By: Jessica Ngo, UCSF School of Pharmacy
At this point, the admissions committee has assessed your candidacy on paper, and they’ve invited you to an interview. Congratulations! Now what?
Make travel arrangements ahead of time, and arrive the day before your interview whenever possible. Flights may be delayed for an entire day, especially in the winter months when the weather might not be very flight-friendly.
- Find out where you’re going to stay. Figure out how far it is from your actual interview site and how long it will take to get there.
- If you are driving there yourself, know where to park and bring cash just in case. If you do not have access to a car, arrange for another mode of transportation.
- No matter how you get there, provide ample time to actually get to your interview site.
- Practice, practice, practice your interview responses, and do it out loud. Mentally recording your responses is completely different compared to verbalizing it.
- Relax the night before your interview. Don’t overwork yourself or over-rehearse your answers. Preparing for your interview should start well before the night prior to interview day!
Now that it’s time to tackle the interview, what can you expect?
The interview will normally last the entire day and the structure will depend on the school, but for the most part, a typical interview day will consist of the interview itself, a tour and a writing portion. You will typically be assigned into multiple groups, with each group following a different order of activities.
Though these are pre-assigned, I’ve seen that some students like to get the interview over with first, while others enjoy doing the tour first in order to relax before the interview portion. In any case, be prepared to answer some of the traditional questions since you will likely be asked these questions during the interview:
Tell me about yourself..
Be specific to pharmacy, and not just healthcare.
Be specific about how this school in particular will help you achieve your goals. Do some research, but try to be as genuine as you can with your response; be careful to not just pull a quote from their admissions website.
What is your biggest weakness and strength?
It’s a good idea to know your responses to these questions ahead of time, almost to the point where you don’t even have to think twice about it.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received when answering interview questions is that if I was stuck on a question, giving a so-so or neutral answer is better than giving a bad answer. If you really can’t think of a response that will “wow” the interviewer, it is okay.
The interviewer will always remember a “bad” response, whether it be because it was too radical, outrageous, or unethical.
At this point, giving an outright “bad” response might counteract a lot of the progress you’ve made thus far. This is why I suggest that if you can’t think of a great response on cue, it’s better to give the so-so answer. Think of it as taking the safer road. After all, you can always make up the slack with a different question and “wow” the interviewers then.
Another key piece of advice, though seems trivial, is to smile. It is important that you and the interviewer maintain a positive, welcoming vibe during the interview. Try to smile as often as you can without making it seem forced. I like to think of it as: if they somehow forget all of your responses, at least they’ll remember that the feel of the interview was positive one. I know the anxiety can creep up sometimes, but keeping a stoic face does not benefit anyone.
In my article about supplemental applications, I mentioned you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer the optional essay questions. During the interview, they normally close the session with, “Do you have any questions for me?” Similarly, don’t feel like you have to ask questions if you simply don’t have any. Now, if you really have the urge and desire to ask them questions, a few ideas might be:
Generally speaking, what’s a typical day like as a student here?
What are some activities that students normally do for fun, both on campus and around the city?
Getting an interview is a great accomplishment in and of itself. Hopefully with these pointers, it will help take off a little bit of the anxiety many feel during an interview. Remember to explore the school and make sure they are a good fit for you as well. These days are meant to be a learning experience, so enjoy it!