Interviews: the View From Behind the Curtain

Goro

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I just answered a PM and my correspondent, who just had an interview asked " ...I saw what looked like a grading rubric... is it possible that you are literally evaluated on paper? But have you heard of such a thing?
Also what's with the note taking? Like what gets written down exactly?"

With interviews, the interviewer does have a score sheet. Questions for the interviewee might be written down on them as well. Without going into too much detail, we score interviewees on their ability think, talk and to listen. We also give them an overall final score.

We write down notes about both good and bad things interviewees say do (like "babbling idiot"; "didn't answer Joe's question"; "really articulate"; "great answer!"). We also might jot something down to prompt a follow-up question. When we're done, we write our final summaries on the candidates (the more we write, the better for our wily old Admissions Dean when he discusses the outcome with our Dean, who is the Ultimate Decider.


"So is there a certain weight that's given to these scores? "
At our score it's just the one that's called "Overall Ranking". This is averaged with those of the other interviewers. You need a certain number to be accepted. Even then, candidates do come up for discussion at times in the Adcom meeting. My score may be very divergent from the other interviewers (Drs X and Y and student Z), and one of us will want it to be straightened out, one way or another in the meeting.

So is it pass or fail? Or does having a very strong interview help you "beat" other applicants who have slightly better apps who had average interviews only?

With all due respect to my young correspondent, this notion that one interviewee is competing for one seat against other candidates (like tenure candidates at Yale) is 100% NOT true! We don't ration seats; it's always you competing against yourself.

The scoring system more like boxing or Olympic gymnastics. You are judged by several different people. The total scores determine your fate.

But even that is not absolute. For example, let's say that I may love you and give you a 10/10, but X, Y and Z might give you a 7, 5 and 2. That's an average of 6 (24/4 = 6). You need a 7 or more to be accepted, while and a 3 or worse would be rejected. So the Admissions dean now lists you as "wait list".

In the Adcom meeting, I argue that the candidate was a great kid, strong upward trend, decent MCAT, yada yada, etc etc. Y is also at the meeting, but his argument doesn't carry as much weight amongst the Adcom. X and Z didn't come to the meeting, and all we have are their notes to go on, and there's nothing damning among them. So I sway the committee to move the candidate to "Accept" status.

Here's a different scenario: Despite all interviewers loving you, the Dean has concerns about your GPA. The Dean loves high GPAs. So he overrules the committee, and onto the waitlist you go.

Capeesh?
 
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NYCdude

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How much time do you spend discussing one applicant at the committee meeting?
 
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efle

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How representative do you think your admission committees' process is of other schools (both other DO and MD)? Does pretty much everyone use this system?
 

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Not all applicants are discussed. Usually most have nice, uncontroversial numbers that are either Accept, Wait List, or Reject. We do respect our colleagues judgments most of the time; after all, they were in the interview room and we weren't.

The most amount of time gets spent when there are discordant scores, and both interviewers are in the room. The worst are when someone gets a 0 and a 10! It happens!

How much time do you spend discussing one applicant at the committee meeting?

I believe that from posts by @LizzyM, @hushcom, and @gyngyn that their schools are similar. Keep in mind that they're up in the stratosphere. I will defer to my learned colleagues pending my always imperfect memory, of course. And naturally, panel interviews and MMIs will have variable numbers of interviewers, compared to the standard 1:1 style.

A number of my colleagues have been on Faculty at other DO schools, and they've reported that their Adcom meetings are similar (or at the minimum, just as contentious). At a few schools, the Dean doesn't get to alter the Adcom's decision.

How representative do you think your admission committees' process is of other schools (both other DO and MD)? Does pretty much everyone use this system?
 
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Since the holidays just passed by and they aired all simpsons christmas specials...
 
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What role to the adcoms who did not interview the applicant play at the meeting?

I assume they read the file as well (perhaps not in as much depth given time constraints).
 

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They get to vote, if a vote is needed. Often the non-interviewers are the ones who pick up on the discordant scores and ask for clarification.

Our students on the committee who didn't vote may also pass along info from the student tour guides, like "this person was really trashing the school during the tour" or "this applicant was acting inappropriately during the tour".

What role to the adcoms who did not interview the applicant play at the meeting?

