Questions Medical School Applicants Should Ask at Social Events

Once you are invited to a medical school interview, there are social events and informational panels that you can attend to learn about each school. It is extremely important to attend these events. They can be held in person or virtually and include dinners hosted by students, lunches, brown bag sessions, student life panels, informational sessions with admissions officers, campus tours and talks with the dean.

These social events are another opportunity for you to make an impression on the admissions committee. More importantly, these are opportunities for you to learn about the medical school. Remember, medical school interviews are a two-way street: While you are trying to win the medical school over, they are trying to persuade you to choose them over other med schools.

Although medical school websites have a plethora of information, questions you ask at the social events during medical school interviews can provide further color and detail. These questions should focus on gaining deeper insights and perspectives about the medical school rather than asking questions you may find answers to on the school website

[Read: How Hard Is Medical School and What Is the Medical School Curriculum?]

It is important to go to these social events with questions ready. Ask about student culture, mentoring and advising, and academic curriculum. You can also gather opinions about extracurricular activities and opportunities like research funding.

Student Culture

Find out how close-knit med school students are with each other and what they like to do together outside the classroom. Additionally, get a good sense of what your living situation will be like. Ask these questions to understand work-life balance at the medical school:

— Are there any traditions med students participate in, such as a preorientation camping trip?

— Do students live on campus or off, and do they move when they become clinical students?

— What do classmates do together outside of classes?

— What are the most popular extracurricular activities students participate in?

— Do most students study with their peers in study groups?

Mentoring and Advising

Medical school is tough, and finding mentors and advisers can help you thrive. Ask these questions to understand the support and resources available to med students:

— If a student is struggling in a preclinical class, what resources can the student utilize for help beyond office hours? Are there tutors or teaching assistants available for courses?

— What formal advisers do students have? What role do academic advisers, career counselors and clinical advisers play? What is the adviser-to-student ratio?

— How do you find a research mentor?

— Is there a formal upperclassman-underclassman advising program? If so, how have students benefited from the program?

— What mental health resources are available to students? Is there a specific therapist or psychiatrist for the med school?

— Are there additional resources and support for underrepresented minority students and students with disabilities?

[READ: Tips for Medical School Applicants With Disabilities.]

Academic Curriculum

Premeds often know more about the preclinical curriculum at each med school. However, the clinical years are when you will actually start taking care of patients. The following questions target clinical students and recent graduates, who can help you gain a better understanding of the clinical curriculum at each med school:

— What do you think is unique about this medical school’s curriculum?

— How has the curriculum changed because of the coronavirus pandemic?

— What are the main hospitals and clinics where med students do rotations? What are the differences between the hospitals? For instance, do they serve different patient populations?

— How do you choose your clinical rotation locations? Do students often get their top choice?

— What has been your favorite clinical rotation so far and why?

— What unique electives are available to students? Have you done a unique elective, and if so can you discuss your experience?

— Are there opportunities for longitudinal clinical experiences for med school students? For example, can a student work with the same physician one-half day per week over several years?

— Aside from learning clinical skills, when and how do students learn about how to thrive on their clinical rotations, such as how to give patient presentations?

— Are there opportunities like specialty interest groups where students can learn about various medical specialties?

Extracurricular Activities

In order to discover whether a medical school is the right fit for you, ask questions related to interests outside of the classroom. You can learn more about research, joint degree programs and community outreach. Outside of academics, you may also be interested in other extracurricular activities like sports and art that allow for work-life balance. Here are questions you can ask about a breadth of extracurricular activities:

[READ: Learn How to Balance Medical School and Extracurriculars.]

— What percentage of students graduate in four years versus take an extra one or two years to pursue research or other scholarly activities? What do students do in their year or years off?

— What kinds of funding does the medical school provide for research? What’s the process for applying for research stipends and grants?

— What are the most popular student organizations?

— What percentage of students pursue joint degrees like an M.D.-MBA or M.D.-M.P.H.?

— Is it popular for students to take classes in other graduate schools, such as public health or business, during their preclinical years?

— Do med school students have part-time teaching jobs, such as teaching assistantships?

— What are popular opportunities for students to get involved in the local community?

— Are there organized medical student clubs for activities not related to health care, such as intramural sports, music and dance?

3 Additional Tips for Asking Questions at Med School Interview Social Events

First, have questions prepared for different types of individuals: current med school students, admissions committee members and faculty members. While you can discuss the same topic with different individuals, you might frame the question differently.

For example, you may ask an admissions committee member, “What kinds of funding does the medical school provide for research?” But you can ask a current medical student a more personal question, “How did you apply for research funding?”

Second, for the questions most important to you, ask them of each medical school where you are interviewing so that you can compare answers. For example, if mentorship is important to you, ask each med school about the advising available.

Third, you can ask the same question of different students at each medical school to gather a broader perspective. For example, you can ask each student, “What are the unique clinical electives at this medical school and what has been your favorite clinical rotation so far?” By asking several students, you will get a better understanding of the clinical culture and options at a medical school.

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