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Admission Application Suggestions (Part VIII)

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Interviewers on admission committees will assess the broadness of your familiarity with world events – hence the importance of listening to the news as you are driving and at least glance at the daily headlines of newspapers.

More importantly, they want to hear well thought out ideas. One approach is discussing an event’s causes, beginnings, main activities or principles, the ending, and the result. A second approach relates to the event’s effects on you, on others, on the environment, and on the economy. A third approach is to follow the eight steps of rational thinking – (1) define the problem; (2) research to gather more factual information; (3) assess the information on a ladder of importance; (4) analyze pertinent information; (5) manipulate the information to connect cause with effect; (6) maneuver information to create good possible solutions; (7) synthetize all the best information into three top options; and (8) make the judgments which give Plans A, B, and C. These approaches allow you to keep from being stumped when you are suddenly caught off guard.
Problem questions will be asked to determine if you see the situation for what it is; the number of options you can come up with for handling the problem; and your method for making it work by involving and relating to people. In decision-making, you need a good mix of idealism (that which is perfect, excellent, honorable) and realism (adjusting the ideal to make it work but without lying, cheating, or stealing). Other questions are asked to show “practical smarts” (prudence) in your ability to cope with life’s problems – knowing where to start, knowing where to go and to whom for information, and knowing what is needed in order to get things done. Constantly practice formulating a plan (like the above mentioned approaches) for tough problems and learn the skills of analysis (taking things apart) and synthesis (putting things together but a higher level). Also take courses in preparation for MCAT examinations. Some interview questions are to test your powers of observation – how much you know about what is going on around you (e.g. like your family member’s illness). To say you want to help in areas you know nothing about is to lose points. In relating how you help support your family or take care of the family business, point out your successes and lessons learned from your struggles. Take every opportunity to develop better study skills and know how to organize and prioritize your thoughts and information. Do not try to give what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Stay honest in relating your life experiences. Having done research and hospital work give clues to your motivation. Doing research in psychology is currently popular. So is having worked in emergency rooms. Giving up much of your youthful socializing is the price you pay to rise above where you are.
Go to interviews well dressed, be well mannered, and use formal English. Ghetto speech (“you know what I’m saying”) and “teen speech” (“you’re my dog”), could suggest immaturity, especially to White interviewers. Violations of civility (especially poor dress) indicate a lack of insight into what it takes to be a professional. Good letters of recommendation (long, strong, and specific) from people who know your character, passion, ability to think, and work ethic are extremely important. Avoid perfunctory letters (recommendations given merely to get rid of a duty) from illogical people (e.g. the fast food manager where you work). What is at stake for you with an interviewer is the moment that could define your life’s course.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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