I assume they read the file as well (perhaps not in as much depth given time constraints).
 
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gyngyn

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Not all applicants are discussed. Usually most have nice, uncontroversial numbers that are either Accept, Wait List, or Reject. We do respect our colleagues judgments most of the time; after all, they were in the interview room and we weren't.

The most amount of time gets spent when there are discordant scores, and both interviewers are in the room. The worst are when someone gets a 0 and a 10! It happens!



I believe that from posts by @LizzyM, @hushcom, and @gyngyn that their schools are similar. Keep in mind that they're up in the stratosphere. I will defer to my learned colleagues pending my always imperfect memory, of course. And naturally, panel interviews and MMIs will have variable numbers of interviewers, compared to the standard 1:1 style.

A number of my colleagues have been on Faculty at other DO schools, and they've reported that their Adcom meetings are similar (or at the minimum, just as contentious). At a few schools, the Dean doesn't get to alter the Adcom's decision.

How representative do you think your admission committees' process is of other schools (both other DO and MD)? Does pretty much everyone use this system?
Our meetings are quite similar! There are the easy evaluations: unanimous accept or majority decline. All the time is spent on discordant opinions.
 
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LizzyM

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At my school, most applicants are discussed for <20 seconds (the time it takes to say the applicant's name, note what a splendid/average/dreadful applicant this is and say ACCEPT/WAITLIST/DECLINE! or ) and in rare instances it takes more than 20 minutes. Those that take the longest often have poor grades & scores but good experiences and good interviews or fabulous grades & scores but little else and a split between an interviewer who thought the applicant was the cat's meow and the other interviewer was completely unimpressed.
 
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What portion of the final group of acceptees fall into each of those categories (unanimous accept vs debated)?
 

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Our students on the committee who didn't vote may also pass along info from the student tour guides, like "this person was really trashing the school during the tour" or "this applicant was acting inappropriately during the tour".
Oooooh this is really interesting. The student tour guides on all of my interviews specifically reassured us that they were not involved in the admissions process in any way, and we didn't need to worry about anything getting back to the admissions committee.

Obviously no one normal would start trashing the school after hearing that disclaimer, that's just dumb. You should behave as if you're being interviewed the entire time you're there. But if those tour guides are little spies ... that's not cool on principle :eyebrow:
 
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gyngyn

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. But if those tour guides are little spies ... that's not cool on principle :eyebrow:
They are not spies. They usually have nothing to say since it is the rare applicant who behaves like a jerk.
If you live in a close supportive environment, would you not be wary of a toxic element?
 
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jd989898

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Do the entire team of adcoms and the Dean read the personal statement, EC list, essays, and LORS? As a whole do they carry more weight than the interview?

Also, thank you to the adcoms who are giving out this information!!
 
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I think it would be quite entertaining if we were interviewed from behind a curtain.

EDIT: maybe that title should be "Interviews: the View From Behind the Curtain!"

I just answered a PM and my correspondent, who just had an interview asked " ...I saw what looked like a grading rubric... is it possible that you are literally evaluated on paper? But have you heard of such a thing?
Also what's with the note taking? Like what gets written down exactly?"

With interviews, the interviewer does have a score sheet. Questions for the interviewee might be written down on them as well. Without going into too much detail, we score interviewees on their ability think, talk and to listen. We also give them an overall final score.

We write down notes about both good and bad things interviewees say do (like "babbling idiot"; "didn't answer Joe's question"; "really articulate"; "great answer!"). We also might jot something down to prompt a follow-up question. When we're done, we write our final summaries on the candidates (the more we write, the better for our wily old Admissions Dean when he discusses the outcome with our Dean, who is the Ultimate Decider.


"So is there a certain weight that's given to these scores? "
At our score it's just the one that's called "Overall Ranking". This is averaged with those of the other interviewers. You need a certain number to be accepted. Even then, candidates do come up for discussion at times in the Adcom meeting. My score may be very divergent from the other interviewers (Drs X and Y and student Z), and one of us will want it to be straightened out, one way or another in the meeting.

So is it pass or fail? Or does having a very strong interview help you "beat" other applicants who have slightly better apps who had average interviews only?

