ElCapone

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A thousand apologies if this has been asked before, but why do many applicants (especially those at Top 20 schools) fail to make it past the interview?

Is it a lack of social skills? Or something else?
 

Doudline

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It's not that many "fail to make it past interview" moreso than most schools interviewing 2-5 times more people than they have spots for, and therefore a selection has to be made even among the good interviewees, I think?
 
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BurghMed

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I'm honestly just not sure that your statement above relies on much evidence. But, if the question is changed to "why are there qualified applicants from top 20 schools that fail to make it past the interview," then I would say that yes, you're partially right, that it's a lack of social skills for many (and simply many people have to be waitlisted, no matter their school). I know a number of people who on paper are academic monsters, but struggle to look people in the eye and/or have scripted and strange answers to why medicine, why this school, or tell me about yourself. Schools are now angling for more normal, gregarious people with prospective bedside manners, rather than 100% academic all-stars.
 

StudyLater

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Because they invite about 5x as many people to interview as can be accepted. I mean, that's the quantitative answer to your question. Unless you meant something else.
 
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ElCapone

ElCapone

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I know a number of people who on paper are academic monsters, but struggle to look people in the eye and/or have scripted and strange answers to why medicine, why this school, or tell me about yourself.
Maybe it's because of the college I attend, but I find it hard to believe that there are so many academic all-stars who also have poor social skills. I would figure that the volunteer and community service requirements for med school would hammer out social awkwardness.

Because they invite about 5x as many people to interview as can be accepted. I mean, that's the quantitative answer to your question. Unless you meant something else.
That's what I thought at first, but they only invite people who are interesting and have good backgrounds. Maybe it's something else, or am I just overthinking this?
 

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It's not that many "fail to make it past interview" moreso than most schools interviewing 2-5 times more people than they have spots for, and therefore a selection has to be made even among the good interviewees, I think?
This. Everyone who comes to interview at my school is qualified make it on paper, and barring a handful of people who do really poorly in the interview, the vast majority of them are perfectly competitive for a spot. But there are only so many spots, and many many many more qualified applicants than you'd think. Very few people crash and burn at the interview.
 
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Most candidates are not awkward, some are, but most are not. At the schools I have interviewed at only 1 of the 30 kids I have interviewed with was truly awkward. The interview is just to make sure you are normal/not a serial killer. It is just one component of the decision.
 

StudyLater

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That's what I thought at first, but they only invite people who are interesting and have good backgrounds. Maybe it's something else, or am I just overthinking this?
Well, I mean, not everyone has some awesome story to tell. Some are literally just straight up average with nothing super notable to speak of, unless you're talking top 20. But even then, there'd be a decent amount of "regulars."
 

LizzyM

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Maybe it's because of the college I attend, but I find it hard to believe that there are so many academic all-stars who also have poor social skills. I would figure that the volunteer and community service requirements for med school would hammer out social awkwardness.



That's what I thought at first, but they only invite people who are interesting and have good backgrounds.
Schools interview more applicants than necessary because it is so hard to narrow the field. It is amazingly difficult. So you interview as many as possible given the resources you have (willing faculty to do interviews, rooms available for interviews (not every faculty member has a private office on campus), students available to give tours). The other reason to interview more than you have room for it that it is not unusual to make two to four offers for every seat filled. People do turn down Harvard to go to Hopkins and vice versa. And every school wants to have a bit of a waiting list to protect against the possibility of a year with low enrollment.

Overall, in my experience, only about 10% of the applicants who make it to interview are declined admission due to social awkwardness, bad attitude, or being clueless. The rest are admitted or waitlisted. Some schools may decline some of these qualified and capable applicants with the philosophy that it better to cut people loose than to string them along on the waitlist for six months or more when it is very unlikely that the waitlist will ever move enough to make a space for them.
 
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StudyLater

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Schools interview more applicants than necessary because it is so hard to narrow the field. It is amazingly difficult. So you interview as many as possible given the resources you have (willing faculty to do interviews, rooms available for interviews (not every faculty member has a private office on campus), students available to give tours. The other reason to interview more than you have room for it that it is not unusual to make two to four offers for every seat filled. People do turn down Harvard to go to Hopkins and vice versa. And every school wants to have a bit of a waiting list to protect against the possibility of a year with low enrollment.

Overall, in my experience, only about 10% of the applicants who make it to interview are declined admission due to social awkwardness, bad attitude, or being clueless. The rest are admitted or waitlisted. Some schools may decline some of these qualified and capable applicants with the philosophy that it better to cut people loose than to string them along on the waitlist for six months or more when it is very unlikely that the waitlist will ever move enough to make a space for them.
Thanks Lizzy. That's actually way better chances than I thought.

I can now interview with confidence.
 

