Well, I’m heading back to Africa next week and I’m finished with all my medical school interviews. I was invited to five, but cancelled the last one because the other four went well and the fifth would have been prohibitively expensive to travel to. The four schools I interviewed with were all in the midwest and three were public (two out of state public, one in-state), and one was private. Here’s a rundown of each of the interviews and campuses:
INTERVIEW–> 2 one-on-one interviews with faculty. I interviewed first with a surgeon and second with a psychiatrist, both women faculty members. They had a semi-open file, meaning they had information about me and could read my essays but didn’t know any of my MCAT or GPA scores. Both were relatively conversational, but they also had specific questions they made sure to get in. Mostly they wanted to talk about the Peace Corps. I felt just OK about my performance. I could have done better, but I was nervous and my ADD was particularly noticeable…looking around the room, swiveling in my chair, rambling thoughts. But I’m pretty good at interviewing for the most part, so I think it was fine.
FACILITIES/LOCATION–> Very nice. Updated, simulation centers, etc. AMAZING rec center. On the undergrad campus. Not super excited about the town…too much like my hometown.
PEOPLE–> Nice enough. Not super enthusiastic. Seemed sort of anti-intellectual. Very focused on learning the “practical” side of medicine…which I’m not sure is my thing. I don’t know if I could handle constant PBL.
OVER ALL THOUGHTS–> Least favorite of the four, but that rec center…sigh.
INTERVIEW–> One one-on-one interview, open file. One two-on-one closed file interview. They were both very conversational…only one or two standardized questions in the first interview. Other than that, it was a conversation in both. The two-on-one was interesting; the two faculty members didn’t know each other and had to introduce themselves. The first doc was a female family practice doctor and the other two were family medicine woman and a male psychiatrist. I actually enjoyed these interviews and felt I was genuinely telling them about my life and my passions. One interviewer asked me why I hadn’t applied early decision and said I was an “excellent candidate” which must be a good sign.
FACILITIES/LOCATION –> Great med related facilities, sim centers, hospital. Modern and going through construction now so it’ll be even better next fall. Not on the undergrad campus…in a different city, which I love. Lots of cultural opportunities, good food, city life…also meaning a good academic, urban patient population base. AWFUL, I mean really AWFUL rec center. I thought it was joke at first, seriously.
PEOPLE–> Nice, seem interested in science and medicine from more than just practical perspective. Students seem enthusiastic about the school and the faculty seem excited to teach. Mix of PBL and lecture, mostly lecture. Good queer friendly vibes, they had up posters for an LGBT event which makes my queer little self very happy.
OVER ALL THOUGHTS–> Great school. Cheapest option by a LONG shot (especially considering rural practicing loan forgiveness programs). I could see myself happy and successful here. It’s also close to home which would be very nice after living away from home for about 6 years.
INTERVIEWS–> Only one closed file interviewer. A male ortho surgeon who asked really good questions and focused a lot on the Peace Corps (I guess everyone sort of focused on that!). It was casual and went really well. Very standard questions were asked too, and I talked a bit more about health care as a business than I did at other places.
FACILITIES/LOCATION–>Awesome buildings, very modern looking, building a nursing center with new simulation building. The med students are all in one place all the time which might be a little claustrophobic. The undergrad is not immediately on the campus, but it’s in the same city. I like the city (though not as much as my IS school), and would be happy there. I didn’t get to see the rec center, but people were pretty enthusiastic about it when asked.
PEOPLE–>I think the people here were my favorite in their attitude toward non-essential/liberal arts type thinking about medicine and also for the service oriented faculty members who talked. They really seemed to care about the helping part of medicine more than the other places. They are VERY homogeneous in ethnicity and background, though. I really do require a little more diversity than that.
OVER ALL THOUGHTS–> OOS tuition is very expensive. They said they typically reward a non-resident differential scholarship to out of state applicants that they accept, but even with that it’s more expensive than my state school. I think the education would also be similar, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Overall, though, I really did like it. If everything about this school was at my state school, there would be no hesitation.
INTERVIEWS–> Two one-on-one interviews. Interestingly, both men. One was the head of a ROAD department and the other was a surgeon. The first doctor was the best interviewer I had the whole application cycle. He asked very specific questions about me and my history, not just rote boring ones. He had about three pages of notes on me and did an excellent job and asking follow up questions. I felt a little pressure, but also comfort. It was probably the most efficient interview. He sort of pushed his conservative viewpoint of the Affordable Care Act on me when I mentioned supporting universal healthcare coverage, but other than that it was awesome. The surgeon was the worst interviewer I had all season! He talked more than I did, seemed more distracted than my typical ADD self, and didn’t really ask too much about me or my life, although he WAS the only interviewer who seemed particularly interested in my marathon running or my martial arts background. The differences in these two interviews was perplexing and amusing, but oh well. They said if the interviewers gave very different scores of their impressions, we’d be offered a third interview that day. And since I didn’t get another interview I’m assuming they both liked or disliked me the same amount!
FACILITIES/LOCATION–>Gorgeous, of course. It’s a private school so the endowment is pretty good. The city is (I’ll just say it) CHICAGO, so it’s freaking awesome with all the amazing things that come with the city. But, the suburb the med school is in is low income and housing is expensive. The cafeteria was also closed at like 4pm, first and second years are always in the same building for everything, and the whole school is a Pepsi only campus. There’s good and bad things about Chicago, but I think it’s mostly awesome, despite the fact that it’s far from home and really cold in the winter. The school facilities also were nice, but not extraordinarily so and the rec center was just typical, nothing crazy good.
PEOPLE–>Smart, motivated, very enthusiastic about the school. Diverse, committed to service, excited by science, etc. However, they did not seem particularly queer friendly and I think the slight religious overtones of the school might start to bother me (especially when you consider the OB/GYN rotation…). A lot of people also seem to come from money, but I guess that’s not too surprising at an expensive private school.
OVERALL THOUGHTS–> Going into it, I thought this school was going to be my first choice. It was the most “prestigious” school that offered me an interview and the Chicago location was very appealing. Ultimately, though, I’m not sure I was wooed enough to fall in love with the place at a level high enough to justify the high cost. There’s the other ‘reverse prestige’ factor to consider when you think about expensive private schools with good reputations, but not stellar/out of this world ones (like your ivy league, etc). I like their focus on service, opportunities for student research, location, and diversity, but I think the religious, the expense, and the sort of negative attitudes toward the LGBT population (not super negative, just a bit ignorant as if there weren’t many out queer folks on campus) sort of tapered my initial assumption of the perfect fit.
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT INTERVIEWS AFTER INTERVIEWING
Going to visit for interviews is definitely needed. I certainly would not have known how much Public school #3 would have impressed me or how much I would not fall hard for the Private school if I had just phone interviewed or talked to doctors over skype or something. My IS school really got a huge boost in my eyes, too. I was expecting lazy, anti-intellectualism, and ended up with an enthusiastic, smart group of laid back students and profs. I honestly haven’t decided where to go yet (I haven’t actually gotten ACCEPTED by ANY of them yet!), but I can say that my perspectives have been shifted around a bit. I think I am much more likely to chose my state school than I was before. There’s a couple reasons for that, but one reason is that nobody every questions your choice to go to your state institution. No one assumes you didn’t get in to a more difficult school, especially if you went to a competitive undergrad. I think people understand the cost issue, the close to home factor, and the state pride thing. If I choose a mediocre, pricey private school, it might be assumed I just didn’t get into a more prestigious pricey private school…which, let’s face it, would be absolutely true. But honestly, my IS school is sort of bad-A and I’m starting to feel like it’s about time to head home. College for four years across the country, then 2 years in Africa…it’s been a while since I’ve lived close to home. And also, it will be C’s first time living in a town different than his parents (except his first year of college which was about an hour away) and going to my state school would probably be a nice transition place for both of us. It’s far enough, we probably wouldn’t get surprise family visits, but close enough we could make the trip with little difficulty or planning.
So right now, I’m leaning state school. Good education, possibly free tuition, good location, and I know I can do well and be happy there. What else is there, anyway?
I have to wait and see before I make any decisions, though. Don’t wanna count those chickens before they hatch!
Keep it classy and good luck to all those applicants still getting ready for interviews! I’ll probably come back and write up a post about appropriate interview clothing; that certainly kept me thinking for a while!