With all due respect to my young correspondent, this notion that one interviewee is competing for one seat against other candidates (like tenure candidates at Yale) is 100% NOT true! We don't ration seats; it's always you competing against yourself.

The scoring system more like boxing or Olympic gymnastics. You are judged by several different people. The total scores determine your fate.

But even that is not absolute. For example, let's say that I may love you and give you a 10/10, but X, Y and Z might give you a 7, 5 and 2. That's an average of 6 (24/4 = 6). You need a 7 or more to be accepted, while and a 3 or worse would be rejected. So the Admissions dean now lists you as "wait list".

In the Adcom meeting, I argue that the candidate was a great kid, strong upward trend, decent MCAT, yada yada, etc etc. Y is also at the meeting, but his argument doesn't carry as much weight amongst the Adcom. X and Z didn't come to the meeting, and all we have are their notes to go on, and there's nothing damning among them. So I sway the committee to move the candidate to "Accept" status.

Here's a different scenario: Despite all interviewers loving you, the Dean has concerns about your GPA. The Dean loves high GPAs. So he overrules the committee, and onto the waitlist you go.

Capeesh?

So all interviewers are weighted equally? Even in cases of student interviews (which are supposedly more informal)? What if you have a senior faculty member interviewing you and a fresh-out-of-med-school doctor also interviewing you? Are their opinions treated as equally valid?
 
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Flintwire

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They are not spies. They usually have nothing to say since it is the rare applicant who behaves like a jerk.
If you live in a close supportive environment, would you not be wary of a toxic element?
Well, "spies" was a bit of hyperbole, and obviously no one wants to admit a jerk, but that wasn't the point.

If the tour guides didn't make a disclaimer, I'd have no issue with them reporting to the adcom. As a matter of fact, I'd expect it. But after they specifically say that they will not report back ... I just feel it's wrong on principle for them to give their impressions. If they want to do that, just don't make the disclaimer.
 
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Well, "spies" was a bit of hyperbole, and obviously no one wants to admit a jerk, but that wasn't the point.

If the tour guides didn't make a disclaimer, I'd have no issue with them reporting to the adcom. As a matter of fact, I'd expect it. But after they specifically say that they will not report back ... I just feel it's wrong on principle for them to give their impressions. If they want to do that, just don't make the disclaimer.
This is reasonable.
 
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LizzyM

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Well, "spies" was a bit of hyperbole, and obviously no one wants to admit a jerk, but that wasn't the point.

If the tour guides didn't make a disclaimer, I'd have no issue with them reporting to the adcom. As a matter of fact, I'd expect it. But after they specifically say that they will not report back ... I just feel it's wrong on principle for them to give their impressions. If they want to do that, just don't make the disclaimer.

It is very rare at my school for a tour guide to report to the adcom. In fact, in >10 years I can't recall ever hearing something passed along from a tour guide. I have had an office staff member and a Dean (not the Dean of admissions but another administrator who was passing through a public area where the applicants were gathered) report really rude behavior on the part of an applicant. Far less than 1 in 1000 interviewed applicants but it is the kiss of death.
 
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It is very rare at my school for a tour guide to report to the adcom. In fact, in >10 years I can't recall ever hearing something passed along from a tour guide. I have had an office staff member and a Dean (not the Dean of admissions but another administrator who was passing through a public area where the applicants were gathered) report really rude behavior on the part of an applicant. Far less than 1 in 1000 interviewed applicants but it is the kiss of death.
How rude?
 

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They are not spies. They usually have nothing to say since it is the rare applicant who behaves like a jerk.
If you live in a close supportive environment, would you not be wary of a toxic element?

Same at my school. We also have a program in which we can volunteer to host interviewees overnight. Nobody gets evaluated formally either during that or the tour, but if there's something egregious, we would probably report it to the adcom - it's happened once that I have heard of (for really bad behavior).
 
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LizzyM

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It is behavior so outrageous that you want to call the police or a psych consult. That's why it really has to be reported.

Not that rude but so rude that if they treated your mother that way, you'd slap them. Don't expect the staff to be your servants and don't act as if some people on staff are below you and should be treated accordingly.
 