Goro

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At my school, I'd say we waitlist about 25% of the candidates, outright rejections are rare (out of, say 50 candidates, maybe 1 will get a rejection. This actually takes some work to do!)

And yes, rejectees are quite bereft of social skills, and/or intellect and/or emotional. I've written elsewhere what it takes to merit an outright rejection at interview.

A thousand apologies if this has been asked before, but why do many applicants (especially those at Top 20 schools) fail to make it past the interview?

Is it a lack of social skills? Or something else?
 

StudyLater

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Wow. Didn't know the chances were so damn good. I was assuming I should expect like 20% going in.
 
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solitarius

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Interview is rarely a make-or-break unless you totally screw up.

So your whole app-interview combo is competing against some stiff competition.

Throw in some fit with school mission/yield mgmt/adcoms fighting for certain applicants ===> tough outcomes.

But it's totally worth it. MD at a solid school is clearly the apex of graduate school anywhere. What we learn and what resources they invest in us is just unbelievable.
 
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Interview is rarely a make-or-break unless you totally screw up.

So your whole app-interview combo is competing against some stiff competition.

Throw in some fit with school mission/yield mgmt/adcoms fighting for certain applicants ===> tough outcomes.

But it's totally worth it. MD at a solid school is clearly the apex of graduate school anywhere. What we learn and what resources they invest in is just unbelievable.
The difference between acceptance and waitlist usually comes down to the interviews. As slowly as waitlists have moved lately, I'd venture a somewhat different opinion.
 
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solitarius

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The difference between acceptance and waitlist usually comes down to the interviews. As slowly as waitlists have moved lately, I'd venture a somewhat different opinion.
Outside of the MMI, I guess I just have a hard time believing that many people knock it out of the park for interviews. Also subscribing to the 'Ladder Theory.'
 
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gyngyn

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Outside of the MMI, I guess I just have a hard time believing that many people knock it out of the park for interviews. Also subscribing to the 'Ladder Theory.'
We only interview folks whose applications look great. After an interview is granted, it becomes the major variable.
It may be different at other places. Our screening is pretty serious.
 
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gyngyn

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From your experience, what aspect of the interview is the deciding factor between accepting or waitlisting someone?
Communications skills, interpersonal skills, teamwork and sparkle factor.
We're going to need these guys to get great residencies shortly.
PD 's really care about these qualities and we can't teach them.
 
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Goro

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I agree with gyngyn. Interviews do make or break you...it's just that for most people, if you set foot on campus for the interview, the odds are decently in your favor. Se my post on "guide to interviews" on how one can bomb an interview. Just one example, taken from our wise gyngyn: being rude to staff.


Interview is rarely a make-or-break unless you totally screw up.

So your whole app-interview combo is competing against some stiff competition.

Throw in some fit with school mission/yield mgmt/adcoms fighting for certain applicants ===> tough outcomes.

But it's totally worth it. MD at a solid school is clearly the apex of graduate school anywhere. What we learn and what resources they invest in is just unbelievable.
 
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gonnif

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And it has been said previously in this post. Schools interview a large multiple of their available seats. Some schools, like Columbia, have formal limits on how many interviews may be held per seat (9x).
 

musicalfeet

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I agree with gyngyn. Interviews do make or break you...it's just that for most people, if you set foot on campus for the interview, the odds are decently in your favor. Se my post on "guide to interviews" on how one can bomb an interview. Just one example, taken from our wise gyngyn: being rude to staff.
Out of curiosity...how much work is it to put on an interview day? At my first interview, I have to admit I was amazed how all the adcoms and staff/students of the medical school volunteered their time and got together and to organize the ENTIRE interview day. Not only that, but they are going to be doing this multiple times throughout the year! That realization made me feel extremely grateful that any adcom committee is willing to set up the entire day for interviewees, instead of just calling them in to do an hour interview and then kicking them out. They really do try to make the day comfortable!
 
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gyngyn

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Out of curiosity...how much work is it to put on an interview day? At my first interview, I have to admit I was amazed how all the adcoms and staff/students of the medical school volunteered their time and got together and to organize the ENTIRE interview day. Not only that, but they are going to be doing this multiple times throughout the year! That realization made me feel extremely grateful that any adcom committee is willing to set up the entire day for interviewees, instead of just calling them in to do an hour interview and then kicking them out. They really do try to make the day comfortable!
Interview day is like planning a wedding. Several times a month.
 

musicalfeet

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Interview day is like planning a wedding. Several times a month.
How is any committee not tempted to just group all the interviewees together, interview them, and then say "BYE!"? I bet it'd totally work too...especially in high demand areas like CA since it's a total seller's market...ha..ha..
 

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How is any committee not tempted to just group all the interviewees together, interview them, and then say "BYE!"? I bet it'd totally work too...especially in high demand areas like CA since it's a total seller's market...ha..ha..
We're all trying to get the ones we want!
 
