While no medical school interview will be completely the same, there are a few questions you are guaranteed to be asked. The medical school interview “Why us?” question is one of them. You may think this is one of the easier questions to answer; after all, you know why you want to attend the program, right? But beware of this question’s deceptive simplicity; a surface-level or vague response can sink your interview.
This question is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to your interviewer how enthusiastic you are about joining their medical school. You know all that the school has to offer you, and what’s more, you know how much you have to offer it. In this post, we’ll break down how to prepare the best possible answer to the common “Why us?” interview question.
The Medical School Interview Process
After taking MCAT, submitting your primary application (which includes your personal statement, letters of recommendation, Work and Activities, etc.,) and submitting your secondary applications, the final step to medical school acceptance is medical school interviews.
Depending on how early you submit your application(s), you may receive an interview invite as early as August. However, most schools won’t send out invitations until September. While they can show up as early as the summer, invitations will continue to arrive throughout the fall and winter, concluding in the spring of the following year, typically around April or May.
It is also important to note that the final deadline for applications and secondary materials is not the timeline you should follow. It is vital to your success that you apply as soon as applications open. Applying early is one of the most critical medical school admission strategies.
For more information about ideal scheduling, read our Medical School Application Timeline Guide.
Between the fall of the year you submit your application materials and the spring of the following year, you will (hopefully!) receive several emails inviting you to interview at the schools you applied to. Typically, these emails include a selection of dates to choose from.
It is absolutely vital to respond to your interview invitations as soon as possible, as the available dates will fill up fast. Rolling admissions means schools only offer spots while they’re available—you are actively lowering your chances of acceptance the longer you wait to schedule your interviews.
While you shouldn’t procrastinate, it is important to be strategic about how you schedule your interviews. Do not, for example, schedule your top choice schools before you’ve had a chance to practice. Interviewing at your lower priority schools first gives you a few opportunities to hone your interview skills before you dive into the interviews you care about most.
It doesn’t matter if you scored a perfect 528 on the MCAT or have an otherwise flawless application; if you give a poor interview, it will squander your chance of acceptance. You must 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.
The Purpose of the Medical School Interview “Why Us?” Question
Medical schools ask the “Why us?” question to evaluate an applicant’s genuine interest in joining their program. Admissions committees do not want to accept someone if that person isn’t wholeheartedly enthusiastic about their school. Interviewers will pay close attention to how you respond to this question, as they only want to accept applicants who they believe will enrich the student body and make an effective and worthwhile contribution to the program.
If your response is vague or could be applied to any medical school, the interviewer will certainly take note. Repeating the school’s mission statement or saying you love the city will not wow them in any way—it will only show that you haven’t put proper thought into your decision or consider them to be a backup school. If you give the interviewer the impression that their program is a backup option for you, you can kiss your chance of acceptance to that program goodbye.
While it may seem like this is a generic or simple-to-answer question, it is anything but. Interviewers are looking for the nitty-gritty details. They want to see that you’ve put a great deal of thought into this decision and have determined through ample research that their program is the best fit for you, and you’re the best fit for it.
How to Answer the “Why Us?” Question
1 | Complete Plenty of Research for Each School
You can’t give an effective answer to the “Why us?” question without first completing plenty of research. You must deeply research each program you’re interviewing for. The more important the program is to you or the more competitive it is, the more time you need to spend researching it.
This question is evaluating how intimately you’re familiar with the program. The interviewer wants details. Why is this school the best fit for you specifically? You can’t answer this question effectively without thoroughly understanding the school’s values and all the program has to offer.
Dig deeper than the kind of surface-level information you can find from the school’s brochure and website pages. Ask former students about their campus experience, check online message boards, and, if you’re able to, visit the campus yourself to get a feel for it. Speak to the students there. How well do you get along with them? Where can you imagine yourself studying? Which professor are you most excited to learn from?
The more you know, the more you can use. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the program by leaving no stone unturned. Wow your interviewer with the breadth and comprehensiveness of your knowledge.
2 | Avoid Generalizations They’ve Heard Before—Be Specific
Your interviewer is quite familiar with their program’s mission statement as well as the values of the school they’re representing. If you want to impress them, you’re going to have to dig deep and apply the school’s values and mission statement to your own life.
How have you lived up to the program’s values in your personal and professional life? Find a way to tie the school’s values to your own by using specific examples from your past. When have you lived those values? Has your dedication to those values affected your relationships, for better or worse? What actions have your values inspired you to take? How much adversity have you faced for your unflinching integrity and commitment to the values you (and the school) believe in?
Why are you excited to join the program? What strengths does it have over other schools? What’s unique about their offerings? What haven’t you found anywhere else? Which professor are you most excited to study under?
Blend the strengths, values, and focus of the program with your own to demonstrate how you’re a great fit. Why do you specifically belong there based on your past experiences, personal and professional strengths, and future goals?
3 | Practice Hitting Key Points Rather Than Memorizing
Answering this question, as with any common interview question, is a bit of a balancing act. You must complete plenty of research and commit the program’s values and offerings to memory, but your answer can’t seem forced or overly rehearsed. The interviewer wants to see your genuine enthusiasm; they’re not evaluating your ability to write and memorize a script.
As you practice your answer, do not memorize it completely. If the interviewer asks a quick follow-up question or phrases it in a way you haven’t planned for, you’ll get tripped up. If you forget your next line or lose your place, you’ll have trouble recovering. You’ll seem more like a malfunctioning robot than an enthusiastic, professional, and determined future doctor.
Instead of memorizing your answer, practice hitting key points. What points do you absolutely want to get across? What do you need the interviewer to know? How can you hit these points organically?
Remember: you want to attend this program. What genuinely excites you about it?
You may not get this exact question, so be prepared to rework your answer on the spot. You might be asked something like:
- Why do you want to attend our school over the other schools you applied to?
- What made you apply to our program?
- What values do you believe you share with our school?
Having key points in mind rather than a memorized script will help you evolve your answer on the fly to suit how the question is worded and how the rest of the interview has gone so far.
As you practice answering interview questions, try different versions of a similar answer to get more comfortable adapting your response.
Practice With Mock Interviews
Mock interviews provide an opportunity to put your interview skills to the test in an environment and format that simulates interview day. Med School Insiders offers mock interviews with former interviewers who will provide you with direct, insightful feedback on your performance.
We also offer a comprehensive course on How to Ace the Medical School Interview that gives thorough and thoughtful training that covers the entire interview process. We’ve painstakingly covered everything you need to know, from your packing checklist to thank you notes to body language to example answers, and much more.