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Goro

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This varies from week to week. Sometimes I may have an entire interviewee panel who are just 'meh". Yet the next time, they're all rock stars. I'd say some 25% of the pool of applicants under review get discussed in some way. Note: outright rejects are RARE!
What portion of the final group of acceptees fall into each of those categories (unanimous accept vs debated)?


Ditto. In 10+ years this has occurred maybe 2-3x. I believe that gyngyn once discussed a person who screamed at a parking attendant, while LizzyM mentioned someone who thought that the Admissions staff should be hanging up his coat for him.
Same at my school. We also have a program in which we can volunteer to host interviewees overnight. Nobody gets evaluated formally either during that or the tour, but if there's something egregious, we would probably report it to the adcom - it's happened once that I have heard of (for really bad behavior).


Yes. Our students actually are harder on the interviewees than the Faculty...my kids take their future colleagues very serious. I haven't noticed any difference in style or quality of a rookie faculty member vs one of us veterans. However, the Faculty hardasses tend to be the ones more often having their decisions ending up not to what they wanted....ie, we rescue more people from hardasses than we doom people who were accepted by softies.
So all interviewers are weighted equally? Even in cases of student interviews (which are supposedly more informal)? What if you have a senior faculty member interviewing you and a fresh-out-of-med-school doctor also interviewing you? Are their opinions treated as equally valid?


No, only the interviewers and the Dean. Nothing in a packet can save a poor interviewee, even a 4.0 GPA and 40 MCAT.
Do the entire team of adcoms and the Dean read the personal statement, EC list, essays, and LORS? As a whole do they carry more weight than the interview?

 
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I'm surprised anyone applying to medical school could be so arrogant and think they are above others.
 
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One piece of advice I will never forget is, "the moment you step on the campus, your interview has begun." Totally, changed my perspective.
 
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gyngyn

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Why do you think so many doctors have god complexes? :p
Do they?
In over 30 years as a practicing physician, I have found my colleagues to be among the kindest, most generous and pleasant of individuals. I am happy to be around them. I practice in an academic environment, surrounded by people dedicated to self improvement and helping others. I can't think of a group I'd be prouder to be part of.
 
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justadream

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At my school, most applicants are discussed for <20 seconds (the time it takes to say the applicant's name, note what a splendid/average/dreadful applicant this is and say ACCEPT/WAITLIST/DECLINE! or ) and in rare instances it takes more than 20 minutes. Those that take the longest often have poor grades & scores but good experiences and good interviews or fabulous grades & scores but little else and a split between an interviewer who thought the applicant was the cat's meow and the other interviewer was completely unimpressed.

In the instances in which the applicant is discussed for <20 seconds, who exactly is "discussing"? Just the person who interviewed the student?
 
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Do they?
In over 30 years as a practicing physician, I have found my colleagues to be among the kindest, most generous and pleasant of individuals. I am happy to be around them. I practice in an academic environment, surrounded by people dedicated to self improvement and helping others. I can't think of a group I'd be prouder to be part of.
This is awesome! I hope that 36yrs from now I will be saying the same thing.
 
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Goro

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Ditto my colleagues!!!

Do they?
In over 30 years as a practicing physician, I have found my colleagues to be among the kindest, most generous and pleasant of individuals. I am happy to be around them. I practice in an academic environment, surrounded by people dedicated to self improvement and helping others. I can't think of a group I'd be prouder to be part of.

It sound like the committee is formally moving through each name and basically going Yay or Nay. If a candidate didn't draw attention from one of the Adcom members at this point at my school, we wouldn't even consider the name...their fate would be automatic.
In the instances in which the applicant is discussed for <20 seconds, who exactly is "discussing"? Just the person who interviewed the student?


Every now and then an interviewer will mention that "the guy wrote a great PS" OR, this gal's PS was loaded with typos". PS's rarely have any effect on one fate at this point.

Where does the personal statement come into all of this?

This doesn't happen with my Adcom. I suspect at Lizzy's the Admissions Dean is going through each name expecting a quick "yay" or "nay".

In the instances in which the applicant is discussed for <20 seconds, who exactly is "discussing"? Just the person who interviewed the student?
 
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Ace Khalifa

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I appreciate the discussion so far. I would like to ask if it's bad for an applicant to stay rather quiet for the majority of the interview day. As in, being the opposite of the person who asks a million questions and the opposite of an arrogant a**hole.
 