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Ismet

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How is any committee not tempted to just group all the interviewees together, interview them, and then say "BYE!"? I bet it'd totally work too...especially in high demand areas like CA since it's a total seller's market...ha..ha..
The applicant is interviewing the school too. Part of the interview day is to show you the school, let you interact with some people, see if you might like it there.
 

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I've heard @Goro say that applicants interview for a seat, not the same seat; theoertically, this means 10/10 of interviewees in a session can be admitted, right? When decisions are made, does it rest mostly on the interview then? Or would an applicant would a (comparatively) less impressive paper application have to shine more brightly than his/her peers during the interview?
 

gyngyn

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The applicant is interviewing the school too. Part of the interview day is to show you the school, let you interact with some people, see if you might like it there.
Exactly. The most competitive schools in the nation are recruiting these candidates.
 

gyngyn

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I've heard @Goro say that applicants interview for a seat, not the same seat; theoertically, this means 10/10 of interviewees in a session can be admitted, right? When decisions are made, does it rest mostly on the interview then? Or would an applicant would a (comparatively) less impressive paper application have to shine more brightly than his/her peers during the interview?
At the end of last year's cycle some of the best looking candidates (on paper) were holding no acceptances.
Right now all candidates being interviewed can be accepted.
 
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mikil100

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What confuses me is the group of people who aren't bereft of social skills, have a decent "average" interview, and get wait listed, while others don't.

Picking an arbitrary number, say 150 slots, and the school interviews 900. From what I've read, schools typically send out twice as many acceptances as they can fill, so that's a 30% acceptance rate assuming you're offered an interview. 70% seems like a rather large number if there are few socially inept people, and otherwise competitive applicants. It scares me to think what kind of minor details could ruin an interviewee with these numbers. Then again, I am just a neurotic premed who's about to interview...

edit: math
 

StudyLater

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The applicant is interviewing the school too.
I'll qualify that comment with "if his/her MCAT is >=90th percentile, GPA >=3.8, and awesome ECs."

Otherwise, be grateful your lowly, sullen countenance has been requested to behold the glory of our med school.
 
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LizzyM

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What confuses me is the group of people who aren't bereft of social skills, have a decent "average" interview, and get wait listed, while others don't.

Picking an arbitrary number, say 150 slots, and the school interviews 900. From what I've read, schools typically send out twice as many acceptances as they can fill, so that's a 30% acceptance rate assuming you're offered an interview. 70% seems like a rather large number if there are few socially inept people, and otherwise competitive applicants. It scares me to think what kind of minor details could ruin an interviewee with these numbers. Then again, I am just a neurotic premed who's about to interview...

edit: math
The multiplier might be 2 or it might be 3.5. Some schools are required (or strongly expected) to interview almost all the instate applicants and therefore may have a 3:1 ratio of interviewed to admitted but other schools may be more selective in offering interviews and more generous in offering admission knowing that to catch a few big fish they will need to be aggressive as there is a lot of competition for those big ones. Then you hold a good waitlist knowing that many of those waitlisters are getting in somewhere and will drop off your waitlist but you need that safety net because under-enrollment is not good (and not fair to anyone who was a good candidate but not a first round pick).

This is why one is advised to apply broadly. Of course, everyone applying broadly is, in part, responsible for this mess. Our average admitted applicant has four offers. That would suggest that each school in the pool needs to make ~4 offers to fill one seat. Of course, some schools may have better yields or make strategic decisions to improve their yield while others will throw offers at applicants unlikely to say yes but "hey, you have to try".
 
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GrapesofRath

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Schools interview more applicants than necessary because it is so hard to narrow the field. It is amazingly difficult. So you interview as many as possible given the resources you have (willing faculty to do interviews, rooms available for interviews (not every faculty member has a private office on campus), students available to give tours). The other reason to interview more than you have room for it that it is not unusual to make two to four offers for every seat filled. People do turn down Harvard to go to Hopkins and vice versa. And every school wants to have a bit of a waiting list to protect against the possibility of a year with low enrollment.

Overall, in my experience, only about 10% of the applicants who make it to interview are declined admission due to social awkwardness, bad attitude, or being clueless. The rest are admitted or waitlisted. Some schools may decline some of these qualified and capable applicants with the philosophy that it better to cut people loose than to string them along on the waitlist for six months or more when it is very unlikely that the waitlist will ever move enough to make a space for them.
So for your school does that mean that only 10% aren't admitted because the interview went poorly or are more than 10% not admitted largely due to a mediocre interview. In other words, are those 10% you are citing are just people who do so poorly in it that it's almost an automatic reject no matter what and they are the extreme cases and that more than 10% of people are negatively impacted by an interview?

I guess another way of phrasing this is for the remaining 90% admitted or waitlisted you talked about in your experience what do you think most commonly distinguishes the accepted from the waitlisted; what is it what's on their paper application(ie stats, ECs, secondaries, LORs etc) or the quality of their interview ranging from excellent, to average to mediocre(again this is for the 90% not the 10% you said are denied due to being clueless or bad attitude)? I know this is overly simplifying things greatly but I think whatever answer you give even if it's not possible to index specifically " I think another 20% are negatively affected by their interview" as an ex, would still provide alot of helpful insight.
 
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LizzyM

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So for your school does that mean that only 10% aren't admitted because the interview went poorly or are more than 10% not admitted largely due to a mediocre interview. In other words, are those 10% you are citing are just people who do so poorly in it that it's almost an automatic reject no matter what and they are the extreme cases and that more than 10% of people are negatively impacted by an interview?

I guess another way of phrasing this is for the remaining 90% admitted or waitlisted you talked about in your experience what do you think most commonly distinguishes the accepted from the waitlisted; what is it what's on their paper application(ie stats, ECs, secondaries, LORs etc) or the quality of their interview ranging from excellent, to average to mediocre(again this is for the 90% not the 10% you said are denied due to being clueless or bad attitude)? I know this is overly simplifying things greatly but I think whatever answer you give even if it's not possible to index specifically " I think another 20% are negatively affected by their interview" as an ex, would still provide alot of helpful insight.
You've heard my analogy of the wide staircase with multiple people on each stair, right? Sometimes someone has a less than stellar interview (however not so bad that it is an automatic reject) but the grades, scores, ECs, essays, etc are good enough to keep them high enough on the staircase to garner an offer. Sometimes it is the interview that is okay but not excellent in an otherwise excellent applicant while someone else had an equally good application but an exceptional interview showing creativity, curiosity, critical thinking skills, empathy, etc. If we can take 40% of those who are interviewed the top 35% sort themselves out easily and it is the next 10% where the hard decisions are made. At some schools it might be a more strict, "by the numbers" situation where the application and interview are scored in some manner and the cuts are made sharply with little discussion of the applicants at the edges.
 
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GrapesofRath

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You've heard my analogy of the wide staircase with multiple people on each stair, right? Sometimes someone has a less than stellar interview (however not so bad that it is an automatic reject) but the grades, scores, ECs, essays, etc are good enough to keep them high enough on the staircase to garner an offer. Sometimes it is the interview that is okay but not excellent in an otherwise excellent applicant while someone else had an equally good application but an exceptional interview showing creativity, curiosity, critical thinking skills, empathy, etc. If we can take 40% of those who are interviewed the top 35% sort themselves out easily and it is the next 10% where the hard decisions are made. At some schools it might be a more strict, "by the numbers" situation where the application and interview are scored in some manner and the cuts are made sharply with little discussion of the applicants at the edges.
I actually had not ever heard of this analogy before but it makes everything alot more clear, thank you. I guess the interesting question here I also wanted to ask based off what you said is are there examples where people can have rather strong interviews but if there are other concerns about them that still will lead to a waitlist? Or does a strong interview usually(with some exceptions of course nothing is 100% absolute) seal the deal for an acceptance given how hard it is to even get an interview?
 

gonnif

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It also must be noted that:

There are 130+ medical schools
Adcoms are not monolithic across medical schools
Adcom members are not monolithic within a committee
Adcom dynamics may differ slightly year to year in focus, emphasis, and direction
Applicant pool composition may differ slightly year to year
The direct interaction between any applicant and interviewer at anytime will be different than another pairing

There is also another adcom dynamic that should be mentioned . Most applicants assume that the adcom looks at your application (for interview) and then application/interview (for acceptance) and is making an independent yes/no decision solely on that candidate. It actually is a bit fuzzier than that as the adcom is whittling all the applications into "piles" or "stratum." And this "fuzzy stratum" allows adcoms at each step to put you in pile of say "outstanding". "above average" etc. These piles will further be reduced with applicants who decide not to interview, get acceptance elsewhere, etc. Each pile is not an exact number but a range of about "X". So at they end if they are trying to fill 100 seats the have about 300 acceptance sent out. Maybe one year it is 280, the next its 325. With applicants accepting elsewhere and the rest, filling from the next "waitlist" pile (which also have applicants moving to other schools), they get down to their number. Having a few matriculating over the target number isnt a big issue to address in the 4 years of medical school.
 
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Spector1

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Most candidates are not awkward, some are, but most are not. At the schools I have interviewed at only 1 of the 30 kids I have interviewed with was truly awkward. The interview is just to make sure you are normal/not a serial killer. It is just one component of the decision.
if that was all, I would think interviews would be much easier.