. The former is good, but that probably applies to most others as well. The latter shows deeper reflection, plus demonstrates your problem solving and interpersonal skills. So, don’t be afraid to stray from the general talking points of lessons you were supposed to learn. What you actually learned is an asset and makes you unique.
Overall, I’d recommend thinking about what makes you unique in terms of why you did the things you did and what you learned from them. Those are unique to you. Conversely, try to avoid turning your story into a list of the things you did. Lots of people do the same things. Lastly, remember it’s what makes you unique and not what makes you better or worse. There’s always someone better at something, but you’re the best at being you!
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