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But after they specifically say that they will not report back ... I just feel it's wrong on principle for them to give their impressions. If they want to do that, just don't make the disclaimer.

It is very rare at my school for a tour guide to report to the adcom. In fact, in >10 years I can't recall ever hearing something passed along from a tour guide. I have had an office staff member and a Dean (not the Dean of admissions but another administrator who was passing through a public area where the applicants were gathered) report really rude behavior on the part of an applicant. Far less than 1 in 1000 interviewed applicants but it is the kiss of death.

Agree with LizzyM that it is really rare.

I gave tours for 3 years during med school, usually with one of my best friends. We always made the disclaimer that we weren't part of the admissions committee, etc, etc.

One time, there was an applicant who was so rude - to us, to the fellow applicants - we both agreed that this was something we couldn't let slide. This was one time out of three years of tours.

I don't really see an issue with that or feel bad about it, because this was behavior so outside the norm.

I'm also sure the admissions committee would have rejected the guy either way, because the feedback I got from the dean indicated he'd similarly rubbed everyone else wrong the rest of the day.
 
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Goro

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It's a question of degree. Some people are shy and retiring by nature. That's OK. But when it looks like it's actually painful for you to look me in the eye and answer my question, that might be a problem. Someone who just sits there like the proverbial bump on a log may have trouble interacting with peers or patients.

I appreciate the discussion so far. I would like to ask if it's bad for an applicant to stay rather quiet for the majority of the interview day. As in, being the opposite of the person who asks a million questions and the opposite of an arrogant a**hole.
 
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MrChance2

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In terms of what medical schools without a strong mission statement want an accepted student to accomplish for them here is my list in order of how much weight the potential accomplishment carries for the candidate. It is a tough list to make as many of them influence the others but how close am I?

1. Not cause trouble (be rude, just generally cause trouble for the administration, patients, hospital staff, and people they are around for 4 years, get arrested, get in trouble for cheating etc..)
2. Complete medical school.
3. Become a research professor at a major university
4. Pass the boards on the first try
5. Match into a notable residency
6. Get excellent board scores.
7. Match at all
8. Increase the schools undergrad GPA/MCAT stats
9. Get good clinical reviews
10. Get an excellent medical school GPA
11. Misc stuff (particularly charismatic, likely to do a lot of volunteer work, etc)


.
 

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It's a question of degree. Some people are shy and retiring by nature. That's OK. But when it looks like it's actually painful for you to look me in the eye and answer my question, that might be a problem. Someone who just sits there like the proverbial bump on a log may have trouble interacting with peers or patients.
Thanks, Goro! Don't worry, I'm always attentive and will speak when addressed. I'm just not that talkative during student tours lol.
 
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NYCdude

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Met a guy at an interview for a New York school who told me "I'm from out here." I ask, "Oh, you're from NY?" He replies, "No, from Chicago."

I don't know whether I should have reported his insanely horrible location skills. I don't want him conducting cystoscopies in the future through people's ears.
 
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Ariodant

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At my school the interviews are blind. The interviewer doesn't know anything about the interviewee besides his/her name. So we usually begin interviews with "tell me a little bit about yourself, what made you want to be a doctor?" We don't have grading sheets, the interviewer writes up a report detailing what was discussed in the interview and their impressions. The other members of the committee have access to both the application and interview report before the meeting.

The committee meetings go similarly to what Lizzy described.
 
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Goro

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I can make it simpler: we want people who will be good students and good doctors. School's like LizzyM also want people to be leaders in Medicine and clinician-scientists.

In terms of what medical schools without a strong mission statement want an accepted student to accomplish for them here is my list in order of how much weight the potential accomplishment carries for the candidate. It is a tough list to make as many of them influence the others but how close am I?

1. Not cause trouble (be rude, just generally cause trouble for the administration, patients, hospital staff, and people they are around for 4 years, get arrested, get in trouble for cheating etc..)
2. Complete medical school.
3. Become a research professor at a major university
4. Pass the boards on the first try
5. Match into a notable residency
6. Get excellent board scores.
7. Match at all
8. Increase the schools undergrad GPA/MCAT stats
9. Get good clinical reviews
10. Get an excellent medical school GPA
11. Misc stuff (particularly charismatic, likely to do a lot of volunteer work, etc)


.
 
