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Interview question: "tell me about your family?" - what are they looking for?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Nafis64, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. Nafis64

    Nafis64 5+ Year Member

    May 19, 2009
    So I see people get asked this question alot. But I am curious what they actually want to know from this question? I think it is just a plaing question to get to know you, but maye they are looking for more.

    I can say a lot of things about my family. Some of it is in my AMCAS app already. So, where does one start? and is there something one can say that might be bad?

    Should it be tied to wanting to go into medicine somehow?

    Do you talk about the past experiences or the current state.
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  3. lovemesomeTJ


    Dec 30, 2009
    They're trying to get a head count of who's going to be at the white coat ceremony.

    Don't think too much about this question, just answer it. If your family had no influence whatsoever on your decision to go into medicine, then how can you tie that into wanting to go to medical school? On the other hand, if they were the ones to pressure you into it and you felt pressured into it, then I would leave that out. And reconsider going to the interview all together.

    But seriously, don't stress. No one can describe you or your experiences better than you, so just answer the question thoughtfully and give them a real sense of how you grew up and who you grew up with.
  4. obgyny

    obgyny 10+ Year Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    I'm actually curious about this myself... are they looking for something like, "I have 2 brothers, one older, one younger. My father is a [insert occupation] and my mother is [insert occupation]... etc etc" or something else?

    My family is... complicated, to say the least... so I'm not sure what I would say other than something like I wrote above.
  5. ThaliaNox

    ThaliaNox 2+ Year Member

    Oct 18, 2008
    Honestly, this question is usually asked near the beginning of the interview as a fishing trip. It's a combination of trying to get a sense of the kind of home you grew up in and since so many applicants come from physician families, trying to see if you were pressured into medicine. It's a springboard question, and it can go wherever you want it to.
  6. J ROD

    J ROD Watch my TAN walk!! Rocket Scientist Physician Pharmacist Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Aug 1, 2005
    working on my tan......
    it helps form an impression of you. You are a reflection of the environment you grew up in. It can help or hurt being on what you say.....
  7. boaz

    boaz shanah alef 7+ Year Member

    Dec 31, 2007
    bachelor pad
    They just want to get to know you as a person. Your family forms a big part of who you are, so this question is a good way of getting to know you.
  8. FloatOn

    FloatOn 2+ Year Member

    May 26, 2009
    I think be honest without getting into too much personal detail. Parent(s) and occupations. Sibling(s), ages, what they're doing in life (blah major at Blah University), how you get along, their personalities, etc. Make it conversational.
  9. flip26

    flip26 2+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    Softball question. Hit it out of the park.

    Seriously, I only wished some interviewer had asked me easy questions like this one.

    FWIW - I left all of the family info on AMCAS blank. I didn't put down anything.

    A couple of secondaries ask for specifics about parents (occupation, etc.).
  10. lovemesomeTJ


    Dec 30, 2009
    Why come?
  11. flip26

    flip26 2+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    Cuz I thought it was totally irrelevant to my app and invasive.

    And I knew that schools will ask for that stuff on their secondaries if they consider it important (and you can't say "but I put that on the AMCAS" - you have to repeat a lot of stuff, including your class grades, on many secondaries).

    And it is optional.

    I didn't fill out any optional information on the AMCAS. Like on listing activities, I put the bare minimum - for ECs, I did not list the names of contacts, or their address, or phone numbers...I described the activity in a few words, where I did it (e.g., hospital, surgery suite, wherever), and moved on.
  12. alibai3ah

    alibai3ah 5+ Year Member

    Aug 24, 2008
    My interpretation of this question is that they are trying to see if anyone else in your family is in the service field? Or what they do?

    When my interviewer asked me what they did, she was like "I'm glad to hear your sister is a teacher...she's helping people similar to you".

    It could also just be a question trying to gauge how close you are with your family. Or what influence they have had over you? I wouldn't worry about that question, just act naturally and you will be fine
  13. BBender716

    BBender716 Med school drop out! 2+ Year Member

    Jan 11, 2009
    I've also heard from a former adcom member they like to see if you have a good support network if med school ever gives you a hard time.
  14. TexasNicole


    Dec 10, 2009
    I think its mostly to kind of see how you grew up like some of the other people said.

