Crazy med school interview- what do you think?

My sister is in the process of applying to med schools. She had her first interview recently (took the MCAT later), and well, it seemed sort of insane to me. I’d love the perspective of any med students, faculty, docs or just reasonably sane people on this interview. I am studying for a population health degree at a large academic medical center and cannot imagine any of these things happening during a conversation with any of the faculty I’ve known. I’m being intentionally vague on some of the details so that the school and the circumstances can’t be identified. This interview took place at a highly ranked medical school in a major urban area.

Strange and Unusual Things Things That Occurred During the 1.5 hour One-on-One Interview:

  1. The interviewer used the actual n-word several times, not as a direct slur, but to ask my sister if she thought another potentially offensive slur was like the n-word.

  2. The interviewer told my sister she should not use the term “intellectually disabled” and should use retarded to describe the severely handicapped young woman my sister took care of while working her way through undergrad. This was in reference to both my sister’s in-person interview and her essays that were originally sent out to all 17 schools she is applying to.

  3. The interviewer told my sister she thought my sister was a lot like her own 27-year old daughter, who just wanted to do things her parents told her not to do. (We are baffled by this, as my parents are not particularly involved in my sister’s decision, but are certainly not opposed. Also, my sister did an undergraduate degree in something totally unrelated to medicine, so she has had to go back and complete all of her requirements separately. This three-year process is not an indicator of someone rebelling against their parents, and even if it was- WTF?)

  4. The interviewer told my sister it sounded like she was more focused on caregiving and should consider nursing. (I highly doubt my sister would have been told this if she was male PLUS the fact that this woman’s view of medicine does not include caregiving is a sad reflection on the industry).

  5. The interviewer was completely ignorant (as in, had never heard of it) of the area of medicine my sister wants to focus on. It is not an area a lay person would necessarily know about, but it is well-established, and there are faculty on the school’s staff that specialize in this area. In addition, it’s sort of a “hot” topic, so it’s definitely around and visible.

My thoughts: This person represents the school and was totally inappropriate. She may have raised some valid concerns that my sister should consider (perhaps better emphasizing why medicine is the choice that she has come to) but she did it so unprofessionally, that my sister should not consider the school.

My sister is feeling slightly more generous toward the school because of the extremely competitive process of getting into medical school, and this school is located in her preferred metropolitan area. Overall, she’s quite discouraged from continuing her application at this school.

Is there something I am missing? What do you think of the behavior?

It’s been awhile since I interviewed for med school, but I don’t recall any single interview lasting that horrendously long.

Race of interviewer and your sister? (whatever the answer, using this word for any reason during an interview strikes me as unnecessary to say the least).

The interviewer sounds retarded.

The interviewer is [del]ret[/del] an idiot.

Hard to judge this without more info, but if it’s a “hot” area the interviewer sounds, well, like an idiot.

If your sister has the feeling the interview went badly for her and it has seriously imperiled her chances of admission (and she still likes the school, which after all probably has a lot more going for it than this one numbskull), she should consider expressing her concerns to the Admissions Committee in a polite way, while emphasizing she is still interested in going to this school.

Couldn’t hurt.

Yes - the medical school I used to work at allowed applicants to have a new interview if they felt their first one didn’t go well - this can happen for lots of reasons - the person is ill, they just don’t mesh with the interviewer, whatever. (They no longer use one on one interviews opting for an MMI process instead).

Perhaps your sister should inquire with the admissions office if she still likes this school. If she were granted an second interview she could see if everyone at the school was wacky, or if it was just this one lady.

It does sound a bit bizarre, but I must say Ive had my experiences with ‘unusual’ people in the helping professions. Some of it might change depending on context, eg the nursing suggestion.

I guess the main issue is whether this is one problematic person she needs to work around, or whether its somewhat indicative of the entire facility/faculty and what this means for her studying/working in it. Be a shame to not go there when you might have very little to do with the person in future if its a good fit in other regards.


I’m not a medical person but the interviewer sounds like a nut. If your sister can request a second interview with someone else I’d go for it.

A friend of mine had an interview at a prestigious PA school where she was asked about her religion, family status, and other clearly inappropriate questions. She notified the dean of the school. Apparently the interviewer was new at the school, and the dean apologized profusely and offered her a second interview.

Point is, she should probably tell the dean if she really feels it was out of wack.

There are plenty of asshole doctors out there. Most of them in academia have at least learned to play the game, but not all. Additionally, there are a lot of older male doctors who still look down on young female doctors for “softening” the profession, so it kind of sounds like some of that was going on*.

In any event, it was clearly inappropriate, and whether she is interested in that school or not she should write a detailed letter to the Dean of Students recounting the experience. (It may not be called the DofS; she should call the admissions office and ask to whom she should write the letter.) I don’t think it can hurt her.

  • On review you use female pronouns for the interviewer. I have seen a similar attitude among older female physicians–they’re jealous because they had to go through and give up so much to be doctors and these young women have it easy. Still no excuse, of course.

Yeah, med school interviews can be really weird sometimes. (So can residency interviews, by the way, though that’s a long way off). A lot of times, schools don’t do anything to train their interviewers and so some of them come up with strange ideas of what an interview should be like.
I’ve heard of cases where interviewers are purposely provocative and inflammatory because they’re “testing” the applicant and want to see how the applicant reacts. It’s possible that’s what happened here. It is also possible that the interviewer has a chip on her shoulder though.

If I were the sister, I would probably talk to the admissions office about what happened (in a calm, non-accusational way of course). Perhaps they will allow her to have an interview with a different faculty member.
Might also be worth heading over to to ask for advice there.

Not knowing anything about how med school interviews usually go, if I came across an interview like the one in the OP, I would have to assume that this is what was going on. Or the interviewer is simply insane.

My bet is the same as lavenderviolet’s; the interviewer was testing candidates’ ownership of a spine as well as obtaining answers. “Bah, you’re here just because your parents want you to go/not-go to med school” - “uh?” wrong answer - “no, actually I want to go to med school because blahblah” right answer.

Mind you, I’m from a culture where “checking recent arrivals for ownership of spines” is routine; people from Places Elsewhere find it terrifying for some reason - it’s not like we rip them open to look! Once ownership of a spine has been proven, the weirdness stops and we’re all the bestest pals since forever. If ownership has been proved and the weird doesn’t stop, that’s when you file that person under “moron”.

One of my co… can’t call him a coworker, really, dude was lazier than a la-z-boy, as well as an entitled ass with my apologies to behinds and donkeys… anyway, dude in my grad lab in the US wanted to go to med school; he kept flunking the interview. The interviewer would ask about “yesterday’s match”, dude would say “I don’t care about baseball, let’s talk about my GPA”; the interviewer would ask “have you been interested in medical school for a long time?”, dude would say “yeah, sure, and as you can see I’ve taken all the right courses”…

The interviewer, who already knew about the GPA and the coursework, was trying to find a human being, my not-a-coworker didn’t qualify.

Are you sure she wasn’t interviewing at a heretical school?

This is the only thing I could see as being potentially not way out of left field, but completely ill-worded. Though intellectual disability is a great catch-all phrase to describe a variety of disorders in the DSM manual, when applying to medical school, mentioning the specific disorder might be more prudent.

Either way, I’m going to agree with the others who’ve said that either this interviewer is testing your sister or is so out of touch with reality that they can no longer be trusted to behave professionally in an interview.

I know of a psych course that used to let later year students do part of the interview processes for applicants. Some really ludicrous stuff used to result, eg the entire panel saying nothing for minutes at a time to see how the interviewee would react.

The rest of the course was just as loopy. If it is this and its general policy rather than one person going maverick, my advice is to run.


This is the only thing that might make sense if in a different context and not an already loopy interview:

A doctor I know personally regularly gets finished med students for internship/ residency at the uni hospital where he works, and wants to evaluate them as to how much they’re worth beyond test scores - what kind of person. So one question he always asks is “Why did you want to go into medicine?” The usual answer is “To help people” which sounds so very noble that nobody can quibble. So he asks “Well why not become a nurse instead? That also helps people”. Most times, the interviewees are stumped. The real reasons and motivations are of course mixed and the money and prestige of being a real doctor vs. just a nurse surely play a part for many people besides only wanting to help.

But this person is not the dean of the school, or? Or even one of the teachers, right? So even if this person is a bit flaky, the actual schooling - which you say your sister researched already - would be better.

This can mean two things:

your sister very closely resemble the daughter of the person, so by saying it out loud, the person wanted to explain subconscious prejudices and try to keep them for interfering*

or, as Nava said, to make your sister explain in her own words, not in the paper letters, why she choose medicine and not another field or career.

A student who completly follows or totally rejects his parents advice** is showing signs of immatureness. Explaining that you had input from your parents, but finally made your own choice based on A, B, and C which are important to you makes you mature in contrast.

*which happens a lot - somebody looks like a guy who dumped you in 8th grade, so you react negativly to them, even though they’re a different person.

** Esp. given the huge amount of help students in the US need from their parents because of the debts.

The author Michael Criton (Jurassic Park) is a doctor. In his book Travels, the first few chapters are about going through medical school. Ironic because he told his councilor that he did not want to be a doctor and they kept telling him to keep going, but the overall impression is that medical school is completely nuts.

Thanks all for your responses. We considered the testing possibility (and obviously my sister needs to be prepared to answer hard questions fast in these in interviews) but the context and formulation of the questions was just very strange.

My sister has checked around a bit, and it seems that most people only have about a 45 minute interview- her’s was twice that long. She is going to schedule a second interview. I reminded her that she’s also interviewing this school, and so far, they haven’t made a good impression (a hard thing to keep in mind when the entire med school application process is about fighting for very limited spots).

To answer a couple specific questions:

Both are white, although the interviewer wouldn’t necessarily have known that about my sister (she often gets the “What are you?” question).

Actually, the interviewer is a professor at the medical school.

Not to dispute the overall point, but really this post would be at least as accurate if you kept just the first four and last three words and discarded the rest. I wouldn’t trust his reporting on much.

Also, because I’m in the mood to nitpick a little… It’s spelled Chrichton, and he’s dead… so he “was” a doctor, not “is”. Also, yeah… he was nuts.

Actually, it’s Crichton.