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After an interview, how do y'all feel when an applicant gives an academic update with bad grades? For example, the person graduated in December, but made a 3.0 that semester?
 

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How much time do you spend discussing one applicant at the committee meeting?

Just to go back a bit, I second @Goro'a response to your question. Significant conversation is typically reserved for applicants that have a wide variation in their pre-interview scores (we actually report means with standard deviations - go figure) and applicants that are "on the bubble" in terms of reaching our threshold score. Applicants that are either clearly going to be accepted or waitlisted or those that have little variation in their scores usually don't get much discussion. We have two hours to talk about 15-18 applicants. For the "quick" applicants, usually the committee member will just present them (i.e., essentially summarizing their application and hitting the key points for the other people on the committee), and if anyone has any final comments they'll provide them after the presentation. That kind of applicant will typically take no more than 3-4 minutes. For the more "difficult" applicants with some room for discussion, we might spend 8-10 minutes discussing them.

At my institution, we highly value interviewer comments. In fact, when I'm looking over an applicant, I'll typically read their personal statement, secondaries, look at their numbers, and then go straight to the interview comments. It usually takes 15-20 minutes to read through a file, so if someone has a really poor interview then they're likely sunk and I'll just skim the rest of the application. Not every school places that much emphasis on the interview, but our thinking is that applicants have already been screened for interview invites before we see them. Thus, it's extremely unlikely that we'll get someone who is a straight-up "poor" applicant. Don't get me wrong, our process is still holistic and we still take the whole application into account, but generally bad comments from interviewers can sink an applicant that is otherwise outstanding on paper. In fact, at our meeting yesterday we had two applicants that fit that bill exactly - applicants that had a 3.7+/35+ for numbers, great ECs and generally strong letters, but weird interactions with interviewers that gave off a bad impression.
 
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Catalystik

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At my institution, we highly value interviewer comments.

Not every school places that much emphasis on the interview, but our thinking is that applicants have already been screened for interview invites before we see them. Thus, it's extremely unlikely that we'll get someone who is a straight-up "poor" applicant. Don't get me wrong, our process is still holistic and we still take the whole application into account, but generally bad comments from interviewers can sink an applicant that is otherwise outstanding on paper.
Ditto.

I would like to ask if it's bad for an applicant to stay rather quiet for the majority of the interview day.
I have no bias against a quiet=thoughtful, unflappable, introspective candidate, but when quiet=robotic, monotone responses without an ounce of enthusiasm for anything and little ability to connect with an interviewer, my antenna goes up.

I go out of my way to elicit the best from interviewees, particularly early on in the season when interview skills are less polished, trying to set them at ease if need be, even coaching them a bit at times so get a better answer. If their confidence and presentation skills don't respond to a nurturing approach, which they generally do, my narrative report will not be supportive of their candidacy.

After an interview, how do y'all feel when an applicant gives an academic update with bad grades? For example, the person graduated in December, but made a 3.0 that semester?
If unsolicited, I'd feel that was a poor strategic move.
 
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Goro

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Our interviewees aheva 1-3 week window before the AdCom meets to determine their fate. Updates don't make it to us, only to the Admissions Dean.

BUT, if someone were to be interviewed right now, and then notified our wily old Admissions dean of the poor Dec transcript, he would tell us this at our meeting, and this person would right get rejected. Downward trends are viewed poorly by us, and the unwise decision by such a person to tell us this bring judgement seriously into question.

I've never heard of someone at my school having a decision overturned by a late arriving transcript...although there are med schools that have minimums for post-acceptance performance.

After an interview, how do y'all feel when an applicant gives an academic update with bad grades? For example, the person graduated in December, but made a 3.0 that semester?

At times we'll read them in the Adcom meeting when a specific person's rationale for Osteopathy is in question. A good secondary can save them; a generic or poor secondary will leave them on the wait list.
Are secondary essays considered post-interview?
 
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NickNaylor

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Are secondary essays considered post-interview?

At my institution, yes. And, in fact, I rate it as one of the more important things as I think our secondary essays provide an opportunity for applicants to give some very insightful information both about themselves and their interest in the school.
 
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