    I had one interviewer who asked me this question, and then was really interested in where I got my work ethic- like from which parent. I would be careful when answering this question if you're like me and have a 'black sheep' sibling. I'm always really quick to say, and my brother blah blah school, sports, etc.... but we are really different...
  15. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    The parents occupations, etc section is interesting because it helps pick up applicants who are first generation of the family to attend college, being raised by a single parent, have physician(s) as parent (s), parents living in the area (even if the applicant's address is elsewhere). Applicants aren't penalized for not filling it out but the information provided there can help.
  16. obgyny

    obgyny 10+ Year Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    Briefly, my family situation:

    Well my parents divorced when I was 7, and I moved back and forth between living with mother and father several times (some of it was not my choice, some of it was). I was technically raised by a single parent up until they each remarried someone else when I was much older (so now I have a lot of step family). My father is a banker, my mother lives off of social security (disability) due to a stroke she had (but currently works at a grocery store) and lives across the country. My older brother works at a dry cleaner's (dropped out of college), my younger brother is autistic and completely dependent on people. Only my father and I finished college. My parents are polar opposites, so growing up with each of them was very different (personality wise/money wise).

    So I didn't really have the picture perfect childhood, but I think some of these things made me stronger and the person I am today. But would this reflect badly on me since I didn't grow up in a picture perfect environment? I feel like some of this would all be too much information/too personal to say during an interview or to write about in a secondary.
  17. circulus vitios

    circulus vitios 7+ Year Member

    Jul 18, 2008
    The details of my life are quite inconsequential... very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds- pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum... it's breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it.
  18. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 7, 2005

    On the contrary, your life experiences are of value in understanding people who are different than yourself and your knowledge can be passed on to other classmastes to make all of you better at caring for people.
  19. sewcurious

    sewcurious I'm not obsessed... 2+ Year Member

    Apr 18, 2008
  20. URHere

    URHere Physician PhD 10+ Year Member

    Nov 20, 2007
    Personally, I have always hated this question. I understand that it can be used to gauge how "diverse" an applicant is, or whether or not they have been coached and pushed towards a medical career...but this question is usually just awkward. Sometimes, it's even offensive.

    When I interviewed at one school, no less than three interviewers asked me this only to expound on how disadvantaged my background was when I told them that I was a first generation student from a family of cops, military men, and day laborers. I have never felt disadvantaged by my background, and I would be lying if I said that those interviewers didn't ruffle my feathers a little bit.
  21. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    At some schools, 75% of the students have a parent (or two) with a professional degree (medicine, law, clergy, ). Diversity in the student body is important and by diversity we mean not only race but personal experiences of all knids. So, although it may seem intrusive or awkward, the interviewers were, no doubt, excited to find someone who is a rare bird among applicants, someone with real world experience outside of the upper middle class surburban bubbble.
  22. cardiology88


    Dec 9, 2009
    I hate this question. Not only is my father a physician but so are my siblings. Sure they had an influence on me but the reason I am applying to medical school is not because of parental pressure. No matter what I tell the interviewer I can tell he sees me as the stereotypical applicant whose only doing this because of his parents. That combined with the fact I am asian really works against me.
  23. The Poet Sings

    The Poet Sings 5+ Year Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    Far from home :-)
    or you can make it work for you because you know what the entire life of a physician looks like. how their work life and personal life work together.
  24. Nafis64

    Nafis64 5+ Year Member

    May 19, 2009
    Thanks for the help, I guess I will just answer it honestly. Except my thinking was trying to tie it into medicine somehow.... I am kinda first generation in that my older sibling graduated from college only. Parents don't have college degrees, work regular jobs. I don't mind sharing information about them, but I was not sure if somehow I need to further explain my reasoning for medicine. or should i just wait until they ask me the next question, lol. Why medicine?
  25. obgyny

    obgyny 10+ Year Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    If your family didn't have to do with your motivation to go into medicine, I don't see any reason why you would have to tie the family question into medicine. Sounds like they're just trying to paint a picture of you. For me, my parents had nothing to do with my decision to go into medicine, it was actually my younger autistic brother.
  26. Nafis64

    Nafis64 5+ Year Member

    May 19, 2009
    My reason for medicine is a culmination of many experiences and interactions and many to do with my family of course, but i was trying to see if I should emphasize those immediately or give a rough overview of my family. Normally you give an overview for somehow who asks, but this is a medical interview so i was just wondering maybe they are looking for you to tie it in to your motivations or something. but i can see now to just play it simple until further specific asked.
  27. bannie22

    bannie22 Hero 7+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2009
    dont understand why ppl wud freak out over a normal question in a normal conversation. count urself lucky u dunt have to do MMIs.
  28. Hirudo

    Hirudo 2+ Year Member

    Jun 21, 2009
    One of my interviewers could not believe that neither of my parents went to college (heck, my dad didn't even finish high school). I thought this was a lot more common, and the fact that she felt I was making such an outrageous claim about my poor old folks made me feel a little ashamed.

    Apart from that, I liked the family question. I got to talk about how cool I thought my older brother was.
  29. Bacchus

    Bacchus Administrator Moderator Physician 10+ Year Member

    Apr 27, 2007
    You aren't alone. I too am a first generation college graduate in my entire collective family (maternal/paternal sides). I was never asked about family, although I think it would have shown my strength to want this. I could have dropped out of HS (dad), got a GED (mom), or went to a vocational school (brother) but I chugged along and am where I am now. Don't overthink it; read LizzyM's posts above. Schools are looking for diversity, and as she said its not solely in the form of race, ethnicity, etc. Our lives are different than many others, we have gone through things others haven't. This doesn't make us better, it makes us different and shows some resiliency when we could have just fallen away. We didn't have to necessarily work harder, but we did have to work differently. We held jobs since 16 (as have many on this board), paid for things others don't have to. Hell, my cost of attendance is more than my parents make combined in a given year. It just gives us a different perspective, ya know? My parents didn't drive me into medicine, actually they often questioned my thoughts on the matter...stressed the financial aspect...gave me alternatives. Yet, gotta thank them for so much.
  30. Morsetlis

    Morsetlis I wish I were a dentist 7+ Year Member

    Jan 22, 2010
    The "Garden" State
    Luckily for you, you qualify for these cool things called "scholarships" and "financial aid".

    My close friend home high school is still on a golf scholarship that requires 1 day of work a week that pays for his entire college tuition.
  31. LadyLightning20

    LadyLightning20 7+ Year Member

    May 26, 2007
    This question can be a double-edged sword - regardless of whether you get caught on the "parents pushing me to be a doc" or the other side.

    I was told that I need to be careful about dispelling the "parents driving me into medicine" myth in my case, particularly because my EC's list does sort of make me come across as a neurotic Asian and my mother is a doc.

    So when asked the "tell me about your family" question, I didn't even mention that she was a doc - I said that my mother was an incredibly wise woman because when I was a teenager, I told her I wanted to be a novelist. And even though I am sure she thought "OH MY GOD MY KID IS GOING TO BE A STARVING ARTIST" she just told me that I should start writing. I did. I produced 200 pages of what might possibly be the worst novel on the face of the earth. And I realized that I didn't really want to write novels after all. After that I started getting into science and, hey, look at me now, I'm applying MD/PhD.

    I possibly should have picked up on the fact that my interviewer (a Korean woman) was looking sour, but I didn't. This is how the interview ended:

    Me: so really, I had no pressure - I respected my mom a lot for letting me find my own path, and I think some of the best advice she ever gave me was to start writing.

    Interviewer: That's what I told my son. He's an English major now.

    Result: rejected!
  32. 298609

    298609 stimulus package

    Dec 8, 2009

  33. SilentSoldier

    SilentSoldier Woke up, flawless. Post up, flawless 7+ Year Member

    Jan 11, 2009
    Best Coast
    :laugh: wow, what a life :laugh:
  34. 4X4MD


    Feb 24, 2010
    if you dont mind me asking, what school was this?
  35. Superman DO

    Superman DO Oh crap, I'm really a doctor? 5+ Year Member

    Nov 16, 2009
    I have 5 brothers and 3 sisters, and grew up in a small town in Western North Carolina. . .my interviewer and I had a lot to talk about when I was asked to tell him about my family =)

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