It’s been an unspeakably long time since I have updated, so I’m going to try to do a series of posts about my experiences interviewing to semi-make up for that. Hopefully it will get me some momentum for coming weeks.

I’d like to start by explaining the interview process. This was something I had only experienced once in its entirety before, since interviewing for undergraduate programs is not a mandatory part of the application process and my interviews for the postbac program were mostly abbreviated versions of the real thing.

There are three major parts to any interview. The order tends to rearrange a bit, but most begin with the pitch. Just as the school is looking at us with a critical eye to see if we’d fit in well, so the applicants are looking at the school to see if it would be a good fit for them. The first part of the day usually starts with a big push from the admissions office to sell their medical school for us. We’re brought into a nice room–sometimes there is a powerpoint, sometimes just a circle of chairs–and the dean of admissions will explain why their school or program is so awesome. They show a lot of pictures of smiling students bent over textbooks or microscopes. There are glamour shots featuring the more exciting architecture in the area. They throw out some statistics to make you feel special for even being invited for the interview.

By the time I would walk out of the pitch I would be feeling pretty positive about the school and eager to blow them away in my actual interview.

From there the order of events is subject to change. Some places have interviews scattered throughout the day, but others will immediately foist you off on a group of students to the “real scoop.” These students, we are assured, are not secret spies for the admissions committee. This is our time to ask the brutal questions and find out what life X University is really like.

This portion also features lunch. I have thus far enjoyed sandwiches from a nearby shop, two course meal at a faculty dining hall, deep-dish Chicago pizza, and a buffet spread of stuffed pastas. The food serves not only to fuel us interviewees, but also seems to serve as bait for the current students so that they will come and talk to us.

There is also a tour at this point in the day. The tour guide is also usually a student, or a collection of them, and they often serve to reinforce the information we received during the pitch. For a female, this can be the most dangerous part of the day and it only took two experiences limping back to my car with blistered feet before I invested in a pair of very comfortable dress shoes. The tour, although informative, can be exhausting. One school was located on an extremely steep hill, so every time we went to a new location we were trudging up and down a near vertical incline. Another day was particularly humid out, so by the time I made it to the actual interview I was covered in a fine layer of sweat. The fact that this entire tour is done while in our suits does not help.

The last piece of the day is the interview itself. The style of the interview varies. I haven’t been to any MMI (multiple mini interviews), group interviews or panel interviews.  I haven’t even had a particularly difficult interview. Mostly I’ve just had a nice conversation with someone who knows the broad strokes of my path to medical school and now wants to fill in some details.

On the one hand, it’s a relief to not have had any really negative interviews. On the other hand it makes it really difficult to tell how well I’m doing. Well yes, we had a lovely conversation…but what does that mean? Maybe they have lovely conversations with most applicants. Maybe I said something terribly wrong and they just were too polite to let it show.

At one school there was one long interview that covered everything from my interviewer’s wife’s life story to the pronunciation of my last name. Some of the other schools have had student interviewers, who try to gauge how you would fit into their class. (At one school the student coordinator came out and said, “We want your student interview to be casual and comfortable, but please, no F-bombs.” At our surprised looks she laughed and said, “Oh it’s happened.”)

Some of the interviewers have read my file extensively and know extensive details about my past. Most of them have read my personal statement at least, and I’ve had a flattering number of compliments on my writing style. I’ve had one blind interview, where the only thing the student interviewer knew about me was my name and the town I was coming from.

In addition to the major events (the pitch, the real scoop and the interviews), schools sometimes throw in sessions about student life, special programs they offer, or financial aid. Sometimes these are optional sessions (we are vehemently assured that not attending an optional session will not hurt our application, but a small voice in my head often wonders how true that is.) Sometimes they are slipped in between the other scheduled events to make sure everyone attends.

The end of the day tends to come abruptly. One minute I’m being hustled from here to there, the next I find myself standing awkwardly in the admissions office collecting my bags and wondering if there was something else I was supposed to do. Because optional events and the fact that the interviews don’t always happen all at once, a lot of the fellow applicants will still be hanging around as I leave. All of a sudden I’m free to change clothes, catch a bus or a train or plane, and wonder if there was anything else I should have done to make a better case for myself.