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Admission Application Suggestions (Part X)

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An “Interview,” a 16th century word meaning the meeting and talking with persons face-to-face for a special purpose, is where you will be judged on what you say and how you say it.

Its verbal components are a question and answer exchange whereby the interviewer asks you questions and gives you the freedom to “tell your story.” A Question is a defined thought calling for an answer; an Answer, something said in defense or a reply or for a solution. The non-verbal parts concern interviewers observing how you react to tough questions. Particular attention is paid to your gestures and facial expressions. Their purpose is to correlate the “real” you with how good you look on a piece of paper. They also assess how you appear and smell, how developed are your verbal skills, how likely you are to get along with others, how passive/assertive or apathetic/dynamic you are, the tone of your voice, and your vocabulary. Adelita Castro says that interviewers even pay close attention to how quickly you answer a question -- whether it is impulsive or preferably by logical thought that is relevant (“raised to and positioned on the point created by the question”).
An unwritten rule is that your chances of acceptance are tremendously increased if the interviewer is already familiar with you. Familiar means to become well-known from constant association. At least 67% of all positions filled have resulted from personal or professional contacts made before the official interview. Use your ingenuity to make yourself well-known so that interviewers do not feel as if they are taking a big risk. The aim is to show that you are trustworthy but not annoying. Find out who is on the admission committee by asking the secretary in the admissions office. Then, if feasible, take their classes, do laboratory research, tutor their students, and/or get to know their mate, children, maid, secretary or anyone who might put in a good word for you. Get letters of recommendation from those who the interviewers trust, know, respect, or find credible. This implies crossing the “shyness barrier.” Start by realizing that everyone is self-conscious and afraid of saying something foolish. See past your fears to focus on your purpose.
At interview time, while giving a firm handshake, be sure you address the interviewers by title and correct name. Open the interview, never with an excuse, but with something positive -- perhaps a genuine compliment followed by a sincere question: “That is a very attractive tie (or earrings, dress), would you mind telling me where you found it?” Thereafter, see yourself through the interviewer’s eye and shape your answers to show that you have the right temperament; that you can hit the ground running (not already hopelessly behind); and that you “fit-in” well. You will be asked Open-Ended Questions which allow you to design your own answers (as opposed to Fixed-Alternative Questions, like “yes” or “no”). Listen carefully to the question and have the interviewer repeat it if you need more time to think. Prior preparation includes practicing responding to tough questions like: “tell me about your life’s history.” You can very briefly mention: (1) biological information (e.g. identifying facts and family relationships); (2) the highlights of special happenings; (3) a discussion of what you have learned from personal experiences or observations; and (4) the setting of your life in the past and present and expectations for the future. End the interview on a strong positive note. The next day, send a “thank you” letter. Further preparation involves asking others about the details of their interviews.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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