02 April 2007

Interview #2

I had my second (and last this year) medical school interview last week. The general structure was something like the first interview, presentation by admissions staff, meeting with financial aid, lunch with students, tour of facilities, and finally a single one-on-one interview with someone with the potential to let me in to the school.

But there was one major difference. This is the school that never showed my application as complete. These are the admissions staff who NEVER answered emails and 2 voicemails, and in the course of half a dozen phone calls never once actually answered the phone. This is a place that tells you to show up at the admissions office, without actually giving you the address of the building or the room number; a place that charged me to park in a campus parking lot while I interviewed. So I was feeling a bit abused by their system.

During the admissions presentation, the woman made sure to point out that even though it was a getting to be a little late in the admissions cycle, we were not just interviewing for slots on the wait list, there really were still seats open in the class. Following this declaration, she promptly told us that if we got wait listed we should call regularly to check on our status and to indicate that we were still interested in the program because people who did call regularly could be admitted ahead of higher ranked individuals who did not call regularly. Oh, and be sure to check your status on the online applicant center as we update that frequently. WTF?!?! So my persistence and ability to annoy you counts for more than my application and interview?

I probably should've held my tongue, but I could not let these statements pass. I stated that this was not at all comforting as they do not answer the phone or return messages and their online applicant center never even showed my application was complete. She gave me that insincere "nice" smile and said she would love to have my feedback on the little postcard included in my packet today. Because apparently she was too busy ignoring me right that minute to actually hear what I was saying? Not really selling me on the school with those statements.

The students were fairly informative, as usual, but they were all first year students. They were not really in a position to answer some of the questions about things that happen during the second year, about how the selection process works for third year clerkships, about the relationships (or lack there of) between the classes, et cetera. The tour was a joke, we saw two lecture halls, a small group classroom, a bunch of hallways and an atrium in outpatient area of the hospital. Another applicant in my group asked to see the anatomy lab space, can't do it. I asked if we could see anything in the hospital, even the cafeteria, can't do it. When we returned to the waiting area the admissions lady wandered by to chat, so I asked her what it would take to get a tour of any inpatient area of the hospital. Her response, "Well, we really aren't satisfying you today, are we?" along with that annoying fake smile again. Final answer was that the hospital would not allow it, even as individual applicants instead of a large group. My experience as an EMT leads me to believe that it is extremely likely that I could've walked over there and into just about any adult inpatient area without being stopped or questioned, but I decided that if they wanted me to judge whether I was willing to attend their school based on hallways, then that was what I would do.

The actual interview itself went well. I enjoyed talking with the MD who interviewed me and thought I performed reasonably well. He apologized at asking his first question, but honestly, I think it is probably the most reasonable question anybody has asked me. "What the heck happened on your MCAT?" I don't remember posting my scores here, my subject area scores were fine, but my writing score (on a scale of J to T with J being the low end) was a K. In other words, beyond awful, translated to the lowest 3%. He said he'd never seen a score that low and didn't know they actually gave them. He wanted to know if I'd challenged the results of the exam because that seemed like it should have been a mistake. I think I was able to give him a reasonable explanation and after asking whether I'd written my personal statement essay myself (I did), stated that he wasn't concerned about my writing abilities because it was one of the better statements he'd read this year.

He had some other good questions about my work as an EMT, my experience teaching, and why I wanted to change careers at this point. When I was doing some practice interview questions with investigators I work with, one asked about my most difficult call as an EMT. I was able to come up with a recent call that fit that bill. The interviewer's actual question was slightly different though, he wanted to know about my worst call. I've never met an EMT that enjoys that question. Some people ask it because they are prepared to be grossed out about dismembered, decapitated, bloodied patients. But I define "worst" a little differently. To me, worst is a call I still remember the next week, a call where I wish I had the ability to give the patient something more. So I told him the truth and he was definitely surprised that my personal worst did not involve death or traumatic injury at all.

The interview was the end of the day. Although I've been on this campus before, I asked the admissions lady for a campus map because there wasn't one in the folder (which seemed strange). I got a non-answer answer about how the campus was changing so quickly right now that they didn't have a current map, but eventually got a non-current map out of her. I have no idea how my dissatisfaction with their system or their admissions staff is going to factor in to their decision-making, but I'm not willing to pretend I'm happy-go-lucky satisfied when I'm not. If it comes down to a choice between this school and nowhere, I'll probably go, but I'll have to think about it.

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