• Rajani Katta MD and Samir Desai MD

Why Are You Interested in Our Medical School?

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

This question (or variations of this question) are one of the most commonly asked questions in the medical school interview. Unfortunately, we've found that while the vast majority of applicants provide decent responses, those responses also tend to be pretty generic.

That's a big mistake.

Why This Medical School Interview Question is So Important

This question is a fantastic chance to make a great impression on your interviewer. It offers the opportunity to really highlight how your interests, strengths, and goals are a great fit with the school's mission, offerings, and goals.

In this post, we're going to walk you through our step-by-step approach to crafting a powerful answer to this common question.

If you'd prefer to listen, please check out this podcast episode.

A Common Medical School Interview Question: "Why did you Apply to our Medical School?"

We're the authors of the books The Medical School Interview and Multiple Mini-Interview. We've analyzed the literature, and we've spoken to many, many medical school applicants and admissions faculty. We've learned a lot about the common medical school interview questions.

This question, it turns out, is one of the most common medical school interview questions out there.

In fact, this question (or some variation thereof) is asked in almost every medical school interview.

What are some other ways to ask this question?

How might schools phrase this question?

There are multiple ways that your interviewer might ask this question. Some variations should be easily recognized. For example, "Why do you want to be a student here?"

But there are also other ways of asking this question. For example, medical schools might ask:

  • "Describe your ideal medical school"

  • "What qualities are you looking for in a school?"

  • "What two or three things are important to you in a medical school?"

Or even questions such as:

  • "What interests you most about our school?"

  • "Tell me what you know about our school."

What are some of the common answers that students provide when asked this question?

We've conducted many mock interviews, and we always ask some version of this question. One of the things that consistently surprises us is how often a student's response sounds highly similar to the responses given by other, very different, students.

Here are examples of common responses that we've received.

  • "I'll get a great education here. There are so many research opportunities, and students really seem to love the school. Also, the faculty is very involved with the students and having all the affiliated hospitals that you have is really great."

  • "I'm really looking for two things. First, a program that really integrates the clinical with the basic sciences. And my impression is that your school does a good job with that. The second thing is the breadth of opportunities here. All of the research that's going on. I can't imagine that it would be difficult to find many people that I would be interested in working with."

Why generic answers are a major missed opportunity to stand out in your medical school interview

I think if you're an applicant listening to this, these do sound like solid, good answers. And they are. But there's really nothing that stands out about them.

Imagine yourself on the other side of the interviewer desk. If you're doing interviews and speaking to, let's say, 10 applicants in one day, it would be hard for us to pick out one applicant (from these responses) that really made an impact.

There's nothing here that would really help us remember them. And that represents a wasted opportunity.

How one medical school applicant transformed her decent (yet generic) initial response

into a powerful, compelling answer:

the before and after response

I want to present one of our amazing, dedicated, talented students, and show you how she was able to transform her interview response. I've changed all identifying details, but the underlying story here is a great example.

This was a medical school applicant named 'Elena'.

When I met with her in an unofficial capacity, I was just really blown away by her motivation and her drive and all of the activities that she had already been able to work on and been able to complete. This was a young woman who was really on a mission and she had been working for years to accomplish her goals. I was just really impressed with her.

Young medical school applicant at the medical school interview
"Elena" was an committed, dedicated medical school applicant who worked hard to transform her interview response

Elena's Background and Why She Was Drawn to a Career in Medicine

Elena had grown up in a medically underserved area with a significant Hispanic population. In her community, there were relatively few primary care physicians and even fewer specialists. Unfortunately, several of her relatives had passed away from cancer and so Elena developed an early interest in oncology. Her goal was to complete medical school and then pursue residency training in internal medicine, followed by fellowship training in oncology. Her ultimate plan was to go back to her home community and practice oncology, where she would be one of only two oncologists serving a four-county area.

In order to be prepared, Elena had worked in college with Dr. Garcia, a dermatology faculty member at the local medical school. They had developed an instructional module to help primary care physicians distinguish benign skin lesions from cancerous skin lesions. Their goal with this project was to provide a resource for primary care physicians who were practicing in parts of the state that lacked access to dermatologists.

Elena was also involved in organizing and implementing skin cancer screenings in these

underserved areas. So really just an amazing applicant who had already done so much.

The "Before" Answer:

Why a decent, yet generic, response can really weaken your interview performance

In our practice interview I asked, 'Why are you interested in our medical school?'

Here's a re-enactment of what she said:

BEFORE: "I first heard about your school from my faculty mentor, Dr. Garcia. Your school has an excellent reputation and she spoke very highly of the education you offer. You're also well known for quality of teaching and diversity of patients which I value. I also would love to live in Dallas and I have family in the Fort Worth area."

In analyzing her answer, first note that this is a solid answer. However, there's nothing here that really stood out about her answer or helped distinguish her from other applicants. She did not really highlight her own strengths in any way. The bottom line is that this response represents a missed opportunity.

We have a saying in interview prep: If your response could have been given by another student, then it's just not strong enough.

How to use a step-by-step framework to strengthen your response

As faculty who have worked with numerous applicants over the years, we've worked hard to develop a step-by-step approach for each and every one of the common medical school interview questions.

For Elena, I really wanted to help not only improve her response, but also give the medical school application committee a much better sense of her mission, her drive, and her hard work. Our goal was to develop her response to highlight the school, yes, but we also wanted to make sure that her answer wasn't just focused on the medical school itself.

For this particular question, I like a four-part approach.

Step 1:

Reflection on your accomplishments, mission, drive, and values is key to crafting a powerful interview response

Step 1 is reflection. I really wanted Elena to sit down and write out what she had already accomplished in her career to date. And not just her accomplishments, but also her mission, her drive, her values. What had led her towards certain organizations or towards certain projects? It was important to really reflect back on what she had already done.

Step 2:

In-depth research of the medical school is an important facet of creating a powerful, customized response

Step 2 is research. And by research, I mean really go in-depth and research this particular medical school. It starts with going over the website of the school and it goes on from there to speaking with current medical students, talking to alumni, talking to physicians in the community, and finding out what the school is known for.

Essentially, what you're researching is: