Looking at Stanford medical school interview questions is a great way to prepare for the interview at this institution. Stanford medical school is one of the best and most competitive medical schools in California, so it’s important to start preparing for the interview well in advance. With such a diverse and vast student body and curriculum, your answer to interview questions must show that Stanford is the right school for you. In this article, we go over everything you need to know about the interview format before providing sample questions and answers to help you prepare.

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Interview Format Stanford Medical School Interview Questions and Sample Answers FAQs

Interview Format

Candidates are invited to an interview on the basis of a holistic review of what they provide in their AMCAS work and activities and AMCAS personal statement (as well as other AMCAS documents), medical school recommendation letters, and their supplemental application.

Want to review the most intimidating medical school interview question examples? Watch this video:

Eligible applicants can expect to receive an invitation as early as August; requests for interviews will continue on a rolling basis thereafter. Students who are invited will use the Stanford scheduling system to arrange a mutually agreeable time and date for the interview. Interviews are held from September through February.

Stanford uses the multiple mini interview (MMI) format for interviews. The Medical Science Training Program (MSTP) MD-PhD interview will begin with a meeting with the program director to discuss the structure and important aspects of the program. Formal interviews, hosted by faculty members and senior medical students, are then held. At the end of your session, you will once again meet with the program director to ask any questions about the program and school. Candidates also have an opportunity to meet with faculty members whose research interests represent those they plan to explore as a student. Candidates who are not invited to interview for the MSTP program will be considered for the MD-only program.

Stanford Medical School Interview Questions and Sample Answers

Tell me about yourself.

What’s being asked?

The “tell me about yourself” question will likely be one of the first you are asked during the interview. This question concerns experiences that influenced your decision to attend med school. You can start off with your background and early formative experiences, and then talk about your interests or passions. Finally, round off your answer with the most profound and recent development in your life that solidified your decision to want to pursue medicine. Because this question is subjective, candidates can easily infuse their answer with too much detail, so be careful to focus on a few specific, highly relevant factors.

The admissions committee can ask related follow-up questions depending on how you conclude your answer. Ideally, in your conclusion, you should touch on points you will encounter in other questions about your background, such as interests and attributes that make you a good fit for the program.

Sample answer:

I grew up in a small rural town just outside of Oakland. There was a lot of crime where I lived, including petty theft, violence, and drug trafficking. My neighborhood didn’t have many children my age, and I was an only child, so I grew up rather isolated and exposed to a lot of what my teachers would call “risk factors” for behavioral problems. My parents were hard workers, but their jobs didn’t pay well, and we didn’t have the means to move to a safer and more developed area. My grandfather (on my mother’s side) would send us money when he could, as he was still working, despite being retired. Sadly, he passed away from undiagnosed sleep apnea when I was in the third grade.

Back then, nothing seemed fair, but I also never grew up thinking I was entitled to anything, which proved to be a good antidote to resentment. I took it upon myself to develop some hobbies; I was in a special program at my school for children who were deemed at risk or having trouble with their grades. I was both. I had ADHD, which wasn’t diagnosed until I was fifteen. I was often called stupid by my peers, which motivated me to sign out at least three books from the library each week to try to prove to myself that I wasn’t. I also went to an afterschool program, which was free (thank goodness, as we wouldn’t have been able to afford it), where I played different sports like soccer and indoor hockey. I made a few friends in that program, and I also learned how to develop goals and practice my social skills.

In high school, it was like the script had flipped. I had a thriving social life, and because I’d received treatment for my ADHD, I was one of the top students in my class. At this point, my parents settled in the city after a series of promotions and financial opportunities went their way. I was a starting goaltender on the soccer team, and I was working as a grocery clerk at a local market. I had an opportunity at this time to volunteer at a senior center doing assisted living. Some of the patients were palliative – I was constantly reminded of my grandfather, who didn’t have the opportunity to seek treatment before he passed.

The awareness of health care among members of certain underprivileged communities is sorely lacking, and I know that better than most, having experienced those conditions first-hand. I decided that I wanted to pursue medicine to understand and eradicate the distorted distribution of social determinants of health. In my first year of university, I participated in a research project investigating the status of current evidence-based strategies. The finding that struck me the most and resonated with my own experiences was that unemployment and job security were among the best predictors of health disparities. I know that I can use my experiences to make a positive change in the health care system; the Stanford program, with its health equity courses and knowledge of disparate outcomes among certain groups, will give me the best opportunity to make a difference.

Why medicine and not X?

What’s being asked?

This question often comes up as a response to something in your work or academic history that suggests you were pursuing another field. Your undergraduate degree may not be in a science field, which can indicate that you weren’t initially interested in pursuing medicine. Because this is a common question, you need to know how to stand out in a medical school interview.

Candidates who took a gap year after they graduated might expect to get asked this question, especially when careers had been started in an area like nursing or paramedics or other health care-related fields.

You need to justify your choice to pursue medicine with specific actions. If you weren’t satisfied with your original career choice, describe what made you want to switch. Your goal is to demonstrate that medicine is the right career for you based on your interests and experiences.

Sample answer:

I completed my Bachelor of Nursing two years ago, and since then I’ve been working as a registered practical nurse specializing in diagnostic imaging. My job is to coordinate with radiologists and technicians performing imaging procedures, like MRIs and CT scans. For some more invasive and complex procedures, I discuss medical history with the patients and relay that information to the corresponding department. I also administer X-ray dye, venipuncture, and insert catheters as required for certain procedures.

I’ve always been interested in the human body and its functions, due to the influence of my parents. My father is an anaesthesiologist, and my mother is also a nurse practitioner. I’ve admired their intellectual curiosity, which is a trait I believe I must have inherited. Even though I’ve loved my job working as a nurse in diagnostic imaging, I discovered that there is somewhat of a glass ceiling in my area of work, which prevents me from exploring my intellectual interests further. Being exposed to so many different patients, I sort of envy the job of my colleagues due to the more abstract and continual learning processes involved in their day-to-day. I also feel that clinical decision making is something I would be good at, but I’m unable to take advantage of it as a nurse.

I want to pursue a more stimulating and research-intensive environment as a doctor; due to my professional background in diagnostic imaging, I would like to become a pathologist and pursue research. I know that the department of pathology at Stanford is particularly impressive, and one of my goals is to contribute to the literature at the Stanford Impact of Genomic Variation on Function Center.

Why is Stanford a good fit for you?

What’s being asked?

This question often follows the one above; in fact, this question is typically implicit in all other questions, as the main objective of the interview is to determine if your core traits and experiences align with the school’s mission and program.

Your AMCAS most meaningful experiences will come in handy when you’re answering this question. You also need to research the school curriculum and program details to answer effectively. Your experiences and goals should reflect aspects of the program that can help you achieve those goals, and vice versa.

One of the main features of the Stanford MD program is the Discovery Curriculum. In their first year, students will participate in a longitudinal early clinical engagement experience; the pre-clerkships curriculum is divided into three parts: Foundations of Medicine; Practice of Medicine; and Science of Medicine. For more information on the clerkship curriculum and new additions to the Discovery curriculum, visit the MD program handbook and policy manual. Take notes on the components of the curriculum that align with your interests, and review the scholarly concentrations requirements to establish which research areas appeal to you.

Planning a med school application at Stanford? Check some tips in this infographics:

Sample answer:

When I was looking at schools to apply to, I had one thing in mind: flexibility in learning and in research. My goal is to open my own bioengineering lab to help patients achieve recovery using innovative therapeutic devices. During my undergraduate studies, I was a bioengineering intern at a laboratory associated with the school, and I learned a great deal about the functions of a research assistant in this setting. One of the most interesting assignments that I was involved in was the development of high-resolution MRI methods for imaging cartilage to predict functional properties. What I love about bioengineering specifically is that it requires a level of creativity that other scientific pursuits don’t necessarily encourage.

What excites me about Stanford Medicine is precisely this flexibility and versatility in research. The bioengineering scholarly concentration has everything I’m looking for to pursue my research goals within this focus. Because I have very specific interests, I also want to complete my Master of Engineering while I work on my medical degree. I believe that to achieve my goals, I will need to develop a strong foundation in Biodesign and tissue engineering, two essential research topics in which I have experience and would like to explore further. Engineering and regenerating tissues to restore the normal biological function of organs and body parts is a fascinating project, and I would like nothing more than to learn everything I need to know to contribute at Stanford.

How did your undergraduate education help prepare you to become a physician?

What’s being asked?

This is another background question, although not quite as simple as “tell me about yourself” or “why Stanford?” Chances are, you will get this question if your undergraduate doesn’t clearly indicate a typical path to become a doctor, like health sciences or biology. However, even if you were in a more common pre-med undergraduate program, this question can come up.

What the admissions committee is looking for is commitment to their school and program; they also want to see that you planned your application and that it wasn’t completed on a whim. Finally, they want you to justify your decision to pursue medicine using your undergraduate experiences as a focal point.

Let’s review some key attributes identified by Stanford in their selection process that you will want to highlight (non-academic traits; this list is not exhaustive): accomplishments, letters of recommendation, personal statement, contribution to diversity, originality and creativity, and leadership.

Sample answer:

Long before I started my undergraduate, I knew I wanted to become a doctor. In my freshman year of high school, I solidified my choice to pursue medicine; given my interests in physics, biology, chemistry, and kinesiology, becoming a physician just made the most sense to me, and I think there are very few career paths that I feel would fit my strengths and passion for discovery quite as closely.

Physics has been an interest of mine since I was young. I won the physics award for my high school graduating class, and I completed my undergraduate degree in physics. I initially had trouble reconciling this decision because I thought I might be better off completing a different program more suitable to my goal of becoming a doctor. However, I knew that I had made the right choice after shadowing an MRI technologist, who eloquently explained the physics of the MRI machine – I was fascinated to learn how the magnetic field of the machine is used to force protons in the body to align with that field, and that radio waves are pulsed through the body to move the atoms out of equilibrium.

I want to become a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, in which a background understanding of physics will be an advantage. When it comes to treating patients suffering from medical conditions affecting their motor movement, I believe that the importance of my undergraduate degree in physics will be evident in its application to the macro and microphysics of the human body.

What do you think is the single most important quality for a physician to possess?

What’s being asked?

Physicians need to possess a variety of professional and personal characteristics to be effective. Additionally, different specialties will require traits that are specific to that scope of practice. The purpose of this question is to assess how the skills you learned during clinical experiences prepared you for the medical school journey.

Your answer should be personal, but it should also be based on your clinical experiences. Shadowing experiences tend to be the most applicable to this question. There are specific skills that you should target in your answer, according to the AAMC core competencies for entering medical students. There are four categories of competencies, according to them: interpersonal, intrapersonal, thinking and reasoning, and science competencies.

Sample answer:

That’s difficult to say. I think it comes down to two things, which are related: being good advocates for patients and being strong communicators. I’m going to go with the latter because I think that encompasses the former quality as well. I learned about the value of being a strong communicator when I was working as an administrator at a clinic in my hometown. My job was to call or email patients about appointments, and sometimes I would relay information from the doctors to the patient about prescriptions or test results.

There were so many different patients I dealt with that it would be impossible to make any sweeping statements about the demographic. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to communicating with such a diverse group. Some people receive unfortunate news, and for others, it’s the opposite. Some people don’t speak English well; some patients are deaf or hard of hearing. Every day is a different group of people, and you have to take into account their background and unique circumstances in order to extend your compassion and understanding. For physicians, it gets complicated when patients are dealing with a variety of health concerns, which can induce feelings of confusion or stress. Communicating effectively will reduce uncertainty and lead to an increased sense of control. It’s also the channel through which physicians show respect and advocate for their patients, which in my view, is the foundation of quality health care.


1. What is the format for Stanford medical school interviews?

Stanford uses the MMI format. You will begin the interview day meeting with the program director. After the interview, you will have an opportunity to meet with faculty members and students. Reviewing MMI questions can help you practice this question format.

2. How should I prepare for the interview?

Your preparation should consist of program and institution research, mock medical school interviews, and a review of your primary application.

3. Are there specific questions that Stanford will ask me?

The interview questions will vary. Because the interview is open file, the admissions committee will have access to your application, so you should be prepared to answer questions that are specific to your materials and experiences.

4. What does Stanford look for in candidates?

According to Stanford Medicine: “Scholarship and research, leadership, originality and creativity, non-academic accomplishments, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and contribution to diversity.”

5. I’m not sure about my research interests. What can I do?

Visit the faculty research webpage at Stanford Medicine to get an idea of the kind of research you will have the opportunity to contribute to.

6. Is it a disadvantage in the interview if my undergraduate was in a non-scientific field?

Completing your undergraduate in a non-scientific field doesn’t disqualify you from applying. It’s only a disadvantage if you can’t explain how your research and clinical experiences prepared you for medical school.

7. Should I memorize my answers to interview questions during practice?

You should avoid trying to memorize your answers because you want to sound natural and organic when you answer questions. Instead, know the content you will need to discuss thoroughly and know the structure of a good answer.

8. What are some other questions I might be asked?

Some common examples of questions you might be asked include the following:

  • What is the biggest issue facing the US health care system currently?
  • What is your favorite area of medicine so far?
  • What are your thoughts on alternative medicine?
  • Should a physician ever lie to a patient?
  • What questions do you have about Stanford Medicine?

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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