As the former director of both the Johns Hopkins and Goucher Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Programs, I have in-depth knowledge of the post-bac application process and have screened, interviewed, and made decisions on thousands of post-bac applicants. The post-baccalaureate premedical program application process entails submitting an application with essay(s), transcript(s), and letters of recommendation. Once your materials are complete your application will be reviewed and you may make it to the next step of the admissions process for the more selective career-changer programs: the post-baccalaureate premedical program interview.
Just as with the medical school interview, the post-bac program interview assesses several important elements:
- Do you match your written materials? In other words, is there synergy between your application and your actual persona?
- Are you a good fit for the program? Will you thrive in that particular institution’s academic environment? Are you ready to handle the academic demands in a post-bac program?
- What will you contribute to the program? Will your personal traits and attributes make you a welcome addition to the program?
- Is your enthusiasm—for both the program and for a career in medicine—palpable?
- Will you be a collegial student and help foster a positive learning community?
- Can you handle the rigor of medical school?
All of these factors are assessed during the interview. While post-bac programs have different ways they interview applicants, here is a synopsis of the various interview formats:
- One-on-one interviews that last from 30-60 minutes. The length will vary from program to program. Be prepared for a variety of questions as to your background, motivation for a career in medicine, strengths, weaknesses, learning style, future career goals, any academic difficulties encountered, significant accomplishments, clinical experiences (or lack thereof), your particular interest in that program, etc.
- A brief screening via Skype (20-30 minutes) prior to granting a campus interview. Be prepared for targeted questions in regard to your background and what makes you a compelling medical school candidate. Be ready to articulate this briefly and succinctly.
- Tour and lunch with current students. While this is not usually a formal part of the interview process (students may not be expected to give information about applicants after visiting with them) it still provides the opportunity for programs to gather additional information. If applicants act inappropriately during the visit students will usually report such behavior to program directors. The students often act as gatekeepers of their programs and can be protective of its culture.
- Attending a class. Some programs allow interviewees to attend a class, which helps you assess whether or not the teaching is strong and the students collegial.
Interviews are normally conducted on campus and provide an opportunity for applicants to assess whether the program is a good fit. For those who are at great distance a Skype interview may be offered in lieu of the campus visit. If visiting campus, be sure to take this opportunity to soak up all you can about the atmosphere. Be sure to consider the following during your visit:
- What do students say about the pros/cons of the program?
- What is the academic environment like (collegial or competitive)?
- Is a curve used for grading?
- Is it easy or difficult—sometimes by virtue of class size—to get letters of evaluation from professors?
- What is the program’s track record of getting its students admitted to medical school? Does the published track record include students who did not complete the program?
- What is the attrition rate?
If possible, applicants should also speak with graduates of the programs to which they apply. Doing so allows them to assess the advising services offered, much of which happens during the year following completion of the program (the “glide” year). Programs should be willing to give you contact information for alumni of the program, especially if you have been admitted and are weighing whether or not to enroll.
If you have specific questions or would like to do a mock interview please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting