Interviews are challenging and answering Brown medical school interview questions will be especially so. The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University is an esteemed, leading institution in medical education and biomedical research. Given that students have the option of pursuing a traditional Doctor of Medicine Degree (MD) or combining it with a PhD or Master of Science (ScM), versatility in the interview is also to be expected. Fortunately, with adequate medical school interview prep, you can learn effective strategies for answering any question. You can also acquaint yourself with this recent list of potential questions and sample answers to boost your confidence when you interview at Brown.
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The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University Interview Process
Interview invitations are sent via email. Applicants are expected to book their appointment online as soon as they receive the invitation. By March, all candidates will know whether they have been selected for an interview or not. All Alpert Medical School interviews for the 2023 application cycle will be performed online, Thursdays or Fridays, from mid-September until the beginning of February.
Wondering how to answer the "tell me about yourself" medical school interview question? Watch this video:
Your interview day will include the following:
- Group session concerning the admissions process, financial aid, and a school overview, including a virtual tour of the facility
- Session with current medical students
- Two half-hour individual meetings with voting members of the MD Admissions Committee, such as students, faculty, and/or administrative staff
Type of Interview
Brown uses an open file interview format, the most common type of medical school interview. In this type of interview, the interviewer is given access to all your information, including test scores, letters of reference, and all other written documents. The one-on-one interview lasts about 30 minutes.
Interview Questions and Sample Answers
Tell me your story.
What is being asked?
The topic here is “you.” This type of question usually has an open-ended format with the goal of learning more about your past. It provides an opportunity to add something unique while keeping everything focused on medicine. You will often hear this medical school interview question phrased as “tell me about yourself.”
Your story should show you doing something. Avoid focusing on other people and the complexity of the interacting organizations and occupations. Instead, concentrate on your own choices and thinking. Describe your experience as a succession of memorable experiences that taught you crucial lessons about the outside world or about yourself.
Notice in the following sample that the question, “why medicine?” which is asked in some form in virtually every medical school interview, has been answered as part of this applicant’s story. This example can also serve to answer the question asked by Brown, “tell me about your prior career."
I was working as a quality control specialist in the paint manufacturing industry when I was sent overseas on assignment to evaluate the facilities in a company our parent firm wished to purchase. I spent several months there, and as I got to know the managers and employees, I learned that many among them had developed minor or major health issues.
Given my chemistry background, and analytical skills developed over a decade of sample testing, I decided to conduct an informal study of the population of men who had worked in the factories owned by that company. The analysis I submitted to general management back home showed what seemed to be a clear connection between the reported illnesses, the materials used, and the working conditions at the factories. Unfortunately, it was not a “scientific” report, in the sense that I was not trained in medical research and could not claim a true causal link. Given the remote location, it was not possible, either, to commission more tests by experts in the health field. My argument, nevertheless, when I returned home, was that our discovery could not be ignored and that we could neither agree to the merger nor refuse it without proposing some kind of plan to assist these gravely ill workers.
The firm did not want to risk a political crisis in that country or expose the employees who had talked to me to potential reprisals, so they agreed that something must be done. Our solution was, in fact, to go forward with the purchase, merge and modernize production processes, and switch out toxic materials with those we used in our own facilities. We added our new employees to our group health insurance plan and created a position for an in-house physician at one of the factories.
I credit my decision to change careers at this juncture in my life to those men I met two years ago. Living with them, I was rocked to my core by their suffering and resilience under such abysmal conditions. It was like replacing the lightbulbs in that old factory: the glare illuminated the hidden grime I had neglected to see, and I could no longer ignore it.
My expertise will serve me well, I believe, as I transfer between fields. I stand by my original report, but one day, I hope to prove its validity, using medical research methods. Moreover, I aim to be the second in-house physician at our overseas location, where I can care for workers I admire, in a company I respect for doing the right thing.
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How did you hear about Brown?
What is being asked?
Although it may sound like it, this question is not asking for anecdotes about that time you visited Rhode Island on vacation and decided you never wanted to leave. Nor is it looking for ingratiating comments on how beautiful and wonderful the campus is or how magnificent the programs are. Typically, there is a deeper motivation for this type of question. The admissions committee may wish to understand whether you have a personal, even a family connection, to the school; a related undergrad; or an interest in an area of medicine that led you to connect with like-minded peers who recommended Brown.
If you do have a personal connection, resist the temptation to “pull strings.” In fact, despite three generations of your family having studied at Brown, the school will more likely want to hear that your interest is rooted in the link between your medical aspirations and the specific course offerings that resonate with you. Think of what you wrote in your AMCAS most meaningful experiences to help you construct a solid answer.
Notice in the following sample that the question “tell me about yourself” is also explicitly answered in this applicant’s response, and it provides a good strategy for how to answer the med school personal statement & interview question: “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
I wouldn’t blame you if you questioned what is motivating my “West coast to East coast” transition. The truth is, I do love the ocean. Growing up in California, I was a beach bum, but when my parents divorced, and my dad moved to Boston for work, I had to choose where to spend my summers. It turned out to be the best of both worlds. Provincetown, Nantucket, New York, Philly – they were all beautiful and exciting places to be a teen, and in July and August, no one can complain about the weather or yearn for the California sun. Those were some idyllic years, and by the time I was ready for college, I was happy to go back to the warmth of Orange County and settle in at Chapman.
That was when everything changed for me. I had planned to finish my degree in Environmental Science and Policy and go to work at my mom’s environmental consulting firm for a few years to get myself properly set up. The truth is, we never lacked for anything, and most of my youth as an only child was spent wherever I pleased, with whoever I wished. It was a lot of “me, me, me,” frankly. My life was good, so it never really occurred to me that it wasn’t the same for everyone.
The turning point came when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It seems that her lifelong devotion to environmental advocacy, good Californian that she was, likely exposed her to far too much of something at a few points in her journey. She saw me graduate but was gone soon after. Dad came back to help her settle her business affairs, and together we packed up the house and left the sun behind. Back in Boston, we spent a lot of time together. In fact, I was his shadow for about six months, but he didn’t mind. He let me hang out in his office, attend all the club functions, and mope around with his friends at the pub. Spring, summer, and fall passed, and I had seen no one under the age of 45.
Long story long, that’s how I found out about Brown. One of Dad’s friends took pity on me and dragged me home to meet their son, currently in his second year of the Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology graduate program. With our shared interests, we hit it off. At first, I said I’d join him. The program seemed perfect for me, and I have really cutting-edge knowledge in the field, passed on as much by my mom as by my training at Chapman.
It may sound strange, but I can’t follow her down that road anymore. It was “our” dream, but not mine, if you know what I mean. Instead, I want to give back a little of all that incredible life I had with her and Dad, to those who’ve had to work harder than me and maybe suffered some damage along the way – like my mom. I’ll still be focused on the environment, which is why this school remains my first choice, but I’ll be devoted to studying and treating the impacts of environmental degradation on people. It will be her legacy, but it will be my dream.
Tell me something about yourself that is not in your application.
What is being asked?
This question may sound innocent and simple, but it’s tricky, especially if you don’t expect it. For starters, do you remember everything you put in your application, both when you first applied and in your supplemental application, including your medical school secondary essays? If you looked into how to make your medical school application stand out, included the best extracurriculars for medical school, and even learned the “secret” to writing an excellent diversity secondary essay, what else is left? What didn’t you cover that is relevant?
For this reason, it’s essential to have a prepared answer to this question. Ideally, it will also be a memorable one that takes the admissions committee by surprise. Finally, a little theater to showcase your personality would be acceptable. The fact is, if you had a great medicine-related anecdote to share, it would already be in your application! So, permission granted to get a little creative here.
What’s not in my application? My brother. Or maybe I should say “who’s not in my application?” What you can’t tell from my application is that I’m a twin.
My twin never had the opportunity to apply to medical school, or attend college, or play on a sports team, or go on a date, or run in the park, or learn to talk. We lost him when he was tiny, and part of the reason I’m here is that he isn’t. We were conjoined, not devastatingly so, but enough to mean that the loss of blood when they separated us was too much for him. If I was the smaller one, it would have been me.
This may not be an accurate answer to your question because the truth is, he is here. He’s a part of me, and parts of him are still in me; we’re a part of each other, as a physical reality. And he’s always been with me because I never forget. I missed him from Day 1, I know that. My first word was “Where?” Everything I have done, everything I have learned – every milestone, achievement, and loss – I shared with him in my way and did for him in his stead. I’ve grown out of doing everything twice, but I do try to do everything twice as well and enjoy everything twice as much. So, he’s what’s not in my application, and yet he is.
I read that you’re not supposed to credit someone else with your reason for going to medical school. It should be your own decision, and I agree. But I’d be dishonest if I told you that anything has ever been only my decision to make. I’m here today because you have the best possible program to support my goal of treating and caring for patients with environmentally related congenital anomalies. I’m here because my brother can’t be.
You did X for a long time – can you tell me more about that?
What is being asked?
This question usually seeks to pinpoint the reason you elected to apply to medical school after several years in a different profession or industry. It may also refer to an undergraduate degree in a non-science field, with related interests. For example, if you were a ballet dancer throughout childhood and high school, studied film in college, and then went to work in a performance space, your application to medical school may surprise the admissions committee.
Nevertheless, many students from exactly these types of backgrounds come to a crossroads in their careers when they want to change direction or go farther. The pursuit of medicine may appear as a sudden realization in such cases, when it occurs to someone that they want to help people more directly and fundamentally than their current occupation allows. Medical school can be a calling that is only heard somewhat later in life.
Yes, my undergrad was in Studio Art, and a few years ago, I started a dual MBA/MFA, as you can see from my application. I likely would have continued if it had not been for the global health crisis. The dual degree is only offered as a full-time option, but we had barely gotten started when classes were cancelled and then went online. At the same time, I had to close the small gallery space I had been operating for ten years, along with my studio. I suspended the community art courses I had been offering as well.
My goal after the MBA had been to apply for a loan and expand our facilities. The studio is located in an old historic district that is somewhat derelict, and my clients tend to be students looking for cheap gallery space and seniors looking for company and a pastime. My classes are such a great mix of ages, and everyone benefits from this intergenerational approach
A surprising development about three years ago occurred when we began holding vernissages once a month. Each exhibition lasted thirty days, so when we launched one, we held a free opening event with refreshments and entertainment. After a few of these, word got around, and we found ourselves hosting various strata of society. A lot of low-income people who lived in the area in the rundown apartments showed up.
Although my work had always involved a large degree of art therapy, this aspect now took on greater significance. Some visitors began appearing more often and asking about food or other resources, even on nights when no events were being held. Classes were interrupted sometimes, and then I found myself doing less teaching and more talking with people who were not my art students. We also found ourselves providing emergency meals and first aid on more than one occasion. I was surprised to find that this did not bother me in the slightest; in fact, I found it rewarding to be able to feed someone or clean them up, and then watch them wander around in the warm, bright studio atmosphere chatting with students and admiring the art.
The real transformation came, however, when I came across some of these people huddled on our staircase a few weeks into lockdown. I could hardly stand the fact that I could not just open the doors and let them in. I realized then that art was not going to be enough for me anymore. I decided then and there to withdraw from my MBA and apply to medical school. Ultimately, I will expand my business to include a shelter and real treatment for underserved groups in my community.
Why not public health, or nursing, then? Why medical school?
First, I know myself, and once I decide on a direction, it will literally take an unprecedented global event to sway my conviction. I am quick and ambitious. In my undergrad, it wasn’t enough to just focus on my production. I threw my energy into the study of materials, the history of styles, the business aspect, and all the literature related to the therapeutic qualities of art. Basically, I live my art, and my practice has become inseparable from my daily life.
Art has also always been a community activity for me. I never liked to be alone in the studio. I would take the train to campus sometimes, just to be around other people while I painted. I like to talk while I work, and I like to hear others discussing their pieces and their lives. I like to be there when an artistic breakthrough leads to an emotional breakdown – when students finally find a way to release a painful part of themselves into the universe through their piece. Medicine has the same purpose, essentially – to treat and to heal.
In addition, my goal of expanding my studio facilities has not changed, but the design has. Now, I am thinking about a work-life space but one that has resources I cannot currently offer. Alternatively, I could have continued the MBA and then hired staff, such as nurses or community service workers, but it would require a license. Instead, if I am a qualified physician, I can open my own clinic, and the adjunct facilities will then be the art spaces, rather than the other way around. This will also allow me to actually follow my patients legally. I think if we had continued in the ad-hoc way we were operating, there would eventually have been an adverse event, and I, along with my business, would have been liable.
So, I want to be a doctor because this will allow me to care for my clients directly, as patients, while being able to expand our art therapy, teaching, nutrition, and urgent care in a secure environment. I couldn’t be more excited about or committed to this idea of being a safe haven for people in my community while encouraging their artistic expression at the same time.
Fifty years ago, Brown set out on an exciting journey to train medical professionals who have a vision of transforming the world. To accomplish this, the Corporation of Brown University made the audacious choice to establish a four-year program in medicine.
In a statement, the Corporation wrote: “It is this integration of medical education with the social sciences, humanities and other sciences which seems to us the most important feature of the new program and the one which promises to give it a special niche in medical education on the national scene.”
When you’re preparing to respond to Brown medical school interview questions, keep this is mind. This is a diverse school filled with innovative, talented change-makers, and the admissions committee will want to know how you will contribute to enriching their already dynamic environment further.
1. What’s the interview format at Brown?
The interview day includes a group session on the admissions process, financial aid, and a school overview, including a virtual tour of the facility; a session with current medical students; and two half-hour one-on-one meetings with voting members of the MD Admissions Committee.
2. How will I know if I have an interview?
Candidates selected for an interview are notified by email by early March.
3. When will I know if I am accepted at Brown?
Brown notifies interviewees of committee decisions on a rolling basis. Post-interview decisions are transmitted through the school’s secure online application system and via email.
4. What do I wear to my interview?
There are certain basic considerations that apply regardless of gender. The best colours in apparel are neutral tones like grey, navy blue, black, or cream. Soft, complementary colors or white can be worn as foundation pieces (e.g., a shirt under a blazer). Natural fibers are preferred but not required; just make sure the fabric breathes well enough to keep you comfortable in a warm environment or warm in a cooler setting.
Note that even if your interview is virtual, the dress code still applies.
5. How early should I be for my interview?
Be on time, which means arrive at the exact location of the interview well in advance. If your interview is virtual, be at your computer well ahead of time, check all your connections, ensure that you can access the interview platform, test your camera and microphone, and sit down and wait quietly about 10 minutes before the start time.
6. How do I prepare for a medical school interview?
To prepare for an interview, research the school, familiarize yourself with common questions asked in medical school interviews, and seriously consider how finding the best medical school admissions consultant can improve your chances of admission.
7. Should I memorize my answers?
No, a memorized response will sound forced and unnatural. Instead, plan your comments in advance and have a clear notion of what you will address. In any case, you won’t be able to predict the questions that will be asked of you in advance. You can practice your responses to medical school interview questions and chat with an admissions advisor to find out what to expect in the interview.
8. What are some mistakes applicants make in interviews?
Stressing over right and wrong answers; reiterating information from your application; attributing your decision to pursue a career in medicine to someone else; boasting; focusing on prestige; disparaging another organization, community, or person; taking a political position.
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