This year, I had the opportunity to interview prospective medical students when they visit the University of Vermont College of Medicine for the ever-important “Interview Day.” As a third-year medical student on a team of faculty, staff and students who conducted what are called Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) – a new format that allows applicants to meet with different interviewers, spending six minutes at a time with each person – I learned a great deal about the interview process, and even more about myself. Being a part of the interview process has been an honor and a truly rewarding experience. I applied to be a student interviewer because I was interested in the process of admissions and felt I had a valuable perspective on what constitutes a qualified applicant—and a little because I like the friendly people in the Office of Admissions! I wasn’t expecting to grow so much as an individual. The two major lessons I’ve learned: I need to dress better and read more.
Lesson one: Dress for success, in both appearance and attitude. I have always had a strong belief against judging people based on appearance, and I still do. However, I want to be realistic despite my beliefs. While “judging” has a negative connotation, from an evolutionary perspective it is human nature to judge people and surroundings, and it’s occurring all the time whether consciously or not. Thus, I’ve had to leave that connotation aside and accept the reality. People are judging me. Wouldn’t I rather conform a little bit to achieve the goals I’m working towards? So, I’ll take out my nose ring, pull back my hair, and make sure my clothes are on the modest side. Most important of all, I’ll “wear” my positive attitude. I want to thrive as a medical student and resident; I want to get into a good residency program, and I want to put patient care first. If that means toning down my rebellious tendencies for a rotation, an interview, or an interaction with an attending or resident or patient, I’ll do it. My experience as an interviewer has made me more conscious of this tendency to take appearance at face value, and I still consciously decide to limit my judgements and view a prospective student the same whether they have the best fitting clothes or the “right amount” of make-up. But now, I also aim to be more conscious of what my appearance says about me.
My second lesson: It’s a big world out there and I want to know more about it. The MMI format yields some interesting questions for discussion—some I had some prior knowledge about, others I did not. I found myself in some very interesting conversations, wishing I knew more about the topics, and wishing I could have these conversations at a later date in a less one-sided manner. Because of this, I want to read more. More of everything. I want to read more about current events, business, and politics. I want to read more literature, see more art, travel and experience more. These conversations and amazingly well-spoken applicants showed me how these topics can be interesting. They showed me how knowing more about these topics allows me to connect with people and get a wider view of the world we live in. The more I seek information, the more perspectives I can see, the more I can relate to others, and the more I can participate.
Being a part of the interview process has renewed my interest in the world as it is and has reminded me about everything I have yet to learn. I would thoroughly recommend this experience to any students considering applying for a position as part of the Admissions Committee. You’ll be surprised by what you find.