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        By Patrick McBride

A student applying to nursing school recently asked me how she could prepare for an upcoming nursing interview.  She had looked at websites for typical questions and obviously done great enough work  to get an interview.  But she wanted to know what the primary questions in the interview would be and what the interviewers would be looking for.

The answer might surprise or disappoint you.  It may sound trite.  But after running admissions at a medical school for 11 years, participating in admissions for PA school, residencies, fellowships and more for over 30 years, I know that the answer is remarkably simple.  The magic ingredient is YOU.

Schools want to know if you can tell them why you are a great fit for healthcare, what you have done to demonstrate that, what core values ignite you and drive you, and how you work with others.  They want to know who you are.  And no one knows you better than yourself.  That is why you so often hear “just be yourself”and “breathe, this will be easy, they will just be asking you about yourself.”  This is all true, but it doesn’t seem easy in the moment.  So what can you do to feel more comfortable speaking about yourself?  Here are a few tips:

  • Ask your friends, family, and others who know you what they like and admire about you, or how they would describe you to other people
  • Listen carefully to these answers.  Record them, and reflect on how this feedback intersects with your own self-assessments of your strengths
  • Spend some time writing about why you are choosing to do the hard work of applying to medical, nursing, or PA school.  What drives you, and why do you want to care for the health of others as your profession?

Taking time for self-reflection is a fantastic way to prepare for interviews, and to help with your graduate school applications more generally. Oh, and remember that advice about “just take a deep breath?”  It’s a good tip! Remember to take a deep breath before you practice – and you should definitely practice – and before you go into an interview. Say to yourself, “I truly know myself, I know why I want this and who I am,” and then you will do well. 

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