How to manage stress during medical school interviews

In this article, Dr. Brophy will share 11 key points on how to manage stress during medical school interviews.

1. Be prepared for your interview. The more you are aware of how prepared you are, the more confident you will feel on the interview day. This may include practicing mock interviews, filming yourself, having experienced others critique you, and using resources prepared by your school.

2. Know yourself and how your stress and anxiety manifest. Deal with those manifestations as soon as possible. If you are a worrier, you should plan your activities to reduce as much as you can ahead of time. Change what you can, have a plan if you cannot. Having said that, maintaining a healthy level of stress can enhance one’s performance. It is the same for sport competitions, and it takes practice.

3. Practice adjusting your stress level in a short period of time. More and more schools are adopting the multiple mini interviews, and you may get thrown into a situation that provokes strong emotions to the point that you cannot think clearly and communicate coherently. You need lots of tough practice interviews to become aware of your emotions and control them effectively. Practice deep breathing, short personal mantra/self talk.

4. DO NOT compare yourself to others. It will only make you feel more stressed as people tend to focus on comparing your weaknesses to others’ strengths.

5. DO NOT talk to or hang around those at the interview who cause you to get more stressed. This is slightly different from residency interviews where you have to be social (we will discuss residency interviews at a later date).

6. It is almost always a wise idea to not answer right away. Take a deep breath to collect your thoughts and plan your answer coherently. Once again, practice makes perfect.

7. Have some questions prepared for the interviewers that can help highlight different parts about yourself in case you did not get a chance to talk about them earlier in the interview.

8. Be proud you are even there for an interview. Many others didn’t get offered an interview! Yes, you can still get in with only one interview!

9. If you are doing the multiple mini interviews, have a routine to reset and refocus in between each stations, regardless of how “good or bad” you may have perceived the previous station to have gone (ie. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, mantra/self talk). Easier said than done, this takes a lot of practice, and you want your routine to work when it counts!

10. Do something fun and/or meaningful the day before, eat well and rest well (especially the days before in case you have trouble sleeping the night before).

11. Do something to celebrate right afterwards!

Managing stress shouldn’t be solely focused on before and during interviews. It is a life-long skill for one to learn and hopefully master. Your will encounter many more stressful situations in your future medical career, and your medical school interview is only the start. Best of luck!