The broad nature of the medical school interview ‘tell me about yourself’ question can be intimidating, especially if you are not thoroughly prepared. It’s a very common question that’s likely to come up in most of your interviews in one form or another.
The question is a chance for you to share more about yourself so that the school can get to know you beyond your accomplishments. It’s best to treat this question as an opportunity to guide the conversation around the topics you feel comfortable speaking about in more depth.
In this post, we discuss the importance of the ‘tell me about yourself’ question and explain how to best prepare for and answer it.
Medical School Interviews
Medical school interviews are the final step in the application process, arriving after you’ve already taken the MCAT, submitted your primary application (including a personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc.,) and submitted your secondary applications.
The final deadline for applications and secondary materials is not the timeline you should follow. Apply as soon as applications open, as applying early is one of the most important medical school admission strategies.
For more information about ideal scheduling, read our Medical School Application Timeline Guide.
Depending on how early you apply, it’s possible to receive interview invitations as early as August, but most schools won’t send out interview invitations until September. Interview invitations will continue to arrive until the spring of the following year, concluding around April or May.
During this time, you will likely receive several emails from the different schools you applied to inviting you to interview for their program. The emails will typically include a list of dates that you can choose from. Respond as quickly as possible since the dates fill up fast. Schedule your interviews early in the process, as rolling admissions mean schools only offer spots while they’re available—the longer you wait to schedule your interview, the worse your chances of acceptance.
That said, you need to be strategic about how you schedule your interviews, ensuring you don’t schedule your top choice schools first. Use your lower priority schools as a chance to hone your interview skills before you jump into your most important interviews.
Although interviews are the final step in the medical school application process, scoring an interview is by no means a sign you’ve already made it. In fact, many medical schools send out interview invites to anyone who submits a secondary application—in many cases, without even reviewing the application itself.
The quality of your interview can make or break your entire application—regardless of how beaming your letters of recommendation are or if you scored a perfect 528 on the MCAT.
This is why it’s crucial that you prepare for your interviews throughout the entire application process.
Read our comprehensive Medical School Interview Guide for a complete overview of common interview questions, preparation advice, and mistakes to avoid.
Medical School Interview Tell Me About Yourself Question
Some version of the ‘tell me about yourself’ question is guaranteed to come up in most or all of your interviews, and it’s usually the first question you’ll be asked to elaborate on.
It’s a tricky question because it sounds so broad. Where do you begin? But considering the interviewer has already seen your GPA, MCAT score, personal statement, coursework, and extracurriculars, you can rest assured they’re not looking for you to repeat your credentials.
The interviewer wants to know more about you, the personal details you didn’t have the space to cover in your application. How do you see yourself? What about you makes you unique? What drives you? Why do you want to be a doctor? How has your family shaped you? What’s your favorite hobby? What are you passionate about?
It’s also very challenging to get an accurate impression of someone from what’s on paper. The interviewer understands you’re a promising applicant—that’s why you’re sitting in front of them. But who are you as a person? The ‘tell me about yourself’ question is an interviewer’s attempt to get to know the person behind your accomplishments.
They want to see what you think is important enough to mention, and they want to see that you are prepared to speak about yourself without getting flustered. In the end, getting to know you better is all about determining whether or not you will make a good fit for their school. It is critical that you take time to prepare for common interview questions so that you’re not caught off guard and are able to present your best self to the interviewer.
How to Answer the Tell Me About Yourself Question
The ‘tell me about yourself’ question can be an intimidating one. Where do you begin? What do they hope to hear from you? How much do you say? Is there a right or wrong answer? The fact that the question is open-ended is actually a good thing—it’s an opportunity for you to take charge of your own narrative and drive the flow of the interview.
Providing a good, multi-layered answer with lots that the interviewer can draw on for further questions allows you to decide which direction you want the interview to go. This is why it’s so important to prepare your answer beforehand.
Choose a few interesting facts about yourself and your past that you feel comfortable expanding upon. The interviewer can then pick and choose from these facts and decide which they want to explore more. Where did you grow up? Who raised you? What do your family members do? What did you study in college? What’s an interesting or important experience you can include?
You don’t know which interesting fact or detail the interviewer will choose to highlight, so give them a few to choose from. Start by speaking about where you grew up and who raised you, highlight a significant event from your past and its impact on you, discuss a few important hobbies, and speak about the life events and experiences that crystallized your ambition to pursue medicine.
For example, Bruce Wayne/Batman might answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ question like this:
“My name is Bruce Wayne. I grew up in Gotham City, but my family was well off, so I grew up sheltered from crime in relative seclusion. My father, Thomas, was a doctor, and my mother, Martha, devoted most of her time to philanthropy. They instilled a need in me to give back to my community. When I was ten, my sheltered world was shattered when my parents were murdered in front of me. This, coupled with the realization that the crime in Gotham creates more orphans like me every day, had a profound impact on me. It inspired me to dedicate myself to achieving physical and intellectual perfection in the hope that I might one day fight crime and protect Gotham’s innocent. I spend my free time tinkering—I enjoy working with my hands, inventing gadgets, and fixing broken technology—and exercising. Everything I do I do to support my dream of one day creating a Gotham where citizens are free from the threat of crime.”
Give your response some structure, but don’t memorize it like a script. Strict memorization will feel forced, and you’re more likely to get tripped up if the interviewer asks you a question you didn’t anticipate. And if you miss one part of your scripted answer, you’ll have a tough time remaining on track. Instead, create a general plan and talking points you want to cover and practice hitting those points over and over again.
Practice is what it takes to ace your interview, not memorization. Practice in front of a mirror, film yourself answering questions and review it back, ask for feedback from friends, family, and mentors, and participate in mock interviews that will give you a feel for the true experience.
Other Interview Questions You’ll Encounter
The ‘tell me about yourself’ question is only one common medical school interview question. There are plenty of questions that come up time and time again that you need to be prepared for.
Some of the most common interview questions include:
- What makes you the right fit for our school?
- Why do you want to attend our school?
- Why do you want to become a doctor?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Describe a time when you failed.
- Which area of medicine interests you most?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
There’s no excuse for getting tripped up by a common interview question. There are plenty of online resources that outline the most common questions and how to best answer them. You should prepare answers for all of the most common interview questions and practice them throughout your medical school application process. Don’t wait until you start receiving interview requests to begin preparing.
Mock Interviews Allow You to Live the Interview Experience
Med School Insiders offers a course on How to Ace the Medical School Interview that provides thorough and thoughtful training that covers the entire interview process. We offer mock interviews with former interviewers who will provide you with direct feedback on your performance. Mock interviews provide an opportunity to put your interview skills to the test so that you know exactly what to expect come interview day.