“Why Have You Applied To This Medical School?” Interview Guide

Updated on: December 3, 2023
Photo of author
Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Preparing for a medical school interview can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to tricky questions such as “Why have you applied to this medical school?”

This question aims to assess your motivation for choosing a specific university, and it’s crucial to give a well-thought-out response to demonstrate your genuine interest.

Before diving into the details of crafting a great answer, it’s essential to understand that medical schools ask this question to identify applicants who have done the research, are a good fit for the course and are highly likely to choose them over other options.

Your response should emphasise the unique aspects of the university and how they align with your goals, values, and learning style.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the purpose behind the question to tailor your response effectively
  • Emphasise the unique aspects of the medical school and how they align with your goals
  • Thorough research, genuine interest, and avoiding common mistakes can help you stand out as an excellent candidate

Why Medical Schools Ask “Why Us?”

Medical schools often ask the question “Why have you applied to this medical school?” during interviews to assess your genuine interest in their course and university as a whole.

They want to ensure that they are selecting students who are likely to succeed in their programme and have a strong motivation for attending their specific school.

Your answer gives interviewers an insight into your decision-making process for selecting their medical school.

They are looking for applicants who have researched their institution, understand its unique aspects, and are excited about their offerings.

Your response can demonstrate your level of commitment and enthusiasm, which may contribute to your likelihood of getting an offer.

A medicine applicant sat in a panel interview
A medicine applicant sat in a panel interview

Moreover, your answer shows interviewers how well you align with their medical school’s values, culture, and educational approach.

Medical schools often have distinctive features and teaching methods, and it is essential for them to know that you would be a good fit for their environment.

In addition, your response allows you to showcase your individual interests and passions within the medical field.

By addressing specific aspects of their medical degree and linking them to your personal and professional goals, you present a cohesive narrative of why their medical school is the right choice for you.

This can make a positive impression on interviewers, who are looking for applicants that can clearly articulate their motivations.

How To Craft A Great Answer To “Why This Medical School?”

It’s by no means the only way to answer this common interview question, but this is my four-step method for developing a solid answer:

1. Research Each Medical School You’re Applying To

Start by conducting thorough research on each medical school you’re applying to.

Many medical schools have unique selling points, such as special research programmes or exceptional facilities.

Make sure you know the most up-to-date information about each institution and have a clear understanding of their ethos, values, and strong points.

This will enable you to tailor your answer to each specific medical school, showing that you’ve put thought into your choice.

2. Identify Unique Features That Appeal To You

Next, narrow down the features that specifically appeal to you as a prospective student.

For example, you might be interested in how a medical school integrates clinical experience from an early stage or their dedication to research in your specific area of interest.

Compile a list of distinctive features that have caught your attention and make a note of why they are important to you.

You’ll want to go a little bit deeper than just that they’re a medical school in London and you want to live in the city.

3. Tie These Features To Your Career Aspirations

Consider how the unique aspects of each medical school can contribute to your longer-term goals and career aspirations.

This might include how particular research opportunities might open doors to a competitive speciality, or how the school’s focus on patient-centred care could help you develop into a compassionate and well-rounded clinician.

Be prepared to discuss these connections and how they will positively impact your journey in the medical profession.

4. Practice Hitting Key Points Rather Than Memorising An Answer

Finally, avoid memorising a scripted answer. Instead, focus on practising the key points you want to convey in a conversational manner.

By understanding the core ideas behind your response, you can adapt your answer depending on the context or specific questions the interviewer asks.

Why Have You Applied To This Medical School Pixel Image

This approach will come across as more genuine and will demonstrate that you’ve taken the time to reflect on your reasons for choosing that particular medical school.

What To Look At When Researching A Medical School

To give you a bit of a guide, I’d recommend looking at the following broad categories when you’re considering what sets one medical school apart from the rest.

Course Structure And Content

When researching a medical school, pay close attention to the course structure and content.

Different schools may have varying teaching methods, such as problem-based learning (PBL), traditional lectures, or a blend of both.

Review the curriculum provided by each institution and consider how it aligns with your learning preferences.

Additionally, examine the clinical experiences offered, as these can vary by location and the partnerships the university maintains with local hospitals.

University’s Values

Investigate the values and mission statement of each medical school on your shortlist.

By understanding their priorities, you can see if they align with your personal values and aspirations as a future healthcare professional.

This will help you articulate why you have chosen a specific institution during your interview.

Local Hospitals

Partner hospitals and clinical facilities are essential components of your medical education, as they provide valuable hands-on experience.

Review the types of hospitals associated with the medical school, their specialties and the patient demographic they serve.

This information will help you evaluate if the facilities will offer you diverse learning opportunities and prepare you for your future medical career.

Local Area And Population

The local area and population can have a significant impact on your experience as a medical student.

Research the surrounding community and demographic, as this will give you insight into the types of patient populations you may encounter during clinical placements.

In addition, consider factors such as public transport, accommodation options, and recreational opportunities, which can contribute to your overall well-being during your studies.

Tips For Selecting Reasons As To Why You Applied

When thinking about your reasons for applying to a particular medical school, bear in mind the following tips to help you create a strong answer.

Reflect on your personal interests and values: Consider how your interests connect with the medical school’s ethos and modules offered. For example, if you have a passion for community healthcare, and the school is renowned for its work in that area, this could be a solid reason for your application.

Emphasise academic strengths: Highlight your academic strengths and how they align with the medical school’s programme. Are there specific areas of study in which you excel, and which the school has a strong reputation for? This will show that you are a good fit for the course.

Select professionally relevant reasons: The best reasons are going to be those that you can tie back to your future career as a doctor. Whether that be because you want to study tropical medicine and there’s a high immigrant population in the local area or you want to be a paediatrician and there’s a children’s hospital in the city.

Example Answers To “Why Have You Chosen This Medical School?”

Here are a couple of example answers to the question. I’ve included them more to demonstrate what I’ve been talking about so far, rather than for you to go away and learn the ‘good’ response word for word.

Bad Example

“I applied to this medical school because it’s close to my home, and I wouldn’t have to move. Also, my friends are applying here, so I thought it would be fun to go to medical school together.”

This answer focuses on personal convenience and social life, which aren’t compelling reasons for a medical school to accept you.

It does not demonstrate any genuine interest in the school or its programme.

Good Example

“I chose this medical school because it’s clear to me the university really values clinical research, something that I’d love to get involved in as a student. I was also particularly impressed by your state-of-the-art simulation facilities, which I’m sure would be amazing to learn in as a medical student.

I’d hugely value the opportunity to participate in one of the unique research projects offered here, enabling me to, albeit in a small way, contribute to the advancement of medicine and grow professionally at the same time.”

This answer highlights the strengths of the medical school and explains how they align with your personal and professional development goals.

It shows that you have done your homework and demonstrates a genuine interest in the school.

Tips To Stand Out As An Excellent Candidate

To stand out in your medical school interview, preparation is crucial. Here are some tips to help you excel during the “Why have you applied to this medical school?” question:

  1. Don’t just do surface-level research: Nearly every applicant will have been on the university’s website and read the prospectus. Most will have been to an open day and wandered around campus. What can you do that will give you some information and understanding beyond these surface-level steps?
  2. Demonstrate a commitment to medicine: Highlight your relevant experiences, such as volunteering, job shadowing or research projects. Explain how these endeavours have solidified your passion for the subject and why this particular medical school would be the best fit for you to continue your journey.
  3. Be genuine and authentic: Share personal anecdotes or experiences which showcase your unique qualities, and motivations to study at this specific institution. Avoid relying on clichés or generic answers.
  4. Show enthusiasm and engagement: Convey your excitement about the prospect of joining the medical school community by referencing clubs, societies or any other opportunities available on campus. Indicate how you plan to contribute to the school as well as the local community during your time there.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Answering “Why Us?”

When answering the question “Why have you applied to this medical school?”, it’s crucial to avoid several of these common mistakes.

Not Knowing Any Specific Details About The Medical School

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid is not knowing any specific details about the medical school you have applied to!

Interviewers expect that you have done your research and have a clear understanding of what sets their university apart from others.

Before attending the interview, ensure that you have gathered information about the school’s unique teaching methods, curriculum, faculty, and research opportunities.

Only Giving General And Unoriginal Reasons

Another common mistake is providing generic and unoriginal reasons for applying to the medical school.

Saying that you chose the school because it has a good reputation or is prestigious will not set you apart from other candidates.

This is exactly the trap I fell into when applying to the University of Nottingham. I pretty much just regurgitated their prospectus at them- something a hundred other applicants had probably already done that morning.

To avoid this mistake, it’s crucial that you provide thoughtful and personalised reasons for your choice.

Focus on the aspects of the school that genuinely sparked your interest and demonstrate how these align with your future goals in the medical field.

Giving Reasons That Are Irrelevant To A Career In Medicine

Finally, avoid mentioning reasons that are not really relevant to your medical career.

One of the reasons that I wanted to go to the University of Leicester was I knew it had a lacrosse team- however this definitely isn’t what I’d have led with if asked at my interview.

Discussing factors such as the university’s bars, shopping opportunities, or infamous parties as your primary motivations will not convince the interviewers of your commitment to a career in medicine.

Instead, concentrate on explaining the educational, clinical, and research experiences that the medical school offers, and how these will contribute to your success as a doctor.

Final Thoughts

By using the structures outlined above to select your reasons for applying to a particular medical school, you will demonstrate a strong understanding of the institution, and convincingly convey your reasons for choosing it in your interview.

Remember to practise your responses to common interview questions and maintain a confident, knowledgeable, and clear tone.

By following these tips and being well-prepared, you’re sure to leave a lasting impression if your interviewers ask you “Why have you applied to this medical